The 25th of April Bridge is one of the landmarks of the city of Lisbon. The name of the imposing suspension bridge commemorates the day in 1974 when the so-called “Carnation Revolution” ended the authoritarian regime of the Estado Novo in Portugal for almost half a century.
The red carnation became the symbol of a new era, as the population put flowers in the soldiers’ rifles. The bridge had several names throughout its history: Ponte sobre o Tejo, Ponte Salazar and finally Ponte de 25 Abril. It crosses the Tagus, which rises as Fuente Garcia in the heights of the Montes Universales and reaches the Atlantic Ocean in Lisbon after a thousand kilometres.
Golden Gate Bridge as a model
High above the Ponte de 25 Abril, a statue of Christ holds a protective hand over a massive structure. It bears a striking resemblance to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Even the color of the bridge’s towers and numerous supports are modeled after its model on the Pacific Ocean. The 2,278-meter-long suspended structure connects the city of Lisbon with the suburb of Almada. Seventy metres above the waters of the Tagus, around 150,000 cars pass over the bridge every day. It played a role in 1969 as one of the locations in the James Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.
The railway under the road surface
The Ponte de 25 Abril is one of the main arteries of the Portuguese metropolis and has a railway line under the road surface. For a long time, people at this western end of the Iberian Peninsula pondered whether there could be an alternative to the once flourishing ferry service between the two banks of the Tagus, which becomes a four-kilometre-wide river beyond the bridge. It was only with the advance of industrialisation and the processing of iron that the planners of the Ponte realised that the venture of a suspension bridge could succeed.
The credit offer of the Americans
In the mid-fifties of the last century, the ideas matured and resulted in the announcement of an international competition. However, only four bids were submitted. Although the most innovative of all the proposals came from Germany, the contract was awarded to the American architectural firm David B. Steinman because it was able to make the best credit offer to the Portuguese. And that was an important factor in view of the country’s weakening economy.
A foundation eighty meters deep
In November 1962, ground was broken on what was to be an epoch-making project for Lisbon, with foundations pressed into the banks of the Tagus to a depth of almost eighty metres. The steel for the trusses and pylons was brought in exclusively from the United States. Nearly three thousand workers were involved in the construction. The bridge was inaugurated on August 6, 1966 and was initially named “Ponte Salazar” after the incumbent ruler and dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, who died in 1970. For Lisbon’s inhabitants, the steel marvel over the wide river is simply the “Ponte”. Since its inauguration, the A2/IP7 motorway has crossed the bridge. Once a year it is closed to traffic – then the start of the traditional Lisbon half marathon takes place here.