Two of the world’s largest sea-crossing bridges have been providing shortcuts for traffic passing through Shanghai and its growing conurbation since 2008. The steel and concrete megastructures snake across the East China Sea, connecting cities and ports.
The 36-kilometer Hangzhou Bay Bridge, which arches high over a vast expanse of water and mudflats between Shanghai and Ningbo – an affluent trade and manufacturing hub – has slashed the travel time between the two urban centers by more than an hour since its completion in May 2008. It was the world’s longest transoceanic bridge upon its completion, and more and more north-south-bound traffic is plying the majestic cable-stayed link. In the past, cars and lorries had to take detours via Hangzhou.
Further offshore in the East China Sea, a 31-km bridge also stretches from Shanghai to an archipelago of artificial islands that straddles key maritime routes in and out of the city. The manmade islands in waters leased from Zhoushan in Zhejiang province are a hive of activity as they are home to the world’s largest container port, and the Donghai (East Sea) Bridge is a key logistics link for the 42 million containers that flow through Shanghai’s Yangshan Port there.
An assortment of other bridges also span the narrow waterways between Ningbo and the sea-locked Zhoushan, bringing the easternmost city in the Yangtze River Delta and Zhejiang’s only free trade zone closer to the mainland.
Now another massive bridge to connect Shanghai’s Yangshan Port to Zhoushan will be built. The project will be the missing link connecting the gigantic 130-km “ring bridges” in the East China Sea. The engineering marvel is expected to be completed within the next decade.
The future sea-crossing bridge will be about 40 km long, and once completed, the travel time from Zhoushan to Shanghai will be reduced to about 90 minutes. Xinhua and Shanghai newspapers report that hydrogeology surveying will soon be carried out in the vast expanses of the sea to decide the best location for the bridge in an area prone to super-typhoons.
The bridge will also link Shanghai’s Yangshan Port to the adjoining Ningbo-Zhoushan Port, currently the world’s third-largest container port, to better compete against other maritime hubs in the region such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Busan.
The three cities are also on a spree to construct high-speed sea-crossing rail lines between Shanghai and Ningbo and Ningbo and Zhoushan, where bullet trains will boast a top speed of 350km/h. More feeder lines will also be built to facilitate traffic in the delta intersected by an extensive cobweb of expressways.