The Pont d’Arcole

Published on 23 January 2008 (updated on 24 January 2008)


The pont d'Arcole
The pont d’Arcole
(Photo : ENPC)

As early as the 18th century, the need was felt for a link between Place de Grève (the present-day Place de l’Hôtel de Ville) and Ile de la Cité, but it was not until 1828 that a footbridge was built in the form of a two span suspension bridge whose central tressel was supported by a pier in the Seine. In 1854, the authorities decided to replace this footbridge with a genuine bridge which could carry the increased amount of road traffic and cope with the profound urban planning changes that had taken place in Paris, for example the extension of Rue de Rivoli.

This bridge was to consist of a metal structure with a single segmental arch, and a span of 80m. However, the arches were so narrow at their crown that the bridge suddenly sagged by 20 cm on 16 February 1888. The structure was therefore strengthened by adding two additional trusses, removing the stringer anchorages from the abutments and lengthening the deck. The last important change was the cutting of a tunnel through the right abutment for the Georges Pompidou expressway.

The pont d'Arcole showing the tunnel through the abutment
The pont d’Arcole showing the tunnel through the abutment
(Photo : ENPC)

There is some disagreement between historians about the origin of the bridge’s name. It is, however, generally believed that it commemorates Napoleon’s 1796 victory over the Austrians at Arcole; another version is that the bridge was named after a young revolutionary who was killed in the act of raising the tricolor on a barricade on 28 July 1830

Designer: OUDRY
Contractor: the engineer CADIAT
Construction date: 1856
Total length: 80m
Effective width: 20m: carriageway 12m; two 4m footpaths
Constructional features:
An arch with a span of 80m consisting of 14 variable inertia metal arches. Reinforced concrete deck connected to the upper chords of the arches. Decoration: four angular keystones at the ends of the bridge. A single span with 80m wide variable inertia arches from the summit to the springings. In 1889, intermediate arches were added under each footpath and the longitudinal girder anchors were removed from the abutments as they had been responsible for structural defects.