The Arenales Suspension Bridge, Nicaragua A study in design for the rural environment Alan Kreisa Brandon Johnson Alissa Smith Director of Engineering Director of Programs Director of Engagement 1. INTRODUCTION More than one billion rural residents across the globe lack access to a road that is passable during all seasons. In the developing world, where walking is the primary mode of transportation, this lack of infrastructure limits possibility: individuals and families are cut off from essential healthcare, education, and economic opportunity, particularly during the rainy season. When rivers swell and become impassable, walks to school, work, or the doctor become life-threatening without a bridge to cross. For the community of Arenales in northwest Nicaragua, the need for a footbridge was especially stark. The Estelí River floods for more than three months of every year, standing between the 3,300 residents of Arenales and primary and secondary schools, the local market, jobs on tobacco farms, and the health clinic. 3/2017 The local municipality had built a suspension bridge over the river in the early 2000s, but design errors had led to the structure’s dramatic collapse in 2011. The community salvaged what they could from the river and attempted to resurrect the bridge themselves, knowing that this was a temporary solution (see Figure 3). When the international non-profit organization Bridges to Prosperity teamed with the local government of Condega, Rotary clubs from Nicaragua and New Mexico, international construction and engineering firms Kiewit and KPFF, and members of the community to construct a replacement structure in 2017, the existing walkway was missing decking planks, making the crossing extremely dangerous.