Longest Suspension Bridges Outside the USA

When it comes to bridges, the most famous tend to be suspension bridges.  The Golden Gate Bridge and the Brooklyn bridge are both suspension bridges.  While most Americans are familiar with at least a few of the greatest bridges in the United States, we tend to be far less knowledgeable of the great bridges in the rest of the world.  This is a bit surprising since, when it comes to size, the seven longest suspension bridges in the world are outside the USA.  On the technical side, when it comes to ranking bridges, the center (main) span is what counts.  Any way you measure them though, these bridges are impressive.

Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge-kayakaya459Creative Commons License Photo credit: kayakaya

Akashi Kaikyo Bridge

We’ll start this list with the greatest of them all.  Completed in 1998, the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the world.  Also known as the “Pearl Bridge”, this bridge is located in Japan where it connects the city of Iwaya on Awaji Island to Kobe on the Honshu mainland.  Total cost of the project was somewhere in the vicinity of $5 billion.  The Japanese people, however, felt it was worth every penny as the bridge crosses the Akashi Strait, which is prone to especially rough seas in bad weather.  Prior to the bridges completion, ferries provided the only route across the strait.  In 1955 two ferries sank, drowning 168 children.  Suffice to say, there was strong public support for this bridge to be constructed no matter what the cost.  Center Span: 6,532 feet.

Xihoumen Bridge

Xihoumen Bridge via Wikipedia and Alex NeedhamCreative Commons License Photo credit: Alex Needham

Xihoumen Bridge via Wikipedia 

Located in China, this is the runner up for longest suspension bridge in the world.  While the main span has been completed for almost two years, it will not be open for regular traffic until the end of 2009.  Construction began in 2005.  The bridge was built at a cost of $363 million, considerably less than the amount needed for the previously mentioned Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge.  The Xihoumen Bridge connects Cezi island to Jintang island, and is part of a much larger project planned to link the entire Zhousan Archipelago to the mainland.  This require five bridges total, with one (not a suspension) running 27 kilometers long.  Center Span: 5,414 feet.

Great Belt Bridge

Great Belt Bridge via Wikipedia and Henrik SendelbachCreative Commons License Photo credit: Henrik Sendelbach

Great Belt Bridge via Wikipedia 

For over a century, ferries carried travelers across the Great Belt off the coast of Denmark.  Opened to traffic in 1998, the “Great Belt Fixed Link” is comprised of a suspension bridge (the third longest in the world) and a railway tunnel between the island of Sprogo and Zealand.  The suspension bridge itself is formally known as the “East Bridge”.  The entire link as a whole is the largest construction project in Danish history.  As one may expect, it went through its fair share of delays and issues.  In the end, however, progress won out, and now there is a much easier route one may use to travel by land from mainland Europe to Scandinavia.  Center Span: 5,328 feet.

Runyang Bridge

DSC_0217-sjiong436Creative Commons License Photo credit: sjiong

Runyang Bridge

Located in China, this is actually a complex of two bridges and the island of Siyezhou.  The suspension half is the south bridge, which is the fourth longest suspension bridge in the world.  The complex was built to cross the Yangtze River in the Jiangsu Province and spans a total length of just over 22 miles.  Total cost of the project was approximately $700 million.  Center Span: 4,888 feet.

Humber Bridge

Humber Bridge from the South Shore-Lincolnian (Brian)977Creative Commons License Photo credit: Lincolnian (Brian)

Humber Bridge from the South Shore-Lincolnian (Brian)977

Located in England, this is the fifth longest suspension bridge in the world and the absolute longest bridge one can cross on foot.  It spans the Humber estuary, linking North Lincolnshire with East Riding of Yorkshire.  Plans for the bridge date as far back as the 1930’s, and work did not begin until 1972.  Worse, it wasn’t completed until 1981.  As one can imagine, the English were not happy about the five decade long delay.  The problem was primarily finding funding for the project.  Today, an average of 120,000 vehicles cross the bridge every week.  Center Span: 4,626 feet.

Jiangyin Suspension Bridge

Jiangyin Suspension BridgeCreative Commons License Photo credit: Yawn823

Jiangyin Suspension Bridge

Yet another bridge that crosses the Yangtze River in China.  This bridge in particular is the most seaward, connecting the cities of Jingjiang and Jiangyin.  When it opened in 1999, it was the first long span bridge of its type to be built in China, let alone the longest.  Despite its location in China, construction of the bridge was handled by a British Engineering company.  It was completed in just under three years and quickly became an award winning structural achievement.  Center Span: 4,543 feet.

Tsing Ma Bridge

20090820_0123_130croped-E.HOBA234Creative Commons License Photo credit: E.HOBA

Tsing Ma Bridge

This double-decker bridge, located in Hong Kong, is currently the seventh longest suspension bridge in the world.  If one is only counting suspension bridges that carry rail traffic then this is the absolute longest world-wide.  It is named after the two islands it connects, Ma Wan and Tsing Yi.  The bridge took five years to build, beginning in 1992.  It is part of the much larger Lantau Link which connects Hong Kong’s “New Territories” and Lantau Island, ultimately leading to Hong Kong International Airport.  Due to its inevitable exposure to typhoons, design elements of the bridge were actually subjected to wind tunnel tests.  Obviously it passed, as the bridge still stands firmly today.  Center Span: 4,518 feet.

As it stands now, China dominates the list when it comes to the longest suspension bridges in the world, with Japan holding the ultimate record.  In the United States, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island is the longest at 4,260 feet, followed by the Golden Gate Bridge itself in San Francisco, measuring in at 4200 feet.  Currently these bridges are ranked eighth and ninth in the world, yet when they were first completed they were both number one.  And that is the story with bridges.  As engineering technology improves and experience is gained, there is always a longer bridge just over the horizon.
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