Definitions for viaductˈvaɪ əˌdʌkt
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bridge consisting of a series of arches supported by piers used to carry a road (or railroad) over a valley
A bridge with several spans that carries road or rail traffic over a valley or other obstacles.
a structure of considerable magnitude, usually with arches or supported on trestles, for carrying a road, as a railroad, high above the ground or water; a bridge; especially, one for crossing a valley or a gorge. Cf. Trestlework
Origin: [L. via a way + -duct, as in aqueduct: cf. F. viaduc. See Via, and Aqueduct.]
A viaduct is a bridge composed of several small spans for crossing a valley or a gorge. The term viaduct is derived from the Latin via for road and ducere to lead something. However, the ancient Romans did not use that term per se; it is a modern derivation from an analogy with aqueduct. Like the Roman aqueducts, many early viaducts comprised a series of arches of roughly equal length. Viaducts may span land or water or both. The longest viaduct in antiquity may have been the Pont Serme which crossed wide marshes in southern France. Viaducts are commonly used in many cities that are railroad centers, such as Chicago, Atlanta, Birmingham, London, and Manchester. These viaducts cross the large railroad yards that are needed for freight trains there, and also cross the multi-track railroad lines that are needed for heavy railroad traffic. These viaducts keep highway and city street traffic from having to be continually interrupted by the train traffic. Likewise, some viaducts carry railroads over large valleys, or they carry railroads over cities with many cross-streets and avenues. Many viaducts over land connect points of similar height in a landscape, usually by bridging a river valley or other eroded opening in an otherwise flat area. Often such valleys had roads descending either side that become inadequate for the traffic load, necessitating a viaduct for "through" traffic. Such bridges also lend themselves for use by rail traffic, which requires straighter and flatter routes. Some viaducts have more than one deck, such that one deck has vehicular traffic and another deck having rail traffic. One example of this is the Prince Edward Viaduct in Toronto, Canada, that carries motor traffic on the top deck as Bloor Street, and metro as the Bloor-Danforth subway line on the lower deck, over the steep Don River valley. Others were built to span settled areas and crossed over roads beneath - the reason for many viaducts in London.
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