Not all bridges in Prague cross the river. The Nusle Bridge crosses the Nusle Valley and connects the south-eastern part of the city (Prague 4) with the centre (Prague 2). I’ve been driving over this bridge and using the metro that runs under it since 1996 and I really couldn’t imagine it not being here. As far back as 1893 before the creation of Czechoslovakia, there had been designs for a bridge in this area but it was only in the 1960s that it became a reality.
Three things were happening that would directly affect this project. First was the expansion of the city into the Prague 4 district called Pankrác and the relocation of tens of thousands of citizens into the new high-rise housing. Secondly it was the creation of the D1 motorway that connected Prague with the second city of Brno and that motorway was planned to connect with the Nusle Bridge. Lastly it was the time when the city was already investing time in the creation of an underground metro system.
Nusle Bridge in Numbers
1893 – The first known road bridge design.
1928 – The year that the city first accepted bridge proposals.
1932 – The first plan that incorporates a tramway under the road bridge.
1961 – A design is accepted and given planning consent.
1967 – Construction begins.
1968 – Plans for a tramway are replaced with plans for a metro.
1970 – The static load test for the bridge is made by parking 66 army tanks on it.
1973 – Nusle Bridge opens.
1974 – The Metro runs through the bridge.
288,000,000 – The 2018 cost in CZK for maintenance to keep the bridge going for another 25 years
The Nusle Bridge Design
The design of the bridge went through several iterations. The current Nusle Bridge is 485m long and 26.5m wide allowing for 6 vehicle lanes and two pedestrian paths. It is a pre-stressed concrete design supported by 4 pillars and at its highest it stands 42.5m (highest bridge in the city). 75% of the bridge is over the Prague 2 district and the remainder is over the Prague 4 district (the railway line is the border).
Nusle Bridge Opening
The Nusle Bridge was actually completed and could have supported traffic in 1972 but it’s official opening ceremony was delayed until February 25th 1973 so that it coincided with the 25th anniversary of the Communist takeover of the country. It started receiving long distance heavy goods on April 30th 1973 when the D1 motorway link to bridge was connected.
As the official opening was directly related to the Communist takeover, so to was the name. It was formally named the Klement Gottwald Bridge after the first Communist President. When the metro station was being constructed it had the name “Nuselsky Most” (Nusle Bridge) but you won’t find that anymore because it was renamed “Gottwaldova” from 1974. But you won’t find that anymore either because from 1989 it got it’s current name, “Vyšehrad”.
A Few Problems
1) The Nusle Bridge had to be resurfaced in 1981 only 8 years after opening and having handled a pretty low volume of traffic.
2) The length of the bridge caused a problem. At the time the Prague Radio Station broadcast at 675KHz or 469m. Because the bridge was basically 485m of reinforced concrete carrying metal rails it turned the bridge into the biggest radio antenna in the city. So radio reception was great but the testing equipment would not work correctly so all the frequency testing had to be done at night when radio broadcasts were shut down.
3) The original 1961 design of the Nusle Bridge anticipated a lightweight tramway based on the Czech T6 Tram. But in 1968 the government decided to implement a metro system and they aimed to use the Soviet carriage style which exerted 50% more load on the rails. This required an additional 800 Tons of steel bracing within the bridge to spread the extra load.
4) Finally, the bridge became a magnet for people who wanted to commit suicide. Up until 1997 it only had a one metre metal fence so between 1973 and 2004 there were 273 suicides. Under the bridge is a memorial to suicides called Memento Mori.