Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


The Old and New Bay Bridges.

History was made 500 feet above the cold waters of the San Francisco Bay last week.  Workers constructing the new Bay Bridge lifted a whopping 77-million pound block of steel...a new world record.  Speaking of records, when the new span opens on Labor Day next year, it will be the "largest, self-anchored, single-tower suspension bridge" ever!  The new bridge will replace the old one damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. (We do things slowly in California).  Anyhow, this bridging accomplishment set off a torrent of debate at the DUNER BLOG headquarters.  We wanted to know: What really is the longest bridge in the world?  Here's our findings...

Longest Bridge (Any type): Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge, China.
Unlike the Californians, the Chinese build things quickly.  It took them only three years to build the bullet train from Peking to Shanghai.  The once arduous 800-mile journey can now be done in under four hours.  Along the way, you'll pass over not only the world's longest bridge (164,000 meters) but the second, third and fifth longest bridges in the world as well.

Longest Bridge (Over Water): Pontchartrain Causeway, Louisiana.
Sure...anyone can build a bridge over land.  That's easy!  What takes real American ingenuity is to build a 23-mile bridge over water.  When opened in 1956, it was hailed as engineering marvel.  Exactly 9,500 concrete pilings were submerged in the Mississippi Delta to support the bridge and protect it from gator attacks. 

Longest Bridge (Suspension): Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, Japan.
The problem with the Danyang Bridge and the Pontchartrain Causeway is that they are horribly boring!  (You'll notice: No photos. Yawn!).  Nope, true bridge enthusiasts need more than a flat line two yards high.  People love suspension bridges, with their powerful towers and the graceful, gentle arching of the cables.  The longest suspension bridge in the world is currently in Japan. NOTE: Past champions: The Golden Gate is #10 and the Brooklyn Bridge has dropped to #79.

Everyone loves the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Longest Bridge (Arch): Chaotianmen Bridge, China.
Once again, a famous landmark has been bested by a random structure in Asia.  This time, it's the Sydney Harbour Bridge's turn to drop in the rankings.  Having held the top spot for four decades, the iconic span is now the fifth longest, but first in terms of awesomeness.  It supports train, vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic.  It has hosted the Olympic Games, the world's first New Year's firework display and even a Formula One race.

Longest Bridge (Cantilever): Pont de Québec, Canada.
While not as loved as suspension bridges, Cantilever bridges are equally impressive engineering feats.  With only one anchorage, they are stronger than standard spans and have proven this durability over time.  Such is the case for the Pont de Québec, which opened to great fanfare in 1917.  It remains the last span over the mighty Saint Lawrence river before it empties into the Atlantic Ocean.   NOTE: Tappan Zee in New York is #10.

Proposed Longest Bridges:
John Lennon was right: Humans are dreamers. Here are four ambitious bridge projects that might someday be built in your lifetime:

Gibraltar Crossing. It's only 24 miles!  We can connect Europe and Africa!  It existed in Arthur C. Clarke science fiction novel...why not in real life?  The most serious proposal came from architect T.Y. Lin which features 3,000 foot towers strong enough to withstand some of the world's swiftest ocean currents.

Bridge of the Horns. A mere 18 miles separates the tip of the Arabian Peninsula to the African mainland.  A proposal headed by Saudi billionaire TAREK BIN LADEN (Osama's half-brother) is raising $20 billion to build it.  It would provide direct access for 300 million African pilgrims to Mecca.

You could DRIVE to Russia, Sarah Palin!
Bering Strait Crossing. Recently, interest in connecting the hemispheres has been waning.  It reached its zenith in 1907 when the Russian Czar began constructing trains to reach Alaska.  The Revolution ended his plan.   The freeway crazy 1950's saw American interest grow, but no serious proposals have been put forward. 

Sunda Strait Bridge. Of all these wacky proposals, the Indonesian one seems the most plausible.  It proposes a series of spans to connect the islands of Sumatra and Java.  Combined with a bridge over the Malacca Strait, this would mean one could drive a car from London to Bali.

1 comment:

  1. These are not only bridges but pieces of magnificent art.