The Crimean Bridge is not only the longest bridge built in Russia, but also one of the most “popular” and strategically important transport arteries in the country.The question of the need for construction came up sharply after the annexation of Crimea to the territory of the Russian Federation. Despite pressure from many states and certain problems related to natural conditions, in May 2018, the road part of the bridge was officially opened, and in December 2019, the railway part.
In 1068, the prince of Tmutarakansky Gleb Svyatoslavovich first measured the distance from Taman to Kerch, doing it in a rather original way – he walked it on foot on the ice. In terms of modern measures of length, it turned out to be about 30 km . The prince immortalized his campaign with an inscription on a marble stone, which is still kept in the State Hermitage. However, there was no talk of building a bridge at that time.
Only many centuries later, in 1903, Nicholas II made an attempt to unite Kerch and Taman. The famous engineer V.D. Mendeleev began designing the bridge, but the First World War and the October Revolution of 1917 put an end to these undertakings.
Stalin returned to the question of building the Kerch Bridge in the 1930s. A project of a grandiose structure was developed, but this time already the Second World War did not make it possible to implement it.
The first bridge across the Kerch Strait
Surprisingly, Hitler began to build the first bridge across the Kerch Strait, who occupied this territory with his troops in 1943. The work was carried out quite actively. To begin with, the banks were connected by a cable car, which brought the necessary materials to Kerch. The goal was the construction of a railroad track. The plans of the conqueror were violated by the Soviet troops, who liberated the occupied territory in 1944.
During the retreat, the Germans blew up the cable car , so the Soviet engineers had to start work by restoring it. After that, a project was developed for a capital bridge to the Crimea. The main characteristics of the structure:
- 115 spans, each 27 m long;
- the presence of a rotary device allowing even large vessels to pass;
- length – 4.5 km.
Interesting fact! The conditions in which the bridge was being erected required the completion of the work in a short time. As a result, it was decided to build a “lightweight” version, which would be strengthened over time.
This decision led to a catastrophe that claimed many lives. In 1945, the ice in the Kerch Strait broke and damaged the structural supports . Attempts to destroy huge ice floes in various ways have led nowhere. As a result, 50 spans of the bridge collapsed into the water.
After these sad events, the question of building a new crossing was raised more than once. Projects were developed, relevant negotiations were held between Ukraine and Russia, which were unsuccessful. And in 2014, as a result of a referendum, Crimea became part of Russia.
Construction of the Crimean bridge
The day after the annexation of Crimea to Russia, V.V. Putin set the task of building a reliable bridge across the Kerch Strait. Rosavtodor became the official customer, and Stroygazmontazh LLC became the general contractor.
In total, about 70 projects of the Crimean bridge were considered . The final choice was between four options, three of which involved the construction of a crossing from the Chushka spit, and one – across the Tuzla spit.
It was the last project that was recognized as the most rational. It assumed lower energy consumption, optimal bypass of tectonic faults and preservation of the existing sea crossing in a working condition.
The following designs of the Crimean bridge were also considered:
- double-deck bridge;
- two bridge crossings with partial laying along the Tuzlinskaya spit;
- parallel bridges along the embankment;
- parallel bridges on supports.
The latter option was preferred, since the Tuzla Spit is in continuous motion. Under such conditions, a bridge to Crimea erected on the embankment would be unsafe.
The chosen project provided for the presence of navigable arches . The underbridge gauge of this span was supposed to provide unhindered passage through the water area for vessels of any size. As a result, the width of the fairway was 185 m, and the height of the under-bridge gauge was 35 m.
Research and preparation of the territory
The start of construction was preceded by a huge amount of design, research and development and archaeological work.
In February 2014, an archaeological study was carried out on the construction site, searching for military graves and explosive objects. Experts from various scientific fields, specialists from leading construction organizations were involved in the work on the project.
Interesting fact! 180 organizations from all over the country took part in the construction of the Crimean Bridge.
Large-scale studies were necessary to bypass areas of high seismic activity, mud volcanoes, heterogeneous seabed soil and tectonic faults during the construction of the bridge. It was important not to disrupt the existing infrastructure and not to affect historical sites.
During the study of the territory, which is 56 hectares, archaeologists have found about 1 million artifacts. About 100 thousand of them are of great scientific importance and were transferred to the museums of Taman and Kerch. Some of the most interesting finds :
- a skeleton of a whale about 10 million years old;
- terracotta head of ancient Greek sculpture;
- ceramic vessels of the 5th-3rd centuries BC e.
Explosive objects, among which were high-explosive bombs, were taken to special test sites and destroyed.
