Romania, Japan herald century of diplomacy at bridge site

Workers stand during a ceremony marking 100 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Romania, at the construction site of a suspension bridge over the Dnube river in Braila, Romania, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. The bridge, built by Japanese and Italian companies, with a span of 1,974.3 meters, will be the largest of its kind in Romania and the third in the European union.(AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

BRAILA, Romania (AP) — Romania and Japan celebrated a century of diplomatic relations on Thursday with officials from both countries visiting the site of what will be one of Europe’s longest suspension bridges.

The bridge in the eastern city of Braila will cross the Danube River and is a joint venture between Japan’s IHI Infrastructure Systems Co. Ltd. and Italian company Webuild.

The project is expected to cost 411 million euros ($483 million) and the bridge will boast a central span of 1.12 kilometers (0.7 miles).

The bridge, which is almost equal in length to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, is around 55% complete and is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2022.

Ionut Ciurea, director of Pro Infrastructure Association, a nongovernmental organization that monitors major road infrastructure projects in Romania, told The Associated Press that the new bridge will bring “significant regional benefits.”

“The bridge is a turning point,” Ciurea said. “It’s important for the whole country. It’s definitely one of the biggest transport infrastructure projects in the country. It basically connects the port of Constanta to the whole region, Moldova … and especially the Danube Delta.”

According to Webuild, the Italian contractor, the bridge will consist of steel wires with a total length of about 40,000 kilometers (25,000 miles) — the same as the circumference of the Earth.

Hiroshi Ueda, Japan’s ambassador to Romania, said that the suspension bridge is “a very good example of connectivity within the European Union.”

According to the Japanese Embassy in Bucharest, more than 100 Japanese companies in Romania have created approximately 40,000 jobs. In 2018, Shinzo Abe was the first Japanese prime minister to pay a working visit to Romania.

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Stephen McGrath reported from Sighisoara.

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