An extraordinary engineering operation is underway to erect the 5,500-ton roadway arch that will connect the Kerch Peninsula of Crimea and the Taman Peninsula of mainland Russia via the Crimea Bridge. The highly complicated mission began in the early hours of Wednesday morning after the roadway arch docked at its final destination Tuesday.
Russian authorities temporarily restricted maritime movements across the strait prior to the start of the 72-hour installation process that will see the 227-meter segment lifted to be joined to the road portion of the 19-kilometer-long bridge. Engineers will draw on previous experience gained while installing a similar railroad arch in late August.
Once the 45-meter tall arch is raised to a height of 35 meters above water, experts will proceed to fix the structure to the bridge. Around 30 engineers, slingers, welders, surveyors, and quality control specialists will be deployed constantly throughout the entire process while switching shifts.
Twelve heavy duty jacks, each with a capacity of lifting 650 tons, are being used to raise the colossal arch from the delivery barges. Engineers have secured lifting cables and will gradually transfer the weight load onto the jacks to ensure the arch does not snap. The structure will be lifted at an average rate of 5 meters per hour to the required height of 35 meters above water.
Once completed, the 19 kilometers (12 miles) Crimean Bridge will be one of Russia’s and Europe’s largest. The bridge will have a four-lane highway as well as a two-lane railroad and will be capable of providing access for up to 40,000 vehicles and dozens of trains a day, linking the Kerch Peninsula in Crimea and the Taman Peninsula of mainland Russia over the Kerch Strait. It is scheduled to be opened by late 2018 and become fully operational by 2019.
The idea of a bridge across the Kerch Strait emerged long ago, but after the Maidan coup the newly-imposed government in Kiev froze talks with Moscow about the construction of the bridge.
Kiev almost immediately started a military crackdown on regions in the country’s southeast, which refused to recognize the newly imposed leadership. Meanwhile, the Republic of Crimea decided to hold a referendum on rejoining Russia.
After the referendum Kiev launched a food, energy, water and ‘tourist’ blockade of the peninsula. Crimea has no land connection with mainland Russia, and Moscow can only supply the peninsula by sea and air.
The energy blockade was broken earlier this year.
“We managed to break through the energy blockade of Crimea within a brief period of time, and we will likewise do away with any other blockade against Russia, should someone wish to test us again,” Russian president Vladimir Putin said back in May this year.
In September, senior Crimean officials said that the flow of visitors remained constant despite attempts by Ukrainian authorities to isolate the peninsula and damage its tourist-oriented economy.
“An attempt to impose a ‘tourist blockade’ of Crimea has drowned in the thousands-strong torrent of Ukrainian citizens who, despite of all propaganda and lengthy queues, did not change their decision to visit Crimea,” said Crimean government official Zaur Smirnov.