December 22, 2015 saw the grand opening for the bridge connecting the departments (provinces) of Maldonado and Rocha thus completing a concept which surfaced originally in 1950. In that year the Ministry of Transport announced its goal of a bridge to cross the laguna Garzón. It took 65 years for capital to be secured, designs approved and construction completed.
The catalyst that provided the energy to break through the resistance and see the project through is in the form of Argentine businessman Eduardo Constantini who through his company Consultatio is a real estate investor. He is best known for his development Nordelta - a large gated city/town with capacity of some 30,000 inhabitants located in El Tigre, a community 30km from Buenos Aires. It is a gated town as located within it are colleges, restaurants, commercial centers, hotel, sports club, and the infrastructure for communications, gas, water and sewage treatment.
Las GarzasA long-time visitor to Punta del Este, Constantini, is owner of Las Garzas Blancas S.A., which is a gated community of 240 hectares up the Rocha coast on the Atlantic Ocean.
See our Featured Property Reports on the two projects to gain the most from this bridge.
The FerryPrior to the opening of the bridge, passage was conducted by ferry which could take a few cars and passengers across the mouth of the laguna. Due to the length of time it took, most drivers would take the national ruta 9 to the north to bypass the bottleneck. Considered of great ecological importance, Laguna Garzón is home to parks for the preservation of wildlife and nature so the impediment to greater car traffic was considered favourable by environmentalists.
An objection to the bridge design raised by a member of the political opposition was that it would slow traffic down. That, however, is the whole point. The concept was to have traffic slow to a speed that was similarly achieved by the classic ferry.
To accomplish that, this bridge is round.
Rafael ViñolyA straight bridge originally proposed by Constantini was rejected by the Ministry of Transportation in 2008. In 2012, Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly designed a round bridge supported by floating platforms which was also rejected. Later that year his design of a circular bridge with room for pedestrian traffic, after a few adjustments, was accepted.
Viñoly is perhaps best known as the designer of London's Walkie Talkie building, which was nicknamed Walkie Scorchie after the glare from its curvy glass facade melted the bodywork of nearby cars (dezeen). His works also include Carrasco Airport, the international airport on the outskirts of Montevideo (https://www.architonic.com/en/project/rafael-vinoly-architects-carrasco-international-airport/5100767), and the whisper-thin New York skyscraper 432 Park Ave (http://vinoly.com/works/432-park-avenue/).
" I accepted to design the bridge on the condition that Route 10 – a federal highway that has been the main access to the beach resorts along the Uruguayan coast and one of the most destructive planning drivers of the territory – be downgraded to local jurisdiction in order to better control the development process. "
Another objective satisfied by the design of the bridge is the clear passage of small craft underneath with the two lanes along the circumference being supported by single reinforced concrete posts.
At commencement of work, the bridge was estimated to cost $11.5 million dollars and the work appears to have been on budget. Of this amount, Constantini provided the capital for all but $1.8 million contributed by the Ministry of Transport.
Improved access to the Rocha coastline propertiesNot surprisingly, the bridge has stirred new interest in real estate along the Rocha coastline. In addition to Las Garzas and in the same style, is the development Las Cárcavas where coastline lots of 1 hectare are offered at $2 million USD each. While the prices may strike some as exorbitant, there is no doubt in our mind that these developments will ultimately be sold out.
Maldonado is the seat of chic Punta del Este, the "St. Tropez of South America" while Rocha is one of the least developed regions in Uruguay even though it reaches the border of Brazil. The bridge will undoubtedly change things.
Constantini spent summers in Punta del Este "when the gardens of the houses of the Peninsula reached the sea without crossing the road." Later, he had a house in San Rafael, then La Barra, and finally Punta Piedra.
"In Punta del Este, I stop to look at the stars and moon over the sea. Here one breathes a beautiful atmosphere" he says. "With this new bridge in place Uruguay maintains its position as one of the premier tourist destinations worldwide."