Civil Engineering 1997

João Gomes Bridge
Eng. António Reis
Funchal, Madeira

Further information

In this second edition, the Secil Prize for Civil Engineering was awarded to the João Gomes Bridge in Funchal, designed by Engineer José António Luís dos Reis.

Once again, the Prize sought not only to promote works that incorporated the product of its activity – structural concrete – but above all to distinguish “innovation, creativity and the quality and relevance of its application”.

Thus, according to the Chairman of the Jury, despite the “… technical value and the implementation difficulties of other projects in the competition, it was the structural entity of the “bridge” that best suited the goals of the competition and was the unanimous choice of the jury. So, once again, the winning structure was a bridge”.

This work was distinguished also by the challenge of implementing a road infrastructure on the particular ground of the Autonomous Region of Madeira, achieving good environmental integration.

The jury judged it “… to be a work of structural engineering located in an area of the country whose imposing natural beauty requires of man a rigorous contribution to its enhancement and not its “pollution” in aesthetic and landscape terms“.

António José Luís dos Reis was born in 1949 in Funchal, and graduated in Civil Engineering from the Instituto Superior Técnico in 1972 with a final grade of 17/20. He completed his PhD in 1977 at the University of Waterloo, Canada, where he presented a thesis in the field of Structural Stability. He obtained equivalence of the degree of PhD in Civil Engineering by Portuguese Universities in 1977 and accreditation in Structural Engineering from Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) in 1981.

He was a guest researcher in 1980 at the University of Surrey in England. He has been Professor at the Department of Civil Engineering of IST since 1985, where he is responsible for the core disciplines of Bridges and Special Structures. He has been a Member of the Council for Public Works and Transport and, since 1996, Chairman of the Department of Civil Engineering at IST.

He began his professional career in 1972 and has always been linked to design, teaching and research in the field of bridges and special structures.

He is the author of many articles in journals and speeches at international conferences, including the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the International Association for Bridges and Structural Engineering (IABSE), the Federation Internationale de la Précontrainte (FIP), the Comité Euro-Internationale du Béton (CEB), the European Convention for Construction Steelwork (ECCS). The Comité Euro-Internationale du Béton (CEB), and the Structural Stability Research Council (SSRC).

He is the Portuguese representative on the Eurocode 3 – Steel structures committee in the European Community, and consultant to JAE and REFER for the Railway Installation Project for the bridge over the River Tagus in Lisbon.

In 1979, he was a founding member of GRID – Consultas, Estudos e Projetos de Engenharia, Lda, of which he is Managing Partner and Technical Director. During the 25 years of his professional career, he has been responsible for the concept, design and technical management of more than a hundred works and the author of several technical studies, opinions and reports.

He has participated in a number of studies and designs for works abroad, particularly in Spain (1979), Romania (1978), Saudi Arabia (1980), Mozambique (1984, 1992) and Uruguay (1994), and is currently involved in projects in Angola and Bahrain. His main activity as a designer has, however, been developed mainly for construction in Portugal, Madeira, the Azores and Macau.

In this context, he has been responsible for the concept and design of bridges and viaducts in pre-stressed reinforced concrete or mixed steel and concrete structures, made by various construction processes, including: bridges and viaducts built with ground-supported centring (about fifty), bridges built with self-launching falsework, prefabricated beams or by incremental launching (more than a dozen) and bridges built by successive advances (about two dozen projects), as well as some studies for cable stayed bridges.

Amongst the many studies and designs for special structures for which he has been responsible, most notable are the structure for the new TDP Monsanto Emitter (1991, height 106m), the cable-stayed roof for the new Funchal Trade Centre (1990) and the structural solution for Macau International Airport (1989).

In the field of bridges and within the scope of his activity in GRID, he has been responsible for the design and development of several projects, among which are:

  • The Freixo bridge over the Douro River in Porto (1989; Span: 150m; Length: 706m);
  • João Gomes Bridge (1988; Span: 125m; Pillar height: 105m);
  • Bridge over the River Sado at Alcácer do Sal and access viaducts (1987, Length: 1200m);
  • Socorridos Bridge in West Exit to Funchal (1986; Span: 106m);
  • Vigário Bridge (Span: 104m)/Porto Novo Viaduct (Span: 80m; Length: 360m)
  • Viaduct on the EN115 (CREL; Length: 500m)/Amoreiras Viaduct (Length: 550m)
  • Lousado Viaduct (AE Braga-Valença; length: 743m)
  • Viaducts over Pera and Frades Rivers (IC8)
  • Railway Viaduct (Span: 92m; cable stays)/Santo Tirso Bridge (cable stays).

