Ferrovial La ingeniería civil como arte: creatividad e innovación

The Volcano Highway

Azores, Portugal

Autopista Azores View full project

From a distance, the Atlantic Ocean looks smooth and unbroken. However, under its surface are valleys, mountains, canyons, and plains, landforms like those we see on land. Sometimes, these formations peek out and then receive special names, forming islands and archipelagos.

Macaronesia is a chain of five island groups in the North Atlantic. Cape Verde and the Canary Islands make up the southern end, while the Azores, with its ancient volcanoes flooded with water, border the region to the north in the middle of the ocean. There, in the archipelago where anticyclones are born, the terrain is so rugged and the ecosystem so unique that building a road takes something like magic.

The Azores highway, built by Ferrovial and now managed by Cintra, crosses no less than 27 viaducts along its 97 kilometers. Some of them, such as the Despe-te que Suas, which has a central span of 185 meters, stand imposingly over the narrow valleys and dense vegetation of the island of São Miguel, the largest and most populated island in the archipelago.

The highway, designed along three axes, connects the airport with the south of the island. It also helps connect the two most important towns in the north of the island, and its northeast axis helps communication between the most distant towns of São Miguel.

The volcanic island’s landscape runs through pastures, agricultural lands, and Atlantic forests as the highway crosses it. To preserve the area’s harmony, the highway’s design aimed to integrate the landscape and included the construction of a series of retention basins for runoff water with volcanic stone. The slopes and clearings were also replanted with trees and shrubs endemic to the island.

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