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New bridges over ancient bridges

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In the southeast of the province of Avila is situated the village of El Tiemblo, which has been for centuries a place of important passage between North and South Meseta. Thus, many cultures and civilizations have left in this area a legacy of several bridges from different eras that have helped the traveler in crossing streams and rivers.

Currently , the main way of communication in the area is the N-403, and its growing traffic has been made the subject of various investments that aimed to improve its layout to reduce travel time and so, increase the comfort and safety on this road. One of these investments is the Variante de El Tiemblo, a project to divert traffic and away from the urban core project, improving safety, comfort and fluidity of the road but has seriously affected the landscape and legacy. Specifically we refer to Pasil bridge, a medieval construction of a single arch and the nearest to the village, situated approximately 1.5 kilometers to the southeast, which was been affected by the works of the N-403 road, executed  in late nineties at the entrance to the village which was constructed immediately next to the new road.

The project for the new stretch of the road includes a series of cuts and fills, whose artificial forms and lack of vegetation collide with the pre-existing landscape of forest, meadows and gentle slopes, and also make it a barrier effect for the local fauna, due to poor preparation for  animals` passages. There is also a damage for the natural course of Garganta de la Yedra stream  and habitat riverbank where we can also see an adjacent road that is starting to fall apart because of erosion and, finally, the new concrete bridge to cross the stream which is next to the Pasil bridge that breaks the aesthetics of the landscape by confronting forms and such different materials together, ending the bucolic stamp of enjoying the place, which was appreciated and famous among the inhabitants.

Foto 1

Foto 1. In this image we can apreciate the contrast of forms and materials between the two bridges and the deterioration of the road parallel to the stream.

This lack of attention to the landscape excel when you look at the old road, which is close, and where we see how his bridge and its walls, built with local stone, minimizes the visual impact to harmonize perfectly with the environment.

Foto 2

Foto 2. The oldest road is the perfect example of a good landscape integration, thinks to his natural materials and his forms environmentalized.

One of the solutions to the landscape impact caused by  the project consists in a series of plantations of species in the area previously storing a layer of topsoil, aesthetic and functional side positive measure but insufficient at economic side.

Although many of the solutions to the impacts the project would have a significant cost (such as using another route or another type of bridge, like the construction of a viaduct adapted that is the most convenient from a environmentally point of view) you can perform lower cost actions that reduce significantly the impact, such as rebuilding the road parallel to the river crossing under the bridge which is in a critical condition or conditioning the road that crosses the Pasil bridge, highlighting improved drainage northwest stirrup, which is frequently flooded and the road becomes a quagmire, can have serious consequences to long for the structural integrity of Pasil bridge. Even small details, like proper revegetation of access or the spread of branches or stones in the area could be an improvement for the passage of the animals. These measures, which include the use of local materials that fit the landscape and whose ultimate objective is to improve the landscape integration of the assembly and turn the area of ​​action in a true multifunctional underpass, have a moderate influence in mitigating the different impacts but are an example of many simple and inexpensive solutions that can be adopted.

Do not forget that this project was started long before the sanction of the various laws were adopted after 1985 and could have helped to detect some problems and have proposed more ambitious solutions to problems like the barrier effect or impact on the landscape. However, other problems identified today stem from a lack of attention to detail during the phases of previous study, design and execution of the works, being this case a sign that proper planning and execution helps save costs such environmental and socio-economic.

In conclusion, this project, despite giving a good solution from the technical and budgetary terms, has a deficit of preventive, corrective and compensatory measures of the impacts produced, so the Project needs the adoption of complementary solutions like described before in order to look after a better balance between economic, social and environmental aspects, and thus ensure that the project benefits society as a whole.

Universidad Politecnica de Madrid

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