The Vizcaya Bridge was the first shuttle bridge built in the world made with a metallic structure. It is situated at the mouth of the Ibaizabal river, at the point where Bilbao’s navigable estuary opens out to the sea up to the 19th century. It was inaugurated on 28th July 1893 and was designed to join, with its massive iron structure, the towns of Portugalete and Getxo, one with a steep rocky bank and the other with a low sandy bank. When it was built it facilitated communications between these two summer resorts without interrupting the shipping in one of Europe’s busiest river shipping ports.
The Vizcaya Bridge is the brilliant result of the mixture between two different innovative technologies: the modern engineering of bridges hanging from cables, developed in the middle of the 19th century, and the technique of large mechanical vehicles operating with steam machines.
However, when the Vizcaya architect Mr Alberto Palacio y Elissague started to develop the project to construct a system to link the two banks of the mouth of the Nervión, he worked meticulously, analysing practically all of the options available at the time: a shuttle on rails, floating barges and all types of bridges: revolving, platform, bascule, submarine, elevated, etc.
All of them were ruled out after their technical analysis, until he finally invented what he called a Palacio Shuttle Bridge. Its design fulfilled all of the necessary requirements, i.e. the possibility of moving passengers and cargo, without hindering the shipping, with a reasonable construction cost and which would guarantee a regular service.