A highway in the Atlantic Ocean: Ferrovial Agroman is building a new piece of infrastructure for Cintra on the island of San Miguel (Azores)


Una autopista en el Océano Atlántico: Ferrovial Agroman construye para Cintra una nueva infraestructura en la isla de San Miguel (Azores)From the air San Miguel, the largest of the Azores Islands, can be likened to an immense patchwork of fields, lakes, meadows and woods. The fabric of this Portuguese territory is tinted in the entire palette of greens, from grass to emerald colours and including the bluish green produced by the lichens that, according to some historians, give their name to the archipelago. Three numbers shape the life of San Miguel: it covers a surface area of only 747 square kilometers (similar to Menorca or El Hierro), it barely surpasses 140,000 inhabitants and it is situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, at a distance of 1,600 kilometers from the country’s capital, Lisbon. A fourth factor has historically conditioned this enclave: its mountainous topography. This characteristic has always caused a tremendous complications for its internal communications. The north of San Miguel is in fact called the tenth island of the archipelago owing to its isolation. Ferrovial is contributing to the improvement of communications within the island. The local Administration awarded Cintra in 2006 the concession of a motorway for a 30-year period under a shadow toll system. Scut Açores boasts a length of 93.7 kilometers, of which 20 are already in operation, 46 are under construction and the remaining 26 kilometers correspond to roads that are being refurbished. The value of the new build is 270 million euros. Ferrovial Agroman has been charged with executing the project, on which almost 1,150 people are working. 75% of them are Azores residents and the remaining 25% have come from the peninsula given that this is an unprecedented project in the archipelago and it has thus been necessary to bring in specialists from the continent. Vehicles, heavy machinery, materials and even the factory for building the massive girders of the viaducts have arrived here by boat. David García Santaolalla, General Manager of Cintra on Scut Açores, and Alejandro Soliño Bermúdez, head of Ferrovial Agroman on the island, are two of the people who landed on San Miguel after being awarded the project. David García arrived in 2007. Before Scut Açores he had worked on the introduction of toll and control systems on the 407 ETR in Toronto (Canada) and on the Spanish highway Radial 4 and AP36. A 40-year-old Madrid native, married with two children, he explains that this project represents “a major challenge from the professional view.” “Not only because building a very important piece of infrastructure is in your hands, but also because it takes place abroad, thus increasing the level and number of problems that have to be addressed on a day-to-day basis,” he points out. Alejandro Soliño, a 38-year-old native of Vigo, married with one child, arrived in 2006 after working on the two Portuguese Cintra concessions, also built by Ferrovial Agroman: Scut Algarve and Scut Norte Litoral. The teams headed by both these men work side by side with the ultimate goal of having all the stretches of the concession in operation by December 2011. To this end they have to overcome an infernal topography that one can easily envisage when confronted with the following figures: the highway has 27 viaducts and 72 overpasses and underpasses. To build it, it will be necessary to move 4.5 million cubic meters of embankments and perform almost 11 million cubic meters of excavations. “Undoubtedly these figures are those of a work that, from the technical point of view, is already evidencing its high level of complexity,” Soliño points out. Added to the topographical difficulty we must add the geotechnical one which, as the Director of Ferrovial Agroman’s Technical Office has so fittingly defined, is “devilish.” The basalt that is inherent to this type of geology is greatly altered, thus making it difficult to exploit. In an attempt to use to greater advantage all the materials we have found, it was necessary to bring a variety of equipment from the Ferrovial Agroman Machinery Park: ‘in situ’ stabilisers, flooring cement plants, mobile pounding equipment, a concrete plant, two aggregate plants… In addition to all these elements, the structures for launching the prefab springers and girders have had to be moved here for the execution of the viaducts. There are two key features project of this work. The first one, situated in the north axis, is the Despe-te que suas (Undress for you will sweat) viaduct, a highly appropriate name for a terrain with vertical inclines that require an almost superhuman effort to cross. Soliño proudly mentions the most noteworthy figure of the viaduct, one that will take its place in Ferrovial Agroman’s own history book: “The central span, that is to say, the distance between the two piles, is 185 meters, 10 meters more than the Montabliz viaduct that the company built in Cantabria. Despete-que-suas will set a new Ferrovial record for this viaduct typology.” The second important point in the project is the Ribera das Tres Voltas viaduct situated in the south axis, unique because its piles recline from their vertical position. “This work that we are executing in Azores is the one with the highest technical complexity in which we have been involved to date. This factor of difficulty is a major challenge both for me and for the team I manage and for the rest of the people at Ferrovial Agroman involved in it,” explains Alejandro Soliño. "Undertaking a work of these characteristics on a foreign island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, where thw supply logistics are of major importance, and with such unforeseeable and complex geological and topographical characteristics, forces us to face new challenges on a daily basis that we must overcome. This is giving us more experience and knowledge when it comes to applying new solutions", adds the head of Ferrovial Agroman.


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