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The Bosphorus Bridge at night. Image taken from Kuzguncuk. (exp. 5 sec.)

During the time of the Ottoman Empire, the residents of the Bosphorus consisted solely of fishermen, boatsmen and gardeners. Transportation costs between the villages of the Bosphorus, the manner in which the boats called pereme were boarded and the number of people that could be accommodated were set by regulation. In particular the peremes has to be long and wide. The rules prohibited that they function as sailboats, that men and women travel together and overcrowding.

Bridge of boats

According to historical records, the first bridge linking the two sides of the Bosphorus was commissioned by the Persian emperor Darius in 490 BC. (The bridge consisted of boats.) The story of this bridge, which accorded a Persian army of 700 thousand safe passage, is as follows: "Having advanced to the shores of the Bosphorus, the Persian emperor Darius ordered Mandrocles of Samos to construct a bridge. Darius was highly satisfied with the bridge constructed by Mandrocles that linked the temple on the mouth of Pontus Euxeinos (the Black Sea) and the Bacchus temple near Propontis (the Marmara Sea)."

During the Republican period, Nuri Demirag, the architect of the first plane manufactured in Turkey, proposed to build a bridge linking the two shores of the Bosphorus. In 1931 he prepared a project for his dream work that would link Ahırkapı and Salacak on the model of the San Fransisco-Oakland Bay suspension bridge. He gave the project to Salih Bozok to be submitted to Atatürk, who liked the idea and delegated the issue to Prime Minister İsmet İnönü. However the Minister of Public Works Ali Çetinkaya decreed that "this is not possible," the project was aborted and then gradually forgotten.

In 1953, the issue of linking the Bosphorus through a bridge was brought up at an official level for the first time. Yet the project was delayed due to financial and political difficulties.

After about a decade a new government resolved on the construction of a bridge, included the projections in the Second Five Year Plan, and the Turkish Grand National Assembly enacted a law on this public works project on July 3, 1967. The project was commissioned to the British Freeman, Fox&Partners Company while the construction was offered to a consortium of the German Hochtief A.G. and British Cleveland Bridge&Engineering companies for a total of US$22 million plus TL105 million. In 1970 the ground was broken for the bridge that was to be 1560 m long, with a middle span of 1.074 m, a width of 33.40 m and an altitude of 64 m.

Bosphorus linked by wire!

Every stage in the construction of the Bosphorus Bridge was given full coverage by the press. The guide wire was stretched on January 11, 1972. The headline: "The shores of the Bosphorus linked by wire." Then in April the technical staff crossed the service bridge built on the guide wires. Another striking headline was "The first to go from Europe to Asia on foot."

The Bosphorus Bridge was officially opened by President Fahri Korutürk during the 50th anniversary celebrations of the foundation of the Republic. 28 thousand 126 vehicles crossed it within the first 24 hours.

During the last decade, it has eventually become clear that even two bridges are insufficient to alleviate the traffic problems of Istanbul. The construction of the Bosphorus tube passage which is the most ambitious current transportation project of the İstanbul municipality will start at the end of 2003 and is due to be completed in 48 months. This project will extend to the Gebze-Haydarpaşa and then to the Sirkeci-Halkalı lines unifying disparate railway networks across the Bosphorus.
Article by: Gökhan Akçura

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