World’s Longest Bridges and China’s New Record-Breaker

We recently explored how high modern engineering can go. The next logical question is, “how long can it go?” As you’ll soon discover, this question is a little trickier.

Measurement Wars

Architects and engineers have been comparing the world’s longest bridges for many years, but this is no easy task. You see, there is no standard way to measure the total length of a bridge, so measurement wars have ensued.

Some bridges are measured from the beginning of the entrance ramp to the end of the exit ramp. Others are measured from shoreline to shoreline, and still others are measured by the length of total construction involved in creating the bridge. Does a bridge have to be over water, or do elevated road bridges count too?

China’s Fascination with Long Bridges

China has dominated the realm of long bridges for many years now. At this time, China holds the record for the two longest bridges in the world: the Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge and the Tianjin Grant Bridge. At a length of 102.4 miles and price tag of $8.5 billion, the Danyang Kunshan was opened in 2011 and crosses the Yangtze River and Yangcheng Lake. At 70.64 miles in length, the Tianjin Grand Bridge is a high-speed railway that runs between Beijing and Shanghai.
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge

But once again, China intends to out-do itself. The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is an ongoing construction project that will connect the Chinese cities of Hong Kong, Zhauhai, and Macau by a series of tunnels and bridges. Construction began in 2009, and it’s expected to be complete in 2015 and open  for public use in 2016. It will be the world’s longest sea bridge, spanning about 31 miles in length.

This bridge differs from the others in China because it includes a 3.4-mile underwater tunnel with artificial islands joining the bridges on both sides, making it the first marine bridge and tunnel project in the country. According to the construction project official, Zhu Yongling, “It is designed with a service life of 120 years. It can withstand the impact of a strong wind with a speed of 51 meters a second.” Once completed, the bridge will allow six lanes of traffic traveling at 60 mph, which will cut travel times from Hong Kong to Zhuhai from four hours to one.

Other Long Bridges in the United States

  • Lake Pontchartrain Causeway: Located in southern Louisiana, this is currently the world’s longest continuous bridge over water, measuring 23.8 miles long.
  • ManchacSwamp

  • Manchac Swamp Bridge: Also in Louisiana, this bridge measures 22.81 miles long and is the longest toll-free road bridge in the world.

Other Long Bridges in the World

  • Bang Na Expressway: Located in Thailand, this six-lane elevated highway crosses the Bang Pakong River and at 34 miles long, it earned the title of “world’s longest road bridge.”
  • Weinan Weihe Grand Bridge: This high speed railway was built in China in 2008 and runs 49.54 miles in length.
  • Jiaozhou Bay Bridge: Built in 2011, this Chinese bridge spans 26.4 miles and is currently the Guinness Book of World Record’s longest bridge over water.

Regardless of location and length, bridges connect people, places, and ideas. Bridges have the power to promote socio-economic development, create employment opportunities, and make our lives more efficient. Thanks to innovative engineering designs, like the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, our world can expand greater lengths than ever thought possible.

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