At its Wednesday meeting, Helsinki's City Council approved plans to build a bridge for tram and light traffic that would span the area of water known as Kruunuvuorenselkä, dividing the eastern central part of the capital from suburbs such as Laajasalo.
The envisioned 900-metre bridge would be Helsinki's longest and largest. By comparison, the Lapinlahti Bridge
carrying the Länsiväylä urban motorway west is just 600 metres in length.
The deck of the new bridge will also be higher than any other in the city, allowing for the passage underneath of vessels up to 18 metres in height. Existing bridges are not more than 15 metres above the waterline.
The estimate is that the bridge would be completed in 2014, and the projected cost is EUR 125 million. An archectural competition for the design of the bridge will be held, possibly already next spring.
Three alternative versions have been put forward for consideration in the design.
The lowest and cheapest model would be for a girder bridge mounted on pillars. Two alternatives for a cable-stayed bridge design have been put forward. In the event that a single pylon structure would be used, it could rear up as high as 80 metres. A twin-pylon solution would see a height of 55 metres. In actual fact the "lowest" bridge would have the top of the bridge deck slightly higher above the water than in the other
two examples, owing to the thicker construction required. The price calculations made so far have been based on a cable-stayed bridge solution.
The new bridge is needed in part because the Laajasalo shoreline is to be developed in the period from 2011-2017 with housing for around 10,000 people. It is estimated it could carry between 21,000 and 23,000 passengers each day.
Vehicular traffic is not on the agenda, except in the form of public transport - a new tram line is planned from the centre of the city, travelling east from Kruununhaka via the islands of Tervasaari and Korkeasaari (also home to the Helsinki Zoo). Pedestrians and cyclists would also be able to use the bridge.
The venture is likely to run into some opposition, too. Residents of shoreline areas of the city are unhappy about the prospect, and do not believe the benefits will outweigh the cost and environmental impact.
In the community of Kulosaari to the north, there are doubts about the wisdom of the bridge, which is seen as a step backwards.
Kulosaari is on the Metro line, and the feeling is that Metro capacity is underused and that to introduce yet another form of transport at this stage is rather quixotic.
In Laajasalo, meanwhile, the idea is broadly welcomed, and the Metro alternative is not thought to be feasible with the likely population volumes involved.