From one of the world’s oldest bridges, the Arkadiko Bridge in Greece – which dates back around 2,500 years and still has raised kerbs for guiding fast-moving chariots – to today’s megastructures, the fundamental design of bridges has barely changed.
There are many different types of bridge – suspension, wooden, cantilever, pedestrian, arch, cable-stayed – and each one will have a ‘longest’ of its specific type. In this article however, just like other man-made engineering feats like the world’s longest tunnel, the focus is on pure distance from one end to another.
These mammoth bridges seem to defy the laws of physics; they are the bridges pushing the envelope of what is technically possible. These are the biggest, longest and highest bridges in the world.
What is the Longest Bridge in the World?
For most people, the world’s most famous bridges likely need no introduction. San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Rialto Bridge in Venice and London’s magnificent Tower Bridge are among just some of the best known bridges in the world. However none of them come remotely close to the award of the longest bridge in the world. They are literally miles behind.
Location: Yunnan, China | Length: 1,340 metres | Height: 565 metres | Type: Road
Linking the provinces of Guizhou and Yunnan in southwest China, this four-lane cable-stayed bridge is number one on the list of highest bridges in the world. With the road deck 565 metres above the Beipan River, it opened in December 2016 and cuts the drive between Xuanwei and Shuicheng County by at least four hours.
Location: France | Length: 2,460 metres | Height: 336.4 metres | Type: Road
The tallest bridge in the world however is the stunning Millau Viaduct in southern France. Opened in 2004 and designed by English architect Norman Foster, the multi-span cable-stayed bridge has a structural height of 336.4 metres and is regarded as one of the finest engineering achievements of modern times.
Akashi Kaikyo Bridge
Location: Kobe, Japan | Length: 2.43 miles | Height: 283 metres | Cost: $3.6 billion
The length of suspension bridges is most commonly measured by the length of the central or main span. The six-lane bridge linking the islands of Honshu and Awaji is 2.43 miles from end-to-end but at 1,991 metres, it also has the world’s longest central span which does qualify it as top of the list of longest suspension bridges in the world.
Hanging Out: The Longest Suspension Bridges
Six of the top ten longest suspension bridges are in China including the Yangsigang Yangtze River Bridge (1,700 metres), the Nansha Bridge (1,688 metres) and the Xihoumen Bridge (1,650) and the list also includes the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark at 1,624 metres and Turkey’s Osman Gazi Bridge measuring 1,550 metres. One place outside the top ten longest suspension bridges list is the UK’s Grade I listed Humber Bridge in Yorkshire (1,410 metres) which opened in 1981.
Vasco da Gama Bridge
Location: Lisbon, Portugal | Length: 7.6 miles | Height: 148 metres | Cost: $1.1 billion
The longest bridge entirely within Europe, the Vasco da Gama Bridge spans the Tagus river and was completed in 1998. With a life expectancy of 120 years, the cable-stayed six-lane traffic bridge was designed to withstand winds of up to 155 mph and it’s piles were driven down to a depth of 95 metres.
Lake Pontchartrain Causeway
Location: Louisiana, USA | Length: 23.8 miles | Opened: 1956 | Daily Traffic: 43,000
The Causeway as it’s known locally crosses Lake Pontchartrain and links the towns of Metairie and Mandeville in New Orleans. It is the longest bridge in the world continuously over water and is made up of two parallel bridges with the northbound side 16 metres longer than its southbound counterpart.
Changhua - Kaohsiung Viaduct
Location: Taiwan, China | Length: 97.7 miles | Opened: 2007 | Type: Rail
The second longest bridge in the world carries part of the Taiwan High-Speed Rail network between Baguashan in Changhua County and Zuoying in Kaohsiung. Located over known fault lines, it was built across a huge series of viaducts to allow trains to safely stop during earthquakes. From end to end, it could comfortably house the world’s longest train 21 times over.
Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge
Location: China | Length: 102.4 miles | Spans: 2,000 | Cost: $8.5 billion
Running broadly parallel to the Yangtze River and part of the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway, the Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge is the longest bridge in the world. This phenomenal feat of engineering was built in just four years by 10,000 people and opened in 2011.
An Ongoing Quest
Like the tallest hotels in the world or even the biggest roller coasters, the longest bridge in the world is a badge of honour and the quest to build the longest, highest or biggest bridge in the world goes on!