Dubbed by some the Romanian Golden Gate, the Brăila Bridge has been inaugurated on 6 July. The 2-kilometre-long overpass is not only the largest bridge in Romania, but also the largest over the Danube River and third largest in the whole of Europe.
One of the biggest Cohesion Policy-funded projects, it will connect the Black Sea ports and the Danube Delta with the rest of the country and with the wider Trans-European Transport Network. The EU’s contribution to this project amounts to €363 million from Cohesion Policy funds, from a total cost of €427 million. The Pelješac Bridge, inaugurated in Croatia last year, was the previous largest investment from the Cohesion Fund, receiving €357 million.
1. Better mobility and economic development
The bridge will still allow the free transit of vessels while replacing a slow and unreliable ferry link. Besides only crossing the Danube once an hour, the ferry was often interrupted not just during winter when the river froze over, but also during heavy rain periods when the river flooded over.
This bridge is a statement of how beneficial Cohesion Policy is for citizens on the ground. People no longer need to take the slow and occasional hazardous ferry trip over the Danube.Elisa Ferreira, European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms
The new connection is expected to cut travel time by around 50 minutes and serve around 11,400 vehicles a day. This will greatly benefit labour mobility, tourism and trade, and reinforce the region’s links with the rest of the country. It will also enhance mobility and economic development by increasing travel speeds and safety, offering local communities easier access to healthcare, public and commercial services across the South-East region in Romania.
The project will also contribute to the building of 23.4 km of transport infrastructure such as roads, bridges, junctions, level crossings and overpasses to serve the needs of people in the Moldova and Dobrogea regions.
“People can now easily cross the largest river in Europe in minutes, which will have a substantial impact on the region’s economy and on the life of local people and beyond – including neighbouring Moldova and Ukraine”, European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms, Elisa Ferreira, said at the inauguration.
2. Impressive structure
The bridge is a technological marvel for its towers and anchoring system. The main cables make around 81,000 km – a length comparable to twice the circumference of the Earth – and have a guaranteed lifetime of 120 years. The anchor blocks, with their 47 m diameter, are buried 31 m deep, figures that very few bridge structures in the world match.
This is the largest construction built in Romania over the past three decades (…) It is certainly one of the most ambitious initiatives of modernising transport infrastructure in Romania, realised with European funds, international expertise and state of the art technology.Klaus Iohannis, President of Romania
“The bridge we stand on today is an example of teamwork, of international cooperation in a modern world full of challenges. An Italian-Japanese consortium worked hand in hand with dozens of Romanian contractors. It is also an example of great public investment, the almost €500 million returning to the region and fuelling the local economy”, Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu said at the ceremony.
While the construction of the remaining access roads is expected to be finalised by the end of 2023, the bridge and parts of the access roads are operational as of 6 July. Crossing however is only reserved for motorised vehicles, as there are no pedestrian or cycling lanes. Moreover, until the end of November 2023, the bridge will be closed from 9pm to 6am from Monday to Friday, with the exception of national holidays.
3. Overdue project
The project ran two years after the deadline, however the idea of building a bridge over the Danube goes as far back as the 1980s. According to Romanian news outlet Digi24, disputes over whether the placement on the left bank of the river, in Brăila or Galați, took the longest time to resolve, with works finally starting in 2018.
In 2019 the Commission approved the EU financing of the bridge in Romania following a feasibility study that analysed the possible alternatives to connect the two parts of the country ensuring a viable crossing of the Danube. The preservation of Romania’s natural heritage was an essential criterion in all phases of the project’s preparation.
In 2021, the 192 m tall pillars on each side of the river were completed and the assembly of the supporting cables began. At the beginning of 2022, the 86 metal blocks forming the main structure of the bridge, each weighing 250 tonnes and measuring 37 m in width, started being positioned. It was only in March 2023 that the first layer of concrete was finally poured over the road.