HONG KONG – China officially opened the world’s longest sea bridge Tuesday after China’s leader Xi Jinping and local officials opened the 34-mile structure that crosses the Pearl River Delta to link Hong Kong with Macao and the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai.
The project, comprising parts of bridge and artificial islands connected by a four-mile tunnel west of Hong Kong airport, broke billions of dollars over the budget and delayed by two years. Chinese officials expect the bridge to significantly reduce driving time between the two sides of the Pearl River, which helps to achieve its vision of a larger Bay Area, as China calls the effort to strengthen the cities of the region closer.
“I explain that the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is formally open,” he said after comments by Vice President Han Zheng and local officials, including the leaders of Hong Kong, Macao and Guangdong Province. Then, digital fireworks exploded on a screen behind him.
Why was the bridge built?
Pearl River Delta – which includes the financial sector for Semiautonomic Hong Kong, Shenzhen Tech and industrial areas in several other mainland countries including Dongguan – is a powerful economic engine for China. That status was strengthened by transport projects as a highway connecting the eastern cities in the 1990s.
The west side of the river, which includes the former Portuguese colony and the game hub in Macau, is relatively less developed. Local leaders hope that the bridge will increase the potential for growth in the area by facilitating access to cheaper land on the western side and ports and other eastern infrastructure.
The critics of the project say that the goals are more political than economic, China’s government is helping to tie the former colonies of Hong Kong and Macao closer to the rest of the country.
How much did it cost?
The 14-mile main team cost $ 7 billion. The Hong Kong government spent $ 13.7 billion on tunnels and border crossings on an artificial island near the city’s airport.
At least 10 workers were killed during the nine years of construction and environmentalists have raised concerns about potential damage to threatened Chinese white dolphins.
The construction was also killed by corruption, with 19 people exposed to criminal charges of concrete concrete tests.
Bridge of the bridge comes one month after the opening of a high-speed railway station in Hong Kong, which was controversial as it allows the mainland police to work in the heart of the former British colony for the first time.
What’s special about that?
The structure required more than 400,000 tonnes of steel. It is lifted for ships to pass below. However, as the bridge enters Hong Kong next to the city’s airport, the eastern sections were built according to strict elevation limits and a tunnel with the four-kilometer lower Hong Kong side to the main bridge.
As vehicles drive on the right side of the mainland and left hand side of Hong Kong and Macau, the bridge contains some points where drivers change page.
Who will use it?
Passenger cars have limited access to bridge, with special permits required to drive the entire distance. The Hong Kong government produced an animated video that noted the requirements. “It’s easy and convenient” tells the storyteller without conviction.
Most travelers will cross the bus routes. Large parking spaces have been built at both ends for private cars. Government estimates for traffic in 2030 have decreased to 126,000 passengers daily from around 172,000.
The mainland city of Shenzhen, just north of Hong Kong, builds its own competitor bridge over the Pearl River, which is expected to open in 2023.