ARTA, GREECE- It took a few seconds to bring down the largest bridge of its kind in the Balkans Region. Flash flooding from the Arachthos River washed away the Plaka Bridge in February 2015, an 1866 stone arch bridge built by Constantinos Bekas.
Five years later, the bridge has been rebuilt and it looks like nothing happened. Over 300 crews worked around the clock to rebuild the arch bridge, using the same technology that had been used when the structure was originally built. As many as 9000 stones with a measurement of 70 by 40 by 10 cm were hewed and wedged together carefully without the single use of metal skeletal support for the bridge. In fact the only metal used was temporary scaffolding to hold the pieces of the bridge in place. “The result is a bridge which is more than a twin of the first one, it is a bridge with the same DNA,” says Dimitris Kaliabakos, Professor of Metallurgy and Mine Engineering at the National Metsovio Polytechnic in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.
With the bridge, or shall we say its “twin” back over the river and the scaffolding now gone, crews are going to observe the bridge closely to see how well it can survive the extreme weather conditions, such as flooding and other storms, the same extremities that destroyed the original structure. Afterwards, it will be reopened to the traffic and the Katsanohoria villages in the region of Epirus will reclaim ownership of this unique structure. When the Plaka Bridge finally reopens to traffic remains unclear.
The Plaka Bridge is located at the borders of Arta and Ioannina prefectures, spanning the River Arachthos. With its arch of 40 metres (130 ft) width and 17.61 m (57 ft 9 in) height, it is the largest single-arch stone bridge in Greece and the Balkans. It is also the third largest bridge of its kind in Europe. The central, monumental arch also has two small auxiliary arches on either side, each measured at six meters wide. Like with the reconstruction, it was the most difficult bridge ever built.
The bridge will be in the running for the 2020 Bridgehunter Awards in the category Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge.