Europe’s first transporter bridge, one where vehicles are conveyed across a river on a gondola suspended from a high-level span of steel girders, crosses the River Nervion, or Ria de Bilbao, between the communities of Portugalete and Getxo, downstream from the city of Bilbao. It was designed by the Vizcayan engineer Albert de Palacio y Elissague (1856-1939), a disciple of Gustave Eiffel. Palacio also worked on the Atocha railway station in Madrid. The bridge has a 164 m span, and there is a crossing carrying up to six cars and substantial numbers of pedestrians, every eight minutes. The bridge (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) was extensively restored from the late 1990s, and facilities now include lifts that enable pedestrians to gain access to the high level span on which they can cross the river on a walkway.
Only about 22 transporter bridges were built, but they are highly regarded in the communities in which they are situated.