Suspension bridges are world-class infrastructures, that are not only a traveling medium connecting two areas, but also an important landmark serving a valuable purpose. Suspension bridges are mega structures built to help cross over water bodies and valleys. The intricate engineering and meticulous architecture, that go into building these suspension bridges is highly commendable.
Suspension bridges are built and supported by cables, anchored at both ends. The design of a suspension bridge is quite simple and straightforward; it takes advantage of several techniques to distribute the weight of the bridge safely and evenly. In addition to being strong and lightweight, these bridges are beautiful, and some of them have also won the title of being the most photographed bridges in the world; e.g. San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge and New York’s Brooklyn Bridge.
The Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge (Japan)
• Construction: 1988-1998
• Also known as: Pearl Bridge
• Architect(s)/Engineer(s) Name: Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Authority
• Total Cost: 500 Billion Yen (i.e. $6.24 Billion)
• Daily Traffic Stats: 23,000 vehicles
• Number of Lanes: Six (3-3)
• Length: 3,911 meters
• Toll charges: 2,300 Yen ($30)
The Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge is the tallest, longest and the most expensive suspension bridge in the world. The Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge connects the island of Awaji with the city of Kobe in Japan. Before it was built, ferries carried passengers across the Akashi Strait. The 1955 accident, where two ferries sank in the strait during a storm, killed 168 children. This incident induced shock and public outrage, making the Japanese government to develop plans for a suspension bridge to cross the strait.
Today, the Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge can withstand earthquakes measuring up to 8.5 on the Richter scale, winds of 286 kilometers per hour, and can also endure powerful sea currents. The length of the cables used in the construction of the bridge totals 300,000 km, which is enough to circle the earth 7.5 times. The two main supporting towers of the bridge measure 928 feet above the sea level. It has a total of 1737 illumination lights.
Clifton Suspension Bridge (UK)
• Construction: 1836-1864
• Also Known as: The Hidden Bridge
• Architect(s)/Engineer(s) Name: Isambard Kingdom Brunel and William Barlow
• Total Cost: £100,000 (i.e., $161,000)
• Daily Traffic Stats: 9,000 vehicles
• Length: 412 meters
• Toll charges: £0.50
The Clifton Bridge is a beautiful landmark covering the southwestern part of England, near the mouth of the river Avon in Bristol. The work on this bridge was initiated in the year 1836, but was interrupted several times due to insufficient funds. After the death of the former engineer, the bridge was completed by William Barlow and dedicated to the former engineer “Brunel” in the year 1864.
The initial design of Clifton Suspension Bridge had decorative Egyptian sphinx heads to be carved on the towers, which were never completed due to lack of funds, and were dropped by the later engineers. It is maintained and run by a committee formed under the 1952 Parliament Act. This bridge is regarded as one of the world’s greatest bridges, and an iconic symbol to the people living in Bristol.
The Great Belt Bridge (Denmark)
• Construction: 1988-1998
• Architect(s)/Engineer(s) Name: Dissing+Weitling
• Also Known as: The Great Belt Fixed Link
• Total Cost: 22 Billion DKK (i.e. $3 Billion)
• Daily Traffic Stats: 30,200 vehicles
• Number of lanes: Four
• Length: 6,790 meters
• Toll charges: 32 Euro ($41)
The Great Belt Bridge comprises two bridges and a tunnel. It connects the main Danish islands of Funen and Zealand, which are separated by the Great Belt Strait. It has the Eastern bridge for road transport, the Eastern undersea tunnel for rail transport and the Western bridge for both road and rail transport.
The Great Belt Bridge is 6,790 meters long and has a center span of 1,624 meters. Earlier, crossing the Great Belt Strait by ferryboats would take at least an hour. Today, because of the Great Belt bridge, it can be crossed in less than ten minutes. It was opened to rail traffic in the year 1997 and road traffic in the year 1998.
Humber Bridge (UK)
• Construction: 1972-1981
• Architect(s)/Engineer(s) Name: The Freeman Fox & Partners
• Total Cost: £345,000,000 (i.e., $500,000,000)
• Daily Traffic Stats: 80,000 vehicles
• Number of lanes: Two
• Length: 2,220 meters
• Toll charges: £1.50 (i.e., $2)
The Humber bridge, near Hull (England) is the sixth-largest suspension bridge in the world. Before the construction of the Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge (Japan), the Humber Bridge was considered as the world’s longest suspension bridge. It spans the Humber estuary, which is formed by the rivers Ouse and Trent.
The Humber bridge connects North Lincolnshire and the East Riding of Yorkshire. The Humber bridge was inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth II on July 17, 1981. Before the bridge was built, the river Humber was an obstacle for trade and development along the East coast. Ferry services were shut down with the opening of this bridge, in the year 1981.
Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (US)
• Construction 1959-1964
• Architect(s)/Engineer(s) Name: Othmar Ammann and Robert Moses
• Also Known as: The Verrazano, the Narrows Bridge, and also the Brooklyn-Staten Island Bridge
• Total Cost: $320 Million
• Daily Traffic Stats: 195,600 vehicles
• Number of lanes: Twelve (6-6)
• Length: 1,298 meters
• Toll charges: $13
The Verrazano-Narrows bridge got its name after an Italian navigator, Giovanni da Verrazzano, who was the first European to sail into New York Harbor, in the year 1524. It connects Brooklyn and Staten Island and spans New York Harbor from Bay Ridge to Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island’s eastern shore.
The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is closed for pedestrian walks, but is open for public walks only on Marathon day. This bridge is the ninth longest suspension bridge in the world, and was inaugurated 48 years ago.
Tsing Ma Bridge (Hong Kong)
• Construction: 1992-1997
• Architect(s)/Engineer(s) Name: Mott MacDonald and a joint venture of Costain, Mitsui, and Trafalgar
• Total Cost: 7.2 Billion HKD (i.e., $9 billion)
• Daily Traffic Stats: 23,000 vehicles
• Number of lanes: 6 (3-3) and 2 rail tracks
• Length: 2,160 meters
• Toll charges: 30 HKD ($4)
Impressive in appearance, the Tsing Ma Bridge is the world’s longest suspension bridge that has two platforms, one for road and the lower one for rail. It connects Tsing Yi and Ma Wan islands. It links Lantau Island to the remaining part of Hong Kong.
Tsing Ma Bridge was built to give quick access between the neighboring Hong Kong cities and the airport located on Lantau Island. The length of the cables used in the construction of the bridge totals 160,000 km, which is enough to circle the world four times.
Given below are the names of some more suspension bridges, that are well-known globally.
Golden Gate Bridge (U.S.A.)
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most iconic suspension bridges in the world. It was inaugurated 75 years ago, in the year 1937 and is also listed as one of the world’s longest suspension bridges. It spans up to 4,200 feet and consists of 6 lanes, with one pedestrian and bicycle lane on both sides.
Runyang Bridge (China)
The Runyang bridge was inaugurated 7 years ago, in the year 2005 and is listed as the 5th longest suspension bridge in the world. It spans up to 4,890 feet and crosses the Yangtze River, in the Jiangsu province of China.
Great Seto Bridge (Japan)
The Great Seto bridge was inaugurated 24 years ago, in the year 1988 and is a double-decked bridge consisting of 4 upper lanes for road and 2 lower lanes for rail. It connects islands Honshu and Shikoku, and is also ranked as the longest double-decked bridge in the world.
Mackinac Bridge (U.S.A.)
The Mackinac bridge was inaugurated 55 years ago, in the year 1957 and is listed as the 12th longest suspension bridge in the world. It spans up to 3,800 feet and crosses the Straits of Mackinac, Michigan. Pedestrians and bicycle riders are not permitted on this bridge.
Kurushima-Kaikyō Bridge (Japan)
The Kurushima-Kaikyō bridge was inaugurated 13 years ago, in the year 1999 and is ranked as the 15th longest suspension bridge in the world. It connects the islands Oshima to Shikoku, and is open for pedestrian walks.
Bear Mountain Bridge (U.S.A.)
The Bear Mountain Bridge was inaugurated 88 years ago, in the year 1924 and was the longest suspension bridge in the world, for a year and 7 months. It connects the Hudson river and is open for pedestrian walks.
George Washington Bridge (U.S.A.)
The George Washington bridge was inaugurated 81 years ago, in the year 1931 and is one of the world’s busiest suspension bridges, and the only bridge with 8 upper lanes and 6 lower lanes. It connects the towns of Manhattan and New Jersey and spans 4,760 feet.
Xihoumen Bridge (China)
The Xihoumen bridge was inaugurated 3 years ago, in the year 2009 and is ranked the second longest suspension bridge in the world. It crosses the Hangzhou Bay and spans 5,413 feet. The total cost incurred in building this bridge was about $363 million.
Brooklyn Bridge (U.S.A.)
The Brooklyn bridge was inaugurated 139 years ago, in the year 1883 and is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the world. It connects the towns of Manhattan and Brooklyn and spans 1,595 feet. It is open for pedestrians and bicycle riders.
Lions Gate Bridge (Canada)
This bridge was inaugurated 74 years ago, in the year 1938 and is one of the oldest landmarks in Canada. It connects the city of Vancouver to the North Shore and spans 5,890 feet.
Tower Bridge (United Kingdom)
The Tower bridge was inaugurated 118 years ago, in the year 1894 and is a combination of suspension and bascule design. It crosses the river Thames and is one of the most iconic bridges, and is also featured in numerous movies.
Tacoma Narrows Bridge (U.S.A.)
The Tacoma Narrows bridge is a pair of twin suspension bridges, that has one bridge dedicated for traveling west and the other bridge for traveling east. It crosses the Tacoma Narrows and is also ranked as the longest suspension bridge in the world.