Bridges are perhaps one of the most important structures man has ever made. Suspension bridges, in particular, are magnificent architectural breakthroughs that have made possible what people once thought were impossible – to cross vast bodies of water and connect distant islands together.
Here are the ten longest suspension bridges around the world. Seven of these are found in Asia, five of which sit on Chinese soil.
1. Akashi Kaikyo
Japan’s Akashi Kaikyo, also called the Pearl Bridge, succinctly answers the question, “What is the longest suspension bridge in the world?”. It traverses the Akashi Strait and links Kobe in mainland Honshu to Awaji Island’s Iwaya. It is 1,991 meters long, longer by 341 meters than the world’s second longest, the Xihoumen Bridge of China.
To further compare, Akashi Kaikyo puts San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to shame, as the latter needs 710 meters to match the former’s length. This bridge opened for traffic in 1998 with six lanes. The entire project cost reached US$3.6 billion or JP¥500 billion. Within the period of construction, the bridge holds a world-class safety record of 6 injuries and zero casualties.
2. Xihoumen Bridge
The Xihoumen Bridge in the archipelago of Zhoushan in Zhejiang province in China holds the record for being the second longest suspension bridge worldwide. The construction of the suspension bridge that stretches to 1,650 meters kicked off in 2005.
It was opened to the public for traffic in December 2009. The provincial government had the bridge built at a cost of roughly US$363 million or 2.48 billion yuan. This bridge connects the islands of Jintang and Cezi. It is a part of a set of bridges that link the island of Zhoushan to Ningbo.
The StoreBaelt or the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark was the world’s longest suspension bridge before the Akashi Kaikyo opened for traffic in 1998. The bridge that links the islands Zealand and Funen was constructed at a cost of DKK21.4 billion. The suspension bridge is 1,624 meters long.
The construction work took ten years to complete. The Storebaelt carries both a motorway and a railway tunnel. The railway opened in 1997 while the motorway followed in 1998. The Storebealt is the longest suspension bridge outside of Asia.
4. Yi Sun-sin BridgeThe Yi Sun-sin Bridge is the fourth longest suspension bridge in the world. The target completion of this project was at the end of 2012. Upon completion, the suspension bridge should be 1,545 meters in length. Overall, it stretches at a distance of 2.26 kilometers and will carry four lanes of road.
The bridge will connect Gwangyang and Yeosu in Jeollanam-do, in the southwest portion of South Korea. It was named after Yi Sun-sin (1545-1598), a celebrated naval commander admired by many Koreans for his victories against the Japanese.
5. Runyang Bridge
Stretching a total of 35.66 kilometers, the Runyang Bridge is a bridge complex built across the Yangtze River that connects the south (Zhenjiang) and north (Yangzhou) banks. It is a segment of a huge project that aims to link Beijing to Shanghai.
The suspension bridge on the south spans 1,490 meters and is currently the fifth longest worldwide. The bridge accommodates 6 lanes of highway. The project cost was 5.3 billion yuan. Its construction started in 2000 and was opened for traffic in April, 2005.
6. Nanjing Fourth Yangtze Bridge
Another suspension bridge that puts China on the world map is the three-span type suspension bridge Nanjing Fourth Yangtze Bridge. It stretches 29 kilometers with a main span that is 1,418 meters long, making it the sixth longest in the world. The bridge consists of six lanes of expressway built of standard expressway design. Construction of this 6.8 billion yuan project began in the end of 2008. The bridge is set to open by this year, 2013.
7. Humber Bridge
The Humber Bridge in England used to be the longest suspension bridge for 16 years prior to the opening of Denmark’s Storebaelt Bridge in 1998. It is a single span 2,220-meter long suspension bridge that crosses the Humber, an estuary that was considered a significant barrier between Barton on the south and Hessle on the north.
The construction of the bridge took eight years. Opened to motorists on the 24th of June 1981, it has a main span of 1,410 meters, and is currently ranked 7th in the world.
8. Jiangyin Bridge
The Jiangyin Suspension Bridge, in Jiangsu province in eastern China, has a length of 1,385 meters and hence, the world’s eighth longest. It is currently the third-longest in all of China. Like the Runyang and Xihoumen, this bridge crosses the Yangtze River. It is a link between Jiangyin and Jingjiang. The bridge holds traffic from two main expressways – the Tongjiang-Sanya and Beijing-Shanghai.
This six-lane bridge which was completed in 1999 also contains pedestrian sidewalks. It was built in commemoration of the Chinese Revolution’s 50th anniversary.
9. Tsing Ma Bridge
Hongkong’s Tsing Ma Bridge takes the ninth spot in this list. Holding a main span that stretches 1,377 meters, it connects Tsing Yi Island to Ma Wan. Tsing Ma is the longest suspension bridge in the world that holds both rail and road traffic. The upper level of the bridge serves a two-way, six-lane road while the lower deck has two tracks of railway and a pair of covered carriageways, which is used for maintenance and emergency access during severe weather conditions.
If one is to stretch the wires used in this bridge, it would be enough to cover the world four times. This HK$7.2-billion project was completed in 1997 after five years of construction work.
10. Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was the longest of its kind from 1964 until the completion of the Humber Bridge in 1981. Its center span is 1,298 meters long. It remains the longest suspension bridge in North America.
This bridge crosses the Narrows and links Staten Island to Brooklyn in the city of New York. It is one of the main bridges in Staten Island that make it possible for people from New Jersey to travel to Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Long Island by car. The bridge took five years and $320 million to construct.