June 22 marks the official opening of the Tamina Bridge, the highest in Europe, connecting the Swiss villages of Pfäfers and Valens in canton St Gallen. (SRF/swisisnfo.ch)
The two-lane asymmetrical concrete arch towers 200 metres above the valley. The 417-metre-long bridge took five years to build and cost CHF56 million ($57.5 million). It provides a safer winter route from Valens to Bad Ragaz. The old road, the Valenserstrasse, is prone to rockslides.
The bridge also provides easy access to Valens for firefighters from Pfäfers. It used to take them 30 minutes to arrive – a church once almost burnt down because of the delay. It's a plus for schoolchildren as well, who no longer have a 40km bus journey to cross the valley; it takes ten minutes by bike across the bridge.
More than 1km of new cantonal road had to be built to serve the bridge. In order to reduce the environmental impact, a natural forest reserve is being created, streams are being revitalised and crossings built for wild animals.
Valens has 400 residents while the population of Pfäfers is around 600.