(Editor’s Note – This original post from December 2015 has been updated to reflect current Caravan Panama Canal tour.)
The Bridge of Americas in Panama (or Puente de las Américas in Spanish) was built along the Pan-American Highway in 1962. This four lane Panama land bridge offered a more efficient way for vehicle traffic to travel between land masses on the North and South of the Panama Canal.
The United States initiated and funded this first Panama Canal Bridge, which cost 20 million U.S. dollars at the time (equivalent to 161 million in 2017).
Up until its completion, the only way for vehicle traffic to cross the Panama Canal was by a small swinging road bridge at the Gatun Locks, or a swinging road and rail bridge at Miraflores Locks. Both of these swinging Panama bridges had a very limited capacity. The United States hoped to make it much easier to cross the Panama Canal and to reconnect Colon and Panama City, which were cut off from the rest of their republic by the building of the Panama Canal.
Construction of the Bridge of Americas
When the Panama Canal was first built in the early 20th century it was recognized that it would create a physical barrier between the two major cities, Colon and Panama City, and the rest of the country. Up until 1942 (and 1962), two ferries shuttled vehicles from one side of the canal to the other. Two swinging bridges with limited capacity were eventually added to help move vehicle traffic to either side of the Panama Canal.
Even back in 1923, the need for a permanent Panama land bridge spanning the canal was given priority. Finally in 1955, the Remon-Eisenhower Treaty commissioned the United States to initiate and fund the Panama Bridge of the Americas building project.
At 5,425 feet long (just over a mile wide) the Bridge of Americas took three years to build and upon completion stood 384 feet above sea level, leaving a clearance of 200 feet (61 meters) for ships passing below during high tide.
At first, the Panama Bridge of the Americas was actually called the Thatcher Ferry Bridge in honor of the original ferry that helped vehicles cross the Panama Canal. Just a decade after the Americas Bridge was officially commissioned, it was unofficially renamed as “The Bridge of the Americas,” which was much preferred by the Panamanian government. Only in 1979 was the name, “The Bridge of the Americas” officially recognized.
More Bridges Over the Panama Canal
Up until 2004, The Bridge of the Americas was the primary method of crossing the Panama Canal by car. The Americas Bridge eventually experienced high levels of congestion and bottleneck as vehicle traffic increased into the 21st century.
Panama Centennial Bridge – In 2004 the new six-lane Panama Centennial Bridge was opened as the second bridge across the Panama Canal. Located just 25 Km inland from the Americas Bridge, the Centennial Bridge did much to ease vehicle traffic congestion. Spanning 1,380 feet and at 262 feet high, the new Panama Centennial Bridge now gives residents and Panama visitors a second option for crossing the Panama Canal by car.
Atlantic Bridge Panama – In 2013, construction began on the third bridge over the Panama Canal. The new four-lane Panama Atlantic Bridge, which is being built on the Atlantic side of Panama near Colon, will have a span of 1740 feet and will be completed by the summer of 2018.
About Caravan Panama Canal Tours
Since 1952, Caravan Tours has been offering all inclusive, fully guided vacation packages throughout North and Central America.
As part of your Panama vacation with Caravan, you will enjoy a guided Panama Canal cruise that passes beneath The Bridge of the Americas as you cruise through the Panama Canal locks and across the Continental Divide. Later on in the tour, you will also be crossing the Panama Canal via the Panama Centennial Bridge and The Bridge of the Americas.
Caravan offers fully escorted, all inclusive Panama Canal vacations that are exceptionally priced and include all meals, accommodations, activities, and gratuities. See our Panama Tour FAQs here.
Visit our Panama Canal Tour page for more information about this tour or to book your Panama vacation call us today at 1-800-CARAVAN (227-2826).