A bridge is a structure built to provide passage over a physical obstacle. The obstacle can be anything (valley, waterbody, or road) that is usually dangerous to cross otherwise.
Different types of bridges serve different purposes: their designs vary depending on the nature of the terrain, function of the structure, and material used to build the structure.
The earliest bridge — Arkadiko Bridge — dates back to the 13th century BC. It is the oldest known arch bridge still in use. It was specifically constructed for use by chariots.
Today, bridges can be as long as 150 kilometers and bear extremely heavy loads, thanks to advances in engineering design and materials science.
Below, we have listed the 12 longest bridges in the world sorted by their full length above water or land. It’s quite interesting to note that 7 out of these 12 bridges are built in China.
12. Yangcun Bridge
Length: 35,812 meters
Completed in: 2007
The Yangcun Bridge is a high-speed railway bridge constructed for Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway. The structure can support trains traveling at a speed of 350 km/h or more. Because of this, travel time between Tianjin and Beijing has been decreased by more than half, from 70 minutes to 30 minutes.
11. Manchac Swamp Bridge
Length: 36,710 meters
Country: United States
Completed in: 1979
The Manchac Swamp Bridge is a twin concrete trestle bridge in Louisiana. It is the longest bridge on the Interstate Highway System.
The overall project cost more than US$160 million. While its daily traffic is far less compared to other busier bridges, this structure remains an engineering feat in an age where construction limits are being pushed across the world.
10. Line 1, Wuhan Metro Bridge
Length: 37,788 meters
Completed in: 2009
Line 1 of Wuhan Metro is an elevated metro line in Hubei. It is the world’s longest continuous metro viaduct. It is the first metro line in China to have been wrongly referred to as a light rail system in Chinese terminology because it is elevated.
9. Lake Pontchartrain Causeway
Length: 38,442 meters
Country: United States
Completed in: 1956 (southbound), 1969 (northbound)
The causeway is a fixed link containing two parallel bridges crossing Lake Pontchartrain. The northern terminus of the causeway is at Mandeville, Louisiana. The southern terminus is in Metairie, Louisiana, a part of the New Orleans metropolitan area.
It is the world’s longest bridge over water (continuous). The two bridges are supported by 9,500 concrete pillars. The first bridge was opened in 1956 at a cost of $46 million. To handle the increased traffic, a second bridge was built in parallel at a cost of $30 million.
The bridge is so long that for 13 of its 38 kilometers, you can’t see land in any direction. In fact, babies have been born on this bridge because their mothers failed to make it to the hospital on the other side.
8. Beijing Grand Bridge
A map of Beijing Grand Bridge
Length: 48,153 meters
Completed in: 2010
Beijing Grand Bridge is a long viaduct on the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway. The longest span of the bridge is 44 meters. There is a 108 meters long steel box arch section, which is currently one of the largest steel box arch bridge in China’s railway.
7. Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah Causeway
Length: 48,500 meters
Completed in: 2019
This is the world’s biggest maritiem causeway project with a construction value of more than US$3.6 billion. It decreases the distance between Kuwait City and Subiyah in the northern part of Kuwait and shortens the traveling time from 1.5 hours to less than 0.5 hours.
The overall project is comprised of two parts:
- Main Link: connects Kuwait City with the future Silk City
- Doha Link: connects Kuwait City Doha
The causeway is integrated with smart transportation monitoring systems that enable traffic monitoring, tracking of emergency vehicles, recording trip duration, and reporting of traffic violations.
6. Bang Na Expressway
Length: 54,000 meters
Completed in: 2000
The Bang Na Expressway is a 54-kilometer long six-lane elevated highway owned by the Express Authority of Thailand. It’s an overpass-style bridge made of several small spans, with each span containing beams that are hollow box-shaped girders.
The construction of the highway started in 1995 and lasted for 5 years. It took nearly 1,800,000 cubic meters of concrete to build the bridge. The overall project cost more than US$1 billion.