He was also responsible for one of Portugal’s first and largest projects for mounted bridge decks by successive advances – the Railway Deck for the Alcântara Viaduct under construction at the access to the bridge over the Tagus River, mostly in a steel and concrete structure. He is also the author of the Viaduct Projects for one of the Consortia for the construction of the Porto Metro. He has conducted bridge refurbishment projects, notably the Reinforcement and Improvement of the Alcântara Viaduct access to the bridge over the River Tagus in Lisbon, Strengthening and Installation of a Railway deck on the Luís I Bridge for the Porto Metro (Tender), the Bridge over the River Corgo in Vila-Real and the Valença Road-Railway Bridge in Minho, between Portugal and Spain.

The “Funchal Ring Road – Cota 200”, whose 1st phase was inaugurated in 1996, establishes the link between the Funchal-Airport Highway, currently under construction, and the Funchal West Exit Highway.

The “Cota 200” is a road built under particularly difficult conditions due to its placement in a densely built-up urban area and increasing difficulties due to topographical, geotechnical and environmental constraints.

The bridge crossing the João Gomes river valley is an important milestone in the field of engineering works carried out over the last decade in the Autonomous Region of Madeira.

The João Gomes Bridge is a simple work in its appearance, discreet in its layout, but impressive in its structure. It is now one of the highest bridges in Portugal, with a grade line at about 140 metres above the bed of the river.


The bridge is located in a deep valley, with a cross-section for four lanes of traffic and it has a total length of 274.5 metres between the axes of the bearing devices at the abutments. The structure has a three-span portico, the central span being 125.0m and the side spans being 77.0m and 72.5m respectively, on the west and east sides.

It is totally made of concrete, and its superstructure has one single-cell box girder in reinforced prestressed concrete and the pillars, which are about 105.0 metres high, have shafts of reinforced concrete and a variable tubular section only in the transverse direction. The abutments are of reinforced concrete, the one on the east side being notable for its size and geometric complexity, due to the transition to the Botanical Gardens tunnel.

The foundations of the pillars and the abutments are directly placed on the basaltic complex, despite the fact that the foundation of the pillar on the right bank was sunk about 30.0 metres deep in relation to the surface elevation of the slope deposits. Due to fracturing and existing jointing in the rock mass where the west abutment is located, there was a need for a special treatment for this mass using injections and rockbolts.

The great flexibility of the pillar on the right bank, due to its height, means that the deck has fixed bearing devices in the east abutment and unidirectional mobile bearing devices in the west abutment. The geometrically non-linear effects (effects of instability) on the pillars were therefore reduced for the operational phase of the work, since in the construction phase, before the closure of the deck, the pillars work as cantilevers.

Works Technical Datasheet: Ponte João Gomes

Location: Funchal-Madeira

Date of construction:1994-1996

Client: Regional Secretariat of Social Infrastructure and Environment of the Regional Government of Madeira

Contractor: Construtora do Tâmega/Somague

Supervision: Eng. Vítor Gonçalves, Eng. Luís Conduto

Design and Technical Direction: Prof. António Reis and GRID

Structures and Foundations: Prof. António Reis, Eng. Daniel de Sousa and GRID

Geological & Geotechnical Study: Engineer Mateus de Brito and CENOR-Consultores, Lda.

The Secil Civil Engineering Award, established in order to elect from among relevant projects by Portuguese engineers the most important in the use of structural concrete is, for the recipient, a distinction that recognises their exceptional professional merit. The technical and scientific skills and the creative spirit of the winner must therefore be duly emphasised, along with the recognition that Portuguese engineering has reached a level of quality that rivals the best in the world. The award-winning work, the João Gomes bridge in Funchal, is important from the point of view of its design, which represents for its uniqueness an innovative solution that confirms the merit of its author, pays tribute to Portuguese engineering and establishes a benchmark for professional quality.

Horácio Maia e Costa

President of the Engineers’ Association, in Secil Civil Engineering 1997 Award, Secil edition

The increasing awareness of the need to harmonise the implementation of new roads with the terrain on the one hand and the environmental heritage on the other, has led in recent years to the construction of a number of viaducts and bridges in RAM (Autonomous Region of Madeira). (…) In the midst of such diversity, the 140-metre high João Gomes Bridge warrants special attention, because as one of the highest bridges in Portugal, it confirms the “ingenuity” of the engineer and the quality of the construction.

Jorge Manuel Jardim Fernandes

Regional Secretariat of Madeira, in Secil Civil Engineering 1997 Award, Secil edition

How can we help you?

Please contact us by telephone or submit a form.