The world’s great bridges are among the most triumphant feats of engineering and architecture ever accomplished by humankind. Although bridges were originally created to fulfill the simple purpose of crossing from one side of an obstacle to the other, in the millenia since their inception, humans have begun to innovate, spanning larger gaps and creating great spectacles in the process.
When determining the longest bridges in the world, one may want to specify their definition of “bridge”. Perhaps the most notable depiction of a bridge is of one suspension, that spans a scenic trench or a vast body of water. While many bridges have been built to do just that, most of the world’s longest bridges are actually viaducts. A viaduct consists of a series of arches that support an elevated pathway, strikingly resemblant to an aqueduct. They are most commonly used to maintain a consistent elevation across a long stretch of uneven or otherwise volatile land. While incredibly effective, it’s uncommon for viaducts to yield postcard-worthy views.
Regardless, all of the 12 longest “bridges” in the world are viaducts. Most of them are in Southeast Asia. Viaducts are popular in this region as a solution for high-speed rail transportation, which performs optimally on the straight and even ground that viaducts seamlessly facilitate. Viaducts also conserve precious land and are resistant to flooding which is common in the river valleys where high-speed rail transit is most abundant.
The longest viaduct in the world is the Danyang Kunshan bridge in the Jiangsu province of China. At over 102 miles long, this bridge is nearly three times as long as Rhode Island is wide. Although the Danyang Kunshan bridge is inarguably the longest bridge in the world, it is perhaps a bit less grand than many of its inferiors. Danyang Kunshan doesn’t cross any large body of water or straddle a bottomless chasm, it simply provides an efficient means of travel through the wetlands of the Yangtze river delta. China alone is home to seven of the top ten longest bridges in the world, and most of them are intended specifically for high-speed rail.
The top ten longest bridges in the world, measured in feet:
- Danyang-Kunshan (540,700) China
- Changhua-Kaohsiung (516,132) China & Taiwan
- Cangde Grand Bridge (380,200) China
- Tianjin Grand Bridge (373,000) China
- Weinan Weihe Grand Bridge (261,588) China
- Bang Na Expressway (177,000) Thailand
- Beijing Grand Bridge (157,982) China
- Lake Pontchartrain Causeway (126,122) United States
- Line 1, Wuhan Metro (123,976) China
- Manchac Swamp Bridge (120,440) United States
It would be remiss to omit viaducts from our list, as their achievements are undeniably remarkable, if a bit repetitive. But perhaps another list is necessary to captivate one’s mind’s eye. The following list is one that would be more exciting to share with friends. This list features primarily suspension bridges and will consider the bridges in the world with the longest continuous spans. This is to say, the longest, unsupported stretch of bridge. Once again, China is the featured member of this list, contributing six of the ten bridges with the longest spans.
The longest single span in the world belongs to the Akashi Kaikyo bridge in Japan which employs a 6,532 foot main span to connect the city of Kobe, Honshu to Iwaya, Awaji. The Akashi Kaikyo is also the 7th tallest bridge in the world, and stands 928 feet above the bustling Akashi Strait. However, perhaps the most impressive figure related to Akashi Kaikyo pertains to the sheer amount of material used in its construction. Over 187 thousand miles of cable were used in the bridge’s suspension. That’s enough to wrap around the Earth 7.5 times. The beloved Golden Gate bridge owns the respectable 17th spot on this list with a main span of 4,200 feet. Although, Golden Gate is narrowly edged out as the longest single span in the United States by the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge (4,258 feet) that connects the boroughs of Staten Island and Brookln in New York City.
The list of the bridges in the world with the longest single span in feet:
- Akashi Kaikyo (6,532) Japan
- Yangsigang Yangtze River Bridge (5,600) China
- Nansha (5,538) China
- Xihoumen (5,413) China
- Great Belt (5,328) Denmark
- Osman Gazi (5,085) Turkey
- Yi Sun-sin (5,068) South Korea
- Runyang (4,890) China
- Second Dongtinghu (4,855) China
- Nanjing Fourth Yangtze (4,652) China