Bridges are one of mankind’s greatest achievements, spanning across great stretches of land and water that allow for far greater ease of travel and the vital transportation of goods. They can be traced back as far as ancient Mesopotamia, but became true architectural marvels during the Roman Empire. Since then, bridges have continued to become longer and ore ingenious as stronger materials and construction methods have become available. Today, these vast and impressive feats of engineering are often overlooked as we rush through our daily lives. This means it is easy to forget just how different life would be without them. In honor of the longest bridges in the entire world, we take a look through the top 5, along with the rich history behind each one.
1. Danyang-Kunshan: 164 km
The Danyang-Kunshan Grand connects the cities of Hangzhou and Nanjing in China. As such, it reduces travel times between the cities from four hours to one hour. Part of the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway, the 164 km long bridge cost $8.5 billion to construct, and took four years to complete, opening in June 2011. This expense was in part due to the need for the bridge to withstand extreme weather conditions including earthquakes and typhoons.
This vast construct was also designed for ships to pass below it, with a clearance of around 492 feet, and to withstand any direct hits from naval vessels weighing up to 300,000 tons. Now recognized as the longest bridge in the world, it has become a tourist attraction in its own right. Danyang-Kunshan particularly attracts visitors who marvel at the scenic routes it passes through, which include rice paddies and other wetlands.
2. Changhua-Kaohsiung Viaduct: 157.3 km
Part of the Taiwan High-Speed Railway, the Changhua-Kaohsiung Viaduct was designed to connect Baguashin in Changhua County with Zuoying, Kaohsiung in Taiwan. Completed in 2007, this impressive structure spans 157.3 km, making it the second longest bridge in the world (coming close to Dangyang-Kunshan). The Changhua-Kaohsiung Viaduct takes travelers across a diverse range of terrain, passing through expanses of water, rural areas and developed urban regions. Like many bridges in Taiwan, its structure was engineered to withstand the country’s potential for seismic activities. This means it can permit trains to stop in the event of an earthquake. Meanwhile, the bridge’s structure is spread across a large expanse which prevents damage occurring in one specific area of the construct.
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3. Cangde Grand: 116 km
Stretching an incredible 116 km across China, the Cangde Grand connects a shorter route between the cities of Beijing and Shanghai. It thereby forms an integral part of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway line. It was completed in 2010, and measures around 116 km, making it the third longest bridge in the entire world. The structure’s unique design features more than 3 thousand pillars that support the bridge’s weight, and protect it against the area’s notorious seismic activity.
4. Tianjin Grand: 113 km
Tianjin Grand opened to the public in 2011, after four years of extensive construction work. Its expanse of 113 km connects Langfang and Qingxia in China, measuring as the fourth longest bridge in the world. Tianjin was constructed in 32 individual sections, which were all built separately before being joined into one colossal structure. As part of the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway, the bridge supports a series of fast-track trains that whip through a series of densely-populated areas.
5. Weinan Weihe Grand Bridge: 79 km
Coming in as the fifth longest bridge in the world, Weinan Weihe Grand Bridge in China measures some 79km long. While the road bridge was completed in 2008, the bridge’s rail component came later, in 2010. It is now an integral component of the Zhengzhou-Xi’an High Speed Railway network. The bridge spreads over a series of different rivers along its winding route, including the Ling, Xi, Luofu, and Shi Di. It also passes over the Wei River not once, but twice! For a brief period following its completion, Weinan Weihe Grand Bridge was the longest bridge in the world, but shortly afterwards it was surpassed by the others on this list, during a period of rapid industrial expansion across China and Taiwan.