Mexico builds record-breaking bridge in drug region
REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- Mexico this month completed the highest cable-stayed bridge in the world, permitting a four-lane highway to cut across a rugged region known locally as the Devil's Backbone at a height that would allow the Eiffel Tower and then some to fit underneath it.
It is the second-highest bridge in the world overall, second only to the Millau bridge in France, engineers said, and as the highest cable-stayed bridge, it notches yet another Guinness record for Mexico.
The Puente Baluarte is hailed by the government as the most important public-works project of President Felipe Calderon's six-year term. It stands at 1,322 feet over the Baluarte river on the border between the western states of Sinaloa and Durango.
The region is also known as the Golden Triangle; the marijuana- and poppy-producing territory controlled by the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, headed by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.
Built at a cost of $146 million, it links sections of Mexico's federal Highway 40 and is expected to significantly cut travel time between the coastal resort city of Mazatlan and the inland city of Durango.
The bridge was also built with the expectation that it might help stabilize the region and boost the legitimate economy, as the government has sought to clamp down on drug production and capture Guzman in a campaign that has left scores dead.
In a story in the daily El Universal, engineers who worked on the Baluarte project said they were contacted by local drug lords and ordered not to begin construction until "after the harvest." The engineers complied, the paper said, and the two sides now "respect each other."
-- Daniel Hernandez
Photo: The Puente Baluarte, the world's highest cable-stayed bridge, is on the border between the Mexican states of Durango and Sinaloa. Credit: Alfredo Guerrero / Presidency of Mexico