Also, work was carried out to preserve flora and fauna. Red Data Book plants and some representatives of the animal world were relocated to special compensation plots. At the same time, environmental monitoring on land and in the water area was carried out at all stages of the construction of the Crimean bridge.
The construction of the Crimean bridge across the Kerch Strait began with the preparation of work sites and the creation of conditions for labor collectives.
For the large-scale assembly of individual parts of the structure, production sites were equipped, for the delivery of equipment and building materials in the water area, three working bridges were erected. On land, these purposes were served by a technological road 50 km long.
So-called concrete knots were formed on the banks of Kerch and Taman . The production of concrete, cement concrete and asphalt was carried out with the help of mobile plants.
Autonomous shift camps were built for workers, in which there was everything for a comfortable stay. These are laundries, canteens, medical aid points. The townships could accommodate up to 10,000 people at a time.
The preparation of all the necessary infrastructure was completed by the end of 2015. In March 2016, the first pile foundations of supports were installed on land, and in May – in the water area of the strait. The work was carried out on several sections at once, the length of which was about 10 km.
Significant dates in the construction of the Kerch Bridge:
- June 2016 – installation of the first spans;
- June-July 2017 – assembly of railway and road arches;
- August 2017 – installation of the railway arch and the passage of the first ship under it;
- October 2017 – installation of a road arch;
- April-May 2018 – installation of fences, laying asphalt on the road section of the bridge and opening traffic on it from both banks;
- July 2019 – completion of the laying of rails along the entire length of the railway bridge;
- October 2019 – testing of architectural lighting;
- December 23, 2019 – Vladimir Putin opened traffic on the railway part of the bridge.
The project of the transport crossing envisaged not only the erection of supports and the laying of spans, but also the formation of the corresponding infrastructure on both sides of the strait.
At various stages of construction, the Crimean bridge underwent acceptance inspections, on the basis of which it was subsequently officially put into operation.
Difficulties in the process of work and incidents
The construction of the Kerch bridge was fraught with many difficulties associated with natural and geological conditions. Their resolution required the use of the most modern and complex engineering solutions.
In addition to loose muddy soils, it was necessary to take into account the aggressive effect of salt water, constant sea waves, the possibility of ice drift. The Kerch Strait is characterized by strong winds and storms from October to April. Also, this area is distinguished by high seismicity .
Interesting fact! During the construction period, meteorological stations recorded 10 thousand hours of storm wind.
During the construction of the bridge to Crimea, there were several incidents. So, in 2018, part of one of the spans fell into the shallow part of the strait. The reason was the malfunction of one of the jacks. The retrieved span was replaced with a new one.
In September of the same year, a storm tore off the anchor of a floating crane. The wind nailed him to one of the supports. No one was hurt, but a small section of the road fence and the lighting mast had to be restored.
In 2019, a tunnel collapsed on the way to the transport ferry from the side of Kerch. There were two workers in the rubble, one of whom was killed.
Crimean bridge in numbers
Since the beginning of construction, the Crimean Bridge has attracted great attention of both ordinary citizens and the authorities of the Russian Federation, the media. The new transport crossing is called the construction site of the century, the main labor victory and the people’s bridge.
A few numbers in order to understand how these epithets are justified:
- total length – 19 km, with the railway track
- occupies 18.1 km, road – 16.9 km;
- the carrying capacity of the Kerch Bridge is 40,000 vehicles per day;
- 6 lanes for traffic – a 4-lane road and a double-track railway;
- the cost of the project is estimated at almost 228 billion rubles;
- the structure is supported by 595 supports;
- it took 688,000 sq. m. to lay the roadway. m of asphalt;
- the average span length is 55-63 m, and the total weight is 260,000 tons;
- at the peak of construction, the site employed 15,000 people;
- 7000 piles driven to a depth of 12-105 m;
- only on the arches 490 tons of bolts were screwed;
- 5 million cars crossed the bridge in the year after it opened;
- design documentation for the construction took 570 volumes;
- 70 years old was the oldest worker at a construction site.
The designers claim that within 100 years the Crimean bridge will not need repairs , it will withstand a seismic activity of 9 points.
The construction of a bridge across the Kerch Strait is not only of great historical importance. It put an end to the integration of Crimea into Russia, facilitated their transport links. Thanks to new communication routes, the flow of tourists to Crimea has increased, the investment attractiveness of the region has increased, and new development prospects have emerged.
Tourists who have to travel to Crimea by car or train will replenish their treasury of impressions from unforgettable views of the water surface of the strait, magnificent sunsets and the scale of the longest bridge in Russia.