Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the opening of the world’s longest sea bridge on Tuesday, state news Xinhua reported.
The megastructure, which cost $20 billion and nine years to build, connects the territories of Hong Kong and Macau, as well as the city of Zhuhai in mainland China’s Guangdong province.
Stretching for 55 kilometers (more than 34 miles), the bridge covers part of what authorities are calling the Greater Bay Area, touted to become a Silicon Valley rival.
Only shuttles, trucks and private vehicles with permits are allowed to cross the structure when it opens on Wednesday.
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, 20 times longer than California’s Golden Gate Bridge, expects around 40,000 users a day.
Designed to withstand major natural calamities, it is resistant to winds with speeds of up to 211 miles per hour and is expected to last for more than a century.
The bridge, built with 420,000 tons of steel, is enough to build 60 Eiffel Towers.
With curves resembling a snake, it draws design inspiration from Chinese knots, the Chinese white dolphin and a boat’s mast.
Nine workers reportedly died and over 200 more were injured over the course of its construction that started in 2009.
The bridge was supposed to open in 2016, but was delayed over budget and safety concerns.
Han Zheng, China’s vice-premier, said that the bridge would facilitate a “one country, two systems” framework, which grants Hong Kong and Macau a degree of autonomy.
“It opens up all three places [mainland, Hong Kong and Macau] for greater exchanges in economics and trade. It also enhances the competitiveness of the Pearl River Delta,” the South China Morning Post quoted Han as saying.
Li Xi, party secretary of Guangdong, pointed out that the project would directly benefit the Greater Bay Area.
“The ‘Greater Bay Area’ was plotted and planned personally by President Xi Jinping. It is an important national strategy which he personally pushed for. It provides important opportunities for Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau.”
Commuters planning to cross the bridge can use shuttle buses for a ticket price of $8 to $10. The structure also eases logistical operations of freight cars.
“In a word, I am so happy,” a truck driver told New China TV. “When I depart from Hong Kong for Zhuhai, Zhongshan or Jiangmen, I always get trapped in the traffic jam on Humen Bridge for four or five hours. So sometimes we could not finish even one order in one day.”
“Normally the distance between Hong Kong and Zhuhai is 460 kilometers. But when the bridge opens to traffic, the distance will be cut to 180 kilometers.”
Featured Images via YouTube / New China TV