by Niall Patrick Walsh, Arch Daily
The world’s longest sea bridge has officially opened to traffic, connecting Hong Kong and Macau to the Chinese mainland. The 34-mile (55-kilometer) “Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge” features a range of unusual features, with The Guardian reporting “cameras to detect yawning, drivers forced to wear heart monitors and access restricted to the political elite and charity donors.”
Opened by Chinese president Xi Jinping, the $20billion bridge was constructed of 400,000 tonnes of steel, the equivalent of 60 Eiffel Towers. The bridge has been designed to withstand earthquakes and typhoons of up to 340 kilometers per hour.
The span between Hong Kong, Macau, and the Chinese mainland is composed of three elements, with a main 30-kilometer span from the mainland landing on an artificial island. The land then linked to a sister island via a 7-kilometer-long, 44-meter-deep tunnel, which allows for shipping to continue.
The tunnel meets a further link bridge to Hong Kong via the International Airport and a border crossing, where cars switch from the right-hand side of the road (typical on the Chinese mainland) to the left-hand side (typical in Hong Kong) at a specifically-built “merge point.”
As drivers cross the bridge, heart rate and blood pressure is monitored, with information sent to the bridge’s control center. As reported by The Guardian, if a driver yawns three or more times in 20 seconds, a “yawn cam” will the raise an alert.
The bridge is not just a mega transport infrastructure jointly built by Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau. The collaboration between Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao in terms of trade, finance, logistics and tourism will be strengthened. Hong Kong will assume a more proactive role in the development of the Greater Bay Area.
-Frank Chan Fan, Secretary and Transport and Housing, Hong Kong
Although hailed as a feat of engineering, the bridge has not been without criticism. People from Hong Kong will require special permits to use the bridge, despite the project being part-funded by Hong Kong taxpayers, as reported by the South China Morning Post. Meanwhile, environmental groups such as the WWF have raised concerns over the bridge’s impact and potential harm to the critically rare Chinese white dolphin.
China also holds the record for the world’s highest bridge, which was opened to traffic in the southwest of the country in 2016.