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A viaduct is a bridge composed of several small spans. The term viaduct is derived from the Latin via for road and ducere to lead something. However, the Ancient Romans did not use that term per se; it is a modern derivation from an analogy with aqueduct. Like the Roman aqueducts, many early viaducts comprised a series of arches of roughly equal length. Viaducts may span land or water or both.

The longest viaduct in antiquity may have been the Pont Sermemarker which crossed wide marshes in southern Francemarker. Viaducts are commonly used in many cities which are railroad centers, such as Chicagomarker (Illinois), Atlantamarker (Georgia), Birminghammarker (Alabama), Faribault, (Minnesota) and Manchester, Englandmarker. These viaducts cross the large railroad yards 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 lots of cross-streets and avenues. The example of Viaduct on Expressways are Alabang Viaduct in South Luzon Expressway in Muntinlupa Citymarker, Philippinesmarker that crosses Alabang-Zapote Road in Barangay Alabang the viaduct reaches until Filinvest Interchange. In north the Pulilan-Apalit Viaduct known as Candaba viaduct in North Luzon Expressway in Philippinesmarker is raised over the Candaba swamp from Pulilan, Bulacanmarker until it reaches Apalit, Pampangamarker . This keeps the highway open to traffic, even when the swamp gets flooded during the rainy season. It has a very nice view of Mt. Arayat, which is the lone mountain in Central Plain of Luzon.

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 having rail traffic. One example of this is the Prince Edward Viaductmarker in Torontomarker, Canadamarker, 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.

Viaducts over water are often combined with other types of bridges or tunnels to cross navigable waters. The 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 Viaductmarker is a cable-stayed road-bridge that spans the valley of the River Tarnmarker near Millaumarker in southern Francemarker. Designed by the French bridge engineer Michel Virlogeux, in collaboration with architect Norman Robert Foster, it is the tallest vehicular bridge in the world, with one pier's summit at 343 metres (1,125 ft)—slightly taller than the Eiffel Towermarker and only 38 m (125 ft) shorter than the Empire State Buildingmarker. It was formally dedicated on 14 December 2004 and opened to traffic two days later.

In Romance languages, the word viaduct refers to a bridge which spans only land. A bridge spanning water is called ponte.

Past and Future

Elevated expressways were built in rich cities such as Bostonmarker (Central Arterymarker), Seoulmarker, Tokyomarker, Torontomarker (Gardiner Expressway). But some were demolished because they were considered "ugly". However in developing nations such as Thailandmarker, Indiamarker (Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway), Chinamarker, Bangladeshmarker, Pakistanmarker, 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.


Image:Canton Viaduct.jpg|The Canton Viaductmarker is an example of a double blind arcade viaduct.Image:Knaresborough Viaduct.jpg|Knaresboroughmarker viaduct is an elegant four-span bridge standing 78ft high above the River Nidd.Image:Arthington_Viaduct.jpg|A 21-arch bridge spanning Yorkshire's Wharfe valley, engineered for the Leeds and Thirsk Railway circa 1850.Image:Lobb_Ghyll_Viaduct.jpg|A derelict viaduct known as Lobb Ghyll, built by the Midland Railway in 1888 to connect Ilkley and Skipton.Image:Toronto-bloorviaduct.jpg|The Prince Edward Viaductmarker in Torontomarker is an example of a viaduct with multiple decks.


  1. Colin O’Connor: Roman Bridges, Cambridge University Press 1993, ISBN 0-521-39326-4, p. 99
  2. Brownlee, Christy (March 2005) "Taking the high road: France's new bridge helps a small town dodge traffic--and set a new world record" SuperScience 16(6): pp.12-15;
  3. Davidsen, Judith (April 1993) "A new "lite" rail viaduct formula: Norman Foster designs a rapid-transit viaduct for Rennes, France" Architectural Record 181(4): p.26;
  4. Toronto built, then demolished an expressway

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