Crossing the Centennial Bridge in Panama

In an effort to reduce the heavy traffic and perennial jams on the Bridge of the Americas, the administration of Mireya Elisa Moscoso Rodríguez de Arias (1999-2004) built a second bridge across the Panama Canal on the Pacific Side.  The name of this second bridge is the Centennial Bridge.  It carries six lanes of the Pan-American Highway

It is a beautiful suspension bridge with two tall towers holding the suspension cables.  As mentioned earlier, the Centennial Bridge was built to supplement the overcrowded Bridge of the Americas and to replace it as the carrier of the Pan-American Highway. Upon its opening in 2004, it became the second permanent crossing of the canal.

The Centennial Bridge is only the second major road crossing of the Panama Canal, the first being the Bridge of the Americas. (Small service bridges are built in the lock structures at Miraflores and Gatún Locks, but these bridges are only usable when the lock gates are closed and have limited capacity.)

The Centennial Bridge is located 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) north of the Bridge of the Americas and crosses the Culebra Cut (Gaillard Cut) close to the Pedro Miguel locks. New freeway sections, connecting Arraijan in the west to Cerro Patacon in the east via the bridge, significantly alleviate congestion on the Bridge of the Americas.

The bridge is a cable-stayed design with a total span of 1,052 meters (3,451 feet). The main span is 420 meters (1,380 feet) and clears the canal by 80 meters (262 feet), allowing large vessels to pass below it. The bridge is supported by two towers, each 184 m (604 ft) high. The deck carries six lanes of traffic across the canal.  The Centennial Bridge is designed to withstand the earthquakes which are often recorded in the canal area. The West Tower was built about 50 m inland to allow space for the future widening of the Panama Canal.

I took several pictures of this bridge on December 22, 2013 at exactly 06:24 a.m. (-5GMT).  The sun was just rising above the Pacific Ocean and the view was magnificent.  There was one interesting incident though.  While taking pictures on the bridge, I was approached by a police patrol car indicating that it was not allowed to take pictures from the bridge due to many accidents.  People drive too fast on the bridge and several photographers have been killed.  They courteously boarded me on their patrol car and took me to my car about 200 feet from where I was.  I suggested that a sign should be placed on both sides of the bridge indicating the restriction on crossing the bridge on foot.  I’m sure this measure will save lives in the future.  I thanked them, shook their hands, they left, and that was that.  Another interesting story of my life as an amateur photographer.

This is how the bridge looked like early on a cool Sunday morning above the Panama Canal on the Pacific Side.

Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
I apologize for the wire crossing the picture at the top. I tried unsuccessfully to avoid it but I couldn’t without losing the scenery of the bridge. Sorry about that. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
As you can see, there was little traffic at this early hour of the day. Also it was a Sunday which makes the bed feel more cozy and warm. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.

On our return trip to Coronado, I took more pictures of the bridge, only this time the pictures were taken from inside the car while we were crossing the bridge on our way home.  I wanted no more problems with the police.  Good Day.


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