Chapter 5
Design, analysis and construction of Puente Mercosur—
third bridge across the Orinoco River
K. Humpf & M. Müller
Leonhardt, Andrä und Partner Beratende Ingenieure VBI AG, Stuttgart, Germany
C. Silingardi
Odebrecht Venezuela
ABSTRACT: With the aim of developing the Southwest of Venezuela and enable its
connections with the rest of the country, a third bridge over the Orinoco River was designed
between the cities of Cabruta, State of Guárico in the north and Caicara del Orinoco in the
south. The combined highway and railroad bridge Puente Mercosur will be the third crossing
of the Orinoco with a total length of 11.125 km. The stay-cable main bridge with 360 m main
span and the adjacent approach bridges with a length of 2 × 720 m are comprised of a steel
composite truss girder with a depth of 12.0 m.
1.1 General
A general comparison of Venezuela with Germany shows that the most important crude oil
exporting nation in South America has, based on a relatively low level, a strong growth in
population and as well in the gross national product (Table 1).
This growth combined with a gas price of just 0.5 USD/Gallon conducted to a very strong
increase in traffic. Supported by steadily high revenues from crude oil exports, the state initi-
ated major infrastructure projects, to improve the road network and as well the railroad con-
nections. In this context the bridges over the Orinoco have a special importance due to the
extraordinary size of the structures.
1.2 Relevancy of the 3rd crossing for the infrastructure network
The Orinoco with a total length of 2560 km (for comparison Rhine River 1320 km, Danube
2850 km) is the longest river in Venezuela and behind the Amazon and Paraná the 3rd long-
est in the Latin America (Figure 1).
Until now there are just 2 crossings of the river. The first one is a suspension bridge in
Ciudad Bolivar inaugurated in 1967 and called Puente Angostura with a total length of
1272 m and a main span of 712 m it serves for road traffic only (Lustgarten) (Figure 2).
Table 1. Comparison of Venezuela with Germany.
Population Gross national product
Citizen/km Growth [%] Per Citizen [USD] Growth [%]
Venezuela 916.500 29,3 30 1,6 12.600
Germany 357.000 82 230 –0,05 42.000
Ratio 2,57 0,36 0,13 0,30 8
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56 Cable-supported bridges
The 2nd one downstream from the 1st one is a crossing close to Ciudad Guayana, completed
in the 2006. This system consists of two back to back cable stayed bridges with main spans of
300 m a total length of 3156 m and the deck carrying rail—and roadway traffic, known under
the official name Puente Orinoquia (Saul, Lustgarten, Humpf, et al., 2006) (Figure 3).
The Third Bridge across the Orinoco is located about 300 km upstream of the first bridge
in Ciudad Bolivar and about 400 km of the second bridge in Ciudad Guayana. The official
name will be Puente Mercosur after completion and it is a combined highway-railway bridge
which will connect the two villages of Caicara del Orinoco in the South and Cabruta in the
In order to start developing the unexploited central part of the country an investment of
about one billion dollars was designated for the construction of the third bridge across the
Orinoco River, a project of the Bolivarian government with the Brazilian construction com-
pany Odebrecht. South to this structure a new city shall be developed around the industry of
producing aluminum. Then this investment in a fixed crossing will reach its importance; for
the moment and the time of completion it’s a structure in the nowhere.
Besides the construction of the river crossing building the roadway between Caicara del
Orinoco and Ciudad Bolivar and between Cabruta and San Fernando de Apure will become
a necessity. The railway connection on the northern side is currently under construction.
Construction of the bridge started in 2006.
Figure 1. Map of Venezuela.
Figure 2. Suspension Bridge.
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