A viaduct is a specific type of bridge
that consists of a series of arches, piers, or columns supporting a long elevated railway or road. Typically a viaduct connects two points of roughly equal elevation allowing passage over a valley, road, river, or other low-lying feature or obstruction.
The term ''viaduct'' is derived from the Latin
''via'' for road and ''ducere'', to lead. It is a nineteenth-century derivation from an analogy
with ancient Roman aqueducts
Like the Roman aqueduct
s, many early viaducts comprised a series of arches of roughly equal length.
The longest in antiquity
may have been the Pont Serme
which crossed wide marshes in southern France. At its longest point, it measured 2,679 meters with a width of 22 meters.
Viaducts are commonly used in many cities that are railroad
centers, such as Chicago
. These viaducts cross the large railroad yard
s that are needed for freight trains there, and also cross the multi-track railroad lines that are needed for heavy railroad traffic. These viaducts keep highway
and city street traffic from having to be continually interrupted by the train
traffic. Likewise, some viaducts carry railroads over large valleys, or they carry railroads over cities with many cross-streets and avenues.
Many viaducts over land connect points of similar height in a landscape, usually by bridging a river valley
or other eroded opening in an otherwise flat area. Often such valleys had roads descending either side (with a small bridge over the river, where necessary) that become inadequate for the traffic load, necessitating a viaduct for "through" traffic. Such bridges also lend themselves for use by rail
traffic, which requires straighter and flatter routes. Some viaducts have more than one deck, such that one deck has vehicular traffic and another deck carries rail traffic. One example of this is the Prince Edward Viaduct
in Toronto, Ontario
, Canada, that carries motor traffic on the top deck as Bloor Street
, and metro as the Bloor-Danforth subway line
on the lower deck, over the steep Don River valley
. Others were built to span settled areas, crossing over roads beneath—the reason for many viaducts in London.
Viaducts over water make use of islands or successive arches. They are often combined with other types of bridges or tunnels to cross navigable waters as viaduct sections, while less expensive to design and build than tunnels or bridges with larger spans, typically lack sufficient horizontal and vertical clearance for large ships. See the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
The Millau Viaduct
is a cable-stayed road-bridge that spans the valley of the river Tarn
in southern France. It opened in 2004 and is the tallest vehicular bridge in the world, with one pier's summit at 343 metres (1,125 ft). The viaduct Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge
in China was the longest bridge in the world
Land use below viaducts
Where a viaduct is built across land rather than water, the space below the arches may be used for businesses such as car parking, vehicle repairs, light industry, bars and nightclubs. In the United Kingdom, many railway lines in urban areas have been constructed on viaducts, and so the infrastructure owner Network Rail
has an extensive property portfolio in arches under viaducts. In Berlin the space under the arches of elevated subway lines is used for several different purposes, including small eateries or bars.
Past and future
were built in major cities such as Boston
), Los Angeles
, San Francisco
Some were demolished because they were unappealing and divided the city. In other cases, viaducts were demolished because they were structurally unsafe, such as the Embarcadero Freeway
in San Francisco, which was damaged following an earthquake in 1989. However, in developing nations such as Thailand
elevated expressways have been built and more are under construction to improve traffic flow, particularly as a workaround of land shortage when built atop surface roads. In Indonesia
viaducts are used for railway
s in Java
and also for highway
s such as the Jakarta Inner Ring Road
. The Coulée verte René-Dumont
in Paris, France
is a disused viaduct which was converted to an urban park
in 1993. In January 2019 the Alaskan Way Viaduct
in Seattle was closed and replaced with a tunnel
after several decades of use due to being seismically unsafe.
* Flying junction
* List of bridge types
Category:Bridges by structural type