Over land or over water, China is officially home to the world's longest bridges.
On Thursday, Chinese officials announced the opening of the Beijing-Shanghai High Speed Railway, which consists of the 102-mile long Danyang–Kunshan Grand bridge and the 71-mile long Tianjin Grand Bridge -- the two longest in the world.
Officials also unveiled the world's longest sea bridge, a 26-mile expanse of steel and concrete that stretches from Qingdao to Huangdao. Both achievements were celebrated in ceremonious fashion, with live bands and an appearance by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, to demonstrate the country's commitment to ensuring that a massive infrastructure will be in place to support its rapid economic growth.
Work on the Jiaozhou Bay bridge began in 2008 with two teams constructing the bridge from opposite ends. Engineers used computer modeling to map out how the bridge would connect with the utmost precision. Xinhua, the country's official news agency, estimates the bridge's total cost at $2.3 billion dollars. So if the calculations were a bit off, you'd have on your hands some very costly errors.
"The computer models and calculations are all very well but you can't really relax until the two sides are bolted together," said one engineer, "Even a few centimeters out would have been a disaster."
There were also some safety concerns but Chinese officials reassured the public that the bridge is sturdy enough to withstand earthquakes up to magnitude 8, typhoons and ships that might crash into the pillars carrying a force of 300,000 tons.
However, management representing the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana, the previous record holder, isn't relinquishing its spot in the Guinness Book of World Records that easily.
According to Channel 4 News:
Causeway General Manager Carlton Dufrechou said his bridge, built in the 1950s and traversing the Lake Pontchartrain in a straight 24-mile line, deserves to hold on to the title.
Dufrechou told the UK's Channel 4 News that while he agreed the Qingdao bridge is a "magnificent bridge", he believes the 54-year-old Causeway bridge still holds the record by eight miles.
Terminology appears to be at the heart of the dispute. Dufrechou maintains that because the Qingdao bridge is curved, it is using part of that curvature over the water to add to its length of 26 miles.
If you were to measure the distance from the start of the bridge to the end of the bridge as the crow flies, it would only measure a distance of 16 miles over the water, he argues. His bridge by comparison is a straight 24 miles from end to end over the water.
Even if the bridge is record-breaking, which Guinness has since made official, Dufrechou isn't giving the Chinese engineering team much credit, going so far as calling them "a bunch of wannabees."
But no one is disputing the record-breaking feats that has helped the high-speed rail become a reality. After four years and $33 billion dollars, the 204 mph bullet train is able to shuttle commuters between Beijing and Shanghai in less than four hours, a trip that normally took 10 hours by train, according to Time Magazine.
And as impressive as all this sounds, nothing compares to seeing a structure of this caliber with your very own eyes:
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