Our first trip on the Durango Mazatlán Highway and the Baluarte Bridge

About one week ago, we were fortunate to drive to Durango and back on the new Durango-Mazatlán toll road. Why were we lucky? Well, first of all the road is brand new with the key part (a.k.a. the middle) only being open for less than 10 days. Second, the road contains 63 bridges and 115 tunnels – very cool. Third, the road includes the Baluarte Bridge, the highest cable-stayed bridge in the world and the longest in North America. Fourth, two days after we returned, Tropical Storm Sonia hit hard in that area of Mexico, closing the road for 36 hours and doing damage to this beautiful new highway that will be apparent for years to come (watch video in this story to see for yourself). You can read all the facts and figures here and below is a video we recorded through the sunroof.

We were door to door in three hours. By that I mean from our door on the malecón to the door of our hotel in the historic district of Durango in three hours. This includes stopping to pay tolls and one gas station stop. I did not include stopping to take pictures of the Baluarte Bridge which you can look through by clicking on any of the photos below.

The road provides an alternative to the free road, known as El Espinazo del Diablo, or the Devil’s backbone. This road took from five to eight hours for the same journey and includes countless switchbacks and hairpin turns and numerous encounters with busses, trucks, cows, burros and bicycles all on a two lane road with little or no shoulder. It was frequently closed due to accidents and mud slides and was a nightmare when the clouds were thick enough to reduce visibility to near zero. The new road is two lane most of the way, but has ample shoulders for passing or for emergencies and is about as straight as a mountainous road can get.

The tunnels range from short and sweet to awesome. Some have natural daylight “windows” while other rely on electric lights. Only four or five were long enough to lose the satellite connection to our NAV system. The longest is called El Sinaloense and is 2.8 Km long and has such cool lighting it feels like you are passing through or participating in a video game. Here is a video:

According to my passengers, the views were incredible. Passing over the bridges provides an incredible vista and the rock formations around the tunnels are truly awesome. There are no real services on the road yet, but you can see where they are being built. They should be available soon.

I highly recommend this road. It is much safer and efficient. The tolls round trip will be about 1,000 pesos which is not chump change. You will save a lot of gas compared to the old road and arrive sooner. I understand that the high price of the tolls is an issue and the governor of Sinaloa is “looking into it.” Texas is now a one day’s daylight drive thanks to this road – well, at least in summer.

***One important note about safety. The bridge is a huge attraction and many people want to stop and take pictures. Unfortunately, the topography of the land did not allow for a viewing area. So, what people are doing, us included, is simply stopping in the right lane and walking around (the bridge does have four lanes). This is perhaps a little foolish with cars coming out of a tunnel at you going well over 60 miles per hour. But, this is the system, at least for now. Word on the street is that the cruise ships are planning excursions to “see the amazing new bridge.” I can’t wait to see dozens of tourist vans taking up the right lane while tourists pose for pictures. Drive carefully everyone.