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About the bridge

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516 Arouca is the most iconic infrastructure in the Arouca Municipality, consisting of railings and steel cables, with a span of 516 meters, 1.20 meters wide and 175 meters high above Paiva River.

To understand the origin of 516 Arouca, we have to go back to 2005, when the Arouca Municipality had the vision to create a Geopark. In this territory, the existence of a valuable geological heritage was recognized, with four geosites of international relevance, such as the mysterious birthing stones or the fossils of the largest trilobites in the world, which, together with the remaining natural and cultural heritage of the territory, justified the creation of the Arouca UNESCO Global Geopark.

UNESCO's recognition aroused even more interest and attracted visitors from new and many countries. With tourism assuming itself as a strategic axis for local and national economic development and with growing competitiveness, the Arouca Geopark continued to create new centers of tourist attraction. That is how, on June 20th, 2015, the Arouca Municipality inaugurated the internationally known, Paiva Walkways.

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It was in the surroundings of the Paiva Walkways, next to the Aguieiras waterfall, that the 516 Arouca was born, another unique infrastructure that makes the region a global reference. It connects the two banks, 175 meters above the Paiva River.

A work carried out under the presidency of the first woman at the head of Arouca Municipality, Margarida Belém, with monitoring and supervision carried out by the Planning and Works Division of the Arouca Municipality and co-financed by the PROVERE – Programa de Valorização Económica dos Recursos Endógenos do FEDER - Fundo Europeu de Desenvolvimento Regional – Norte 2020.

For the Arouca Municipality, the construction of 516 Arouca was a unique and enriching opportunity. After all, shaping an ambitious project brings a great responsibility, but also a significant privilege to have such an emblematic infrastructure as this one in the municipality.

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Why are the pillars so tall?

In an infrastructure of this size, it is necessary to reduce, as much as possible, the forces exerted on cables and mooring blocks.

It is possible to obtain this reduction at forces with the inclination of the catenaries (main cables) in relation to the pillars. This inclination can be obtained in two ways: by raising the supports (pillars) or by lowering the span level.

As the descent of the span was limited, the supports were raised, resulting in pillars about 35 meters high.

Why are the pillars shaped like an inverted A?

In terms of loads exerted on the bridge, it is necessary to take into account the vertical loads, corresponding to the weight of the bridge and its users, and horizontal loads, essentially resulting from the wind.

In the case of 516 Arouca, it would be difficult and unaesthetic to apply a horizontal bracing system through catenaries (main cables) and hangers (secondary cables) in the horizontal direction.

Thus, it was decided to incline the catenary planes so that their vertical and horizontal components could fulfill both functions. This inclination also forced the inclination of of the pillars that support it, giving them more effort. The upper beam that transforms the “V” shape into an “inverted A” shape served to reduce the efforts of the pillars.

Why the upper transverse frames and doubling of hangers?

When 516 Arouca was idealized, the elements were suspended by sets of just two hangers (secondary cables).

Thereafter, analyzing the width of the bridge (1.2m) it was verified that, if users were to move, tending to be on the same side, there would be a considerable inclination of the deck. Although this inclination was limited, and the side guards ensured the users' safety, panic situations could be generated.

To minimize this effect, a new system of hangers was placed, which connect the catenary (main cable) to the opposite side of the deck. Additionally, to prevent these new cables from interfering with the passage of users, upper arched frames were placed to divert them.

Why mooring blocks?

The reason that led to the construction of foundations tied to the subsoil (steel cables that penetrate the rock mass and are fixed at the end by a cement bulb) was the need to withstand the forces exerted on the catenaries (main cables).

These anchorages, which are no more than the continuation of the catenaries, apply the same load, but in the opposite direction and are pre-stressed, to ensure constant pressure in the mooring blocks against the slope.


Safety first

From the beginning of the 516 Arouca bridge project, the safety of visitors has always been a top priority.

For several months, rigorous calculations on wind speed were carried out, the strength of the cables was extensively tested on models built in the laboratory and construction and fastening solutions were meticulously studied.

All this effort, which used absolutely innovative techniques to find the ideal structure, was fully compensated. Thus, some details were guaranteed to make the crossing absolutely safe, including:

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Tray system

516 Arouca is made up of 127 metal grid trays. Each of these trays works as a kind of independent capsule. In this way, the feeling of security and comfort becomes greater.

Resistance and engineering

All the material used in the construction of the bridge was tested to exhaustion. The structure strength is total, there is no possibility of breakage or other damage. However, even if one of the cables broke, thanks to the way the trays were connected, the 516 Arouca would remain as steady as ever.

Limit of users

A limited number of people are expected to cross at the same time. This way, everyone will be able to better enjoy the moment, take photos without interruptions and, of course, the movement caused by the steps will also be minimal.

A unique scenary

Crossing 516 Arouca bridge is an incredible experience, but there is so much more to enjoy.
Whether from the top of the bridge, or on the footpaths that leads to its entrances, there is a unique surrounding nature, largely in its pure state, which catches the eye.

In this area classified as Rede Natura 2000, more attentive visitors can observe several and magnificent species, from the great short-toed eagle to the small strawberry butterfly, in what is also the natural habitat of roe deer, wild rabbits, red squirrels, otters, Iberian wolves, round-winged eagles and more. There are hundreds of animals, some of them at risk of extinction, that find a perfect refuge here. A region where flora is also vast and rich throughout all seasons of the year.

A scenario full of charms where the well-known Paiva Walkways are located, the Aguieiras waterfall, the recreational areas of Areinho and Vau, privileged areas for the practice of whitewater sports.

A unique environment that makes 516 Arouca even more special.

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More than a crossing between Paiva’s banks

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Between the sky and Paiva’s waters, in Arouca UNESCO Global Geopark, you'll be willing to cross the 516 Arouca.

To get there, you can take the Paiva Walkways, more concrete at the entrance to Areinho, or, if you prefer a less demanding route, head to the parish of Alvarenga. There, you can leave your car at the fair parking lots or at the football field and walk the rest of the way, along old paths that cross fields and picturesque places such as Vila and Chieira.

The crossing can be done in both directions - round trip, or one-way, proceeding to the Paiva Walkways (the bridge ticket includes access to this infrastructure) or to the historic center of Alvarenga, according with the input you have chosen. Here, you will walk a few meters along which you will be able to observe and record a unique nature as well as live an unforgettable experience.