It was built to solve one of the main problems of Bangkok city: traffic congestion. Although traffic on the highway is chargeable, Bang Na has remained quite demanding for the drivers since opening. And since the stunning panorama opens onto the city from the main road, it has attracted numerous tourists in the last 2 decades.
5. Weinan Weihe Grand Bridge
Weinan North Railway Station
Length: 79,732 meters
Completed in: 2008
The Weinan Weihe Grand Bridge connects Xi’an and Zhengzhou. It’s a part of the high-speed railway that shortens the travel time between two cities by two-third. Although the construction was completed in 2008, the Zhengzhou–Xi’an Railway line itself didn’t open until February 2010.
4. Cangde Grand Bridge
Length: 105,810 meters
Completed in: 2010
Cangde Grand Bridge is the third-longest bridge on the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway. It has a total of 3,092 piers designed to withstand large earthquakes. The soil around the pile is silty clay, clay, silty soil, and silty sand. The pile end is situated in the silty clay and silty soil.
3. Tianjin Grand Bridge
Length: 113,700 meters
Completed in: 2004
Tianjin Grand Bridge is a part of Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway that runs between Qingxian and Langfang. The bridge requires only 10.9 hectares per routed kilometer (less than half the land area than a railway embankment which requires 28.4 hectares).
To shorten the construction period and avoid several individual structures for crossing railways and roads, the bridge features the elevated track design. It contains 32 meter long tubular girders, each weighing 860 tons.
2. Changhua–Kaohsiung Viaduct
Taiwan High-Speed Rail system | Credit: Oli Dansereau
Length: 157,317 meters
Completed in: 2004
Changhua–Kaohsiung Viaduct is the second-longest bridge in the world. It’s a part of the Taiwan High-Speed Rail network that extends from Zuoying District to Changhua County.
It is one of the largest and most challenging infrastructure projects in the world to date. It is designed for trains traveling a maximum speed of 350 km/hr. The bridge can survive fault movements and large earthquakes without serious damage.
1. Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge
Length: 164,800 meters
Completed in: 2010
The world’s longest bridge is located on the high-speed rail line between Nanjing and Shanghai. The primary objective of this bridge is to solve the railway traffic in the area.
Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge was opened in June 2011. It took 4 years to build the structure with a workforce consisting of 10,000 people. The overall project cost nearly $8.5 billion.
The bridge is built on top of 2,000 pillars and 450,000 tons of steel structure. A large section of the bridge (9 km) spans over the Yangcheng Lake. Moreover, it is strong enough to withstand direct impacts from naval vessels and natural disasters such as magnitude 8 earthquake and typhoons.
As you may have noticed, all these bridges are primarily used to transport people and goods in a way that would not be possible (or extremely difficult) otherwise. Also, they all are built from high-strength concrete and steel.
However, there are some bridges built for different purposes or are made of different materials. Let’s take a look at those fascinating structures.
Longest Wooden Bridge
U Bein Bridge is one of the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. It’s a 1.2-kilometer-long bridge that spans the Taungthaman Lake in Myanmar. The bridge was built in 1850 by wood gathered from the royal palace in Inwa. It has a total of 1,086 pillars stretched out of the water, some of which have been dangerously decayed and replaced with concrete.
Longest Glass Bridge
Image credit: Liu Peiran/Xinhua/Sipa USA
Hongyagu glass suspension bridge spans the gap between two cliffs in the Hongyagu Scenic Area. It was opened in 2017, marking the 2.0 era for China’s glass-bottomed bridge. With the greatest transparency and a 488-meter span over a vertical drop of 218 meters, the bridge can carry 800 pedestrians at one time.
Longest Suspension Bridge
Image captured by Kim Rötzel from an aircraft
Akashi Kaikyō Bridge is the world’s longest suspension bridge that connects Iwaya on Awaji Island to the Kobe city on the Japanese mainland of Honshu. The structure was built in 1998. It is 4 times longer than the Brooklyn Bridge and has the longest central span (1,991 meters) of any suspension bridge.
The bridge features a dual-hinged stiffening girder system that allows the structure to withstand magnitude 8.5 earthquake, winds of 286 km/h, and harsh sea currents.