Tuesday, September 18, 2007

003. A bridge too far?

Just nearing completion in China is the Hangzhou Bay Bridge. At 36km, it is the world longest sea-crossing bridge in the world, supplanting the Donghai bridge (32.5km). However, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, at 38.4km remains the longest bridge in the world, for the time being.

The Hangzhou crossing, with six lanes of motorway in both directions, shortens the distance between Shanghai and Ningbo, in the Zhejiang province, by 120 km, and is sufficiently long to merit a service station along it, built on a platform raised above the sea.

At a cost of nearly $2 billion, it is doubted whether this project will ever reap the benefit fo the huge investment cost.

But the advent of these super-long bridges now makes it possible to speculate where else could conceivably be joined by a bridge - it is economics or political whim rather than engineering that dictates. Thus proposals to link Helsinki and Tallinn are touted (approx 80km), and the Friendship bridge between Qatar and Bahrain is on the drawing board, whereas a tunnel linking Spain to Morocco seems unlikely, despite only being 12km. Perhaps one day there will be fixed links between mainland UK and Ireland.

A recent proposal to link Abu-Dhabi to Qatar was quashed by the Saudi's, who objected to a bridge that would cut-across their coastal waters.

The will to connect urban centres is becoming greater than the geography that divides them.

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