Adolphe Bridge has become an unofficial national symbol of sorts, representing Luxembourg's independence, and has become one of Luxembourg City's main tourist attractions. The bridge was designed by Paul Séjourné, a Frenchman, and Paul Rodange, a Luxembourger, and was built between 1900 and 1903. Its design was copied in the construction of Walnut Lane Bridge in Philadelphia, the United States.
The bridge was named after Grand Duke Adolphe, who reigned Luxembourg from 1890 until 1905, and was the first monarch to hold the title not in personal union with another. Although it is now over 100 years old, it is also known as the New Bridge (Luxembourgish: Nei Bréck, French: Nouveau pont, German: Neue Brücke) by people from Luxembourg City. The 'old bridge' in this comparison is the Passerelle, which was built between 1859 and 1861.
With the demolition of the city's famous fortification, under the 1867 Treaty of London, and the decline of its strategic importance, Luxembourg City reverted to the normalcy enjoyed by other cities. The city's built-up area spread southwards from Haute Ville, over the Pétrusse, where Luxembourg City's train station was already located. However, the only existing link to the south bank of the Pétrusse was the old viaduct, which (at 5.50 m wide) was too narrow to accommodate all the traffic that would be expected between two halves of the city.
In 1896, the government hired Albert Rodange to draw up plans for a new bridge. Rodange identified the future bridge's position, connecting with the main axis of Boulevard Royal, and drew up initial plans for a large stone viaduct. However, lacking experience himself, the government invited a foreigner with specific expertise in the field to help design the bridge. Paul Séjourné, a Frenchman with years of experience designing similar viaducts in southern France, was chosen.
Although Séjourné concurred with Rodange's site and basic design, he made many major modifications. Instead of several medium-sized arches, Séjourné sought to build the bridge around a large central arch, flanked by smaller arches. The plan, which was adopted, called for:
- Twin parallel 84.65 m arches in the centre, surmounted by eight smaller arches of 5.40 m each.
- Two arches of 21.60 m flanking the central arch.
- Two further arches of 6.00 m outside the medium-sized arches.
In total, the bridge would have a length of 153 m. The plans were audacious for that day and age; at 84.65 m, the central span was to be the largest stone arch in existence. To support the weight, construction would have to make use of reinforced concrete, a material that had only recently come into use. However, for the most part, the bridge was constructed from sandstone, quarried locally at Ernzen, Dillingen, Gilsdorf, and Verlorenkost.
The first stone of the bridge was laid on the 14 July 1900, and it was inaugurated just over three years later, on 24 July 1903, with great ceremony. Originally, the bridge carried both road and rail traffic; two rail/tram track over the bridge formed part of the railway route from Luxembourg City to Echternach, which was opened on 20 April 1904.
Adolphe Bridge was first renovated in 1961, and minor changes were made again in 1976. In 1990, the Luxembourgian government launched an investigation into the state of the bridge, and found that it showed signs of extensive damage, to both the stonework and steel. Between September 2003 and August 2004, the central arches were strengthened by the addition of 258 prestressed steel bars, with a total force of 25,600 tonnes (251 MN).
Major redesign work is now expected to begin in 2011 in connection with the LuxTram project. A temporary bridge running in parallel is to be built in 2010 to accommodate traffic.
- Trezzo Bridge
- Adolphe Bridge in the Structurae database