Why are El Paso's international bridges built so high?


    Bridge of the Americas

    Yvette, a KFOX14 viewer, asked me: "Why are El Paso's international bridges built so high?"

    She pointed out that there aren't any ships, barges or even small boats that make their way under the bridges through the Rio Grande.

    Yvette also wondered whether it would be cheaper to build the bridges less high.

    I reached out to the city of El Paso's International Bridges Department for an answer to her question.

    I was told that the railroads and highways that run under our bridges play a role in their height. In Downtown El Paso, for example, there are multiple sets of train tracks running under the bridges, along with all the traffic that drives on the Border Highway and city streets below.

    Another reason for the bridges' height has to do with engineering.

    If you look at the height of our international bridges, they aren't as high as some of the highway overpasses on the city's highways and interchanges, such as the Spaghetti Bowl in Central El Paso.

    There's an important safety reason for all these sloping structures. Arched bridges, as they're called, distribute the weight they're carrying more evenly along the bridge's span, rather than in the center, which would be the case on flat bridges. This helps make the border bridges sturdier, able to carry more weight, and more resistant to damage from things such as cracks in the concrete. That, in turn, helps to lower their maintenance costs over the long run.

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