As far as life advice goes, ‘don’t burn bridges’ surely ranks among the most frequently cited ones – and with good reason. The concept of bridges catching aflame and burning to the ground may be useful as a metaphor to the layman, but it’s an absolutely horrifying mental image for engineers, politicians and businessmen who have a vested interest in the construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure. Did we just start from an overused metaphor and cycle it into its most literal interpretation? You’re damn right we did. Sit down and stay awhile friend, there’s more where that came from.
Loads of us travel over bridges on a daily basis, generally by car. It’s par for the course when living by large bodies of water or on islands – in fact bridges are the reason a lot of these cities are able to maintain a regular flow of transportation to and from their urban cores. Ask any urban planner and they’ll explain in mind-numbing detail why bridges are key to modern urban cores situated by water. They’re quite literally the lifelines that keep the place running, and these aren’t your great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather’s bridges. No sir, those old-school 30-foot bridges made entirely of stone that ran over creeks aren’t cut out to provide support for thousands of automobiles over massive bodies of water, sometimes multiple miles long. For that, we turn to suspension bridges.
Suspension bridges are engineering wonders and are entirely necessary, but they’re exorbitantly expensive. When you live your life surrounded by skyscrapers and other marvels of human engineering, it’s very easy to forget how difficult these mammoth edifices are to construct and maintain. Bridges are particularly expensive – as in billions of dollars expensive. Surprised? Welcome to the wonderful world of public infrastructure, where the deadlines are made up and the budgets don’t count. These are the 10 most expensive suspension bridges ever constructed.
#10 Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Maryland – $778.3 Million
What happens when you have a giant bay separating the two major regions of your state? Obviously you throw down some cash and build a suspension bridge, which is what Maryland did. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge connects the Eastern Shore region with the Western Shore region of Maryland, the two of which are separated by – as you may have guessed – the Chesapeake Bay. When it originally opened in 1952, it was the longest steel structure over a body of water. The expansions built in 1973 brought the price tag up to $778.3 million, making it as pricey as it is necessary for traffic in the state of Maryland.
#9 Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Washington – $827.7 Million
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge – or rather, bridges – are essential to commuters in the Tacoma area. The initial bridge was constructed in 1950, which itself was a replacement of the original bridge constructed a decade earlier that had collapsed. Construction workers jokingly referred to the original as ‘Galloping Gertie’ because of the way it moved in the wind, but when the time came to re-build they clearly took the job a bit more seriously seeing as how it’s still around today. The 2007 extension built a parallel bridge intended to carry eastbound traffic, while the original carried traffic westward – all at a cost of $827.7 million.
#8 Cooper River Bridge, South Carolina – $836.9 Million
The Cooper River Bridge – also known as the Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridge, named after the republican politician – is a massive, newly constructed suspension bridge that connects Charleston to Mount Pleasant by running over the Cooper river in South Carolina. The bridge was designed and built by Parsons Brinckerhoff, a multinational engineering firm based out of New York City. Funding for the bridge was fought for by the bridge’s namesake, Arthur Ravenel Jr., who ran for senate with the explicit goal of finding funding for the bridge. He was successful, and in 2005, after $836.9 million spent, the bridge was opened to the public.
#7 George Washington Bridge, New York City – $1.1 Billion
The George Washington Bridge is responsible for alleviating the transportation issues of one of the most congested urban centres in the world – New York City. It spans the width of the Hudson River, and was initially named the Hudson River bridge. It connects the Washington Heights neighbourhood in Manhattan to New Jersey, and is one of the most frequently used bridges in the NYC area. It took 4 years to construct and cost an estimated $1.1 billion when adjusted for inflation. Not too bad considering the bridge gets plenty of use.
#6 San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge, San Francisco Bay – $1.3 Billion
The San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge connects – as you may have guessed – the cites of San Francisco and Oakland. The idea of a bridge to cross the San Francisco Bay had been tossed around since the late 19th century, but the bridge was only completed in 1936. Construction took 3 years and 7 months, and in the end the bridge spanned a distance of 8.25 miles, giving it one of the longest spans in the world. Since the grand opening of the $1.3 billion project, it has gone through numerous maintenance operations but is still standing and still in use to this day.
#5 Tsing Ma Bridge, China – $1.35 billion
We take a break from bridges in the United States to travel over to China to profile Hong Kong’s Tsing Ma bridge. Construction of the bridge that was built to traverse the Ma Wan Channel was finally completed in 1997, and officially opened by former british Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The bridge connects the Tsing Yi and Ma Wan urban islands in the city of Hong Kong, and was – at the time of its completion – the 2nd longest bridge in the world (today it is the 9th). The bridge cost $1.35 billion to construct and covers a span of 1.37 km.
#4 Yeongjong Grand Bridge, South Korea – $1.9 Billion
The Yeongjong Grand Bridge in South Korea is the most expensive bridge in Asia. As far as bridges go it’s relatively young, only opening to the public in 2000 after a five-year construction period that cost the South Korean government a whopping $1.9 billion. As the name suggests, the bridge was built to connect Yeongjong island to the South Korean mainland. In total, the bridge traverses a length of 4.42 km, making it a testament to modern engineering.
#3 Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, New York City – $2.4 Billion
New York City has more than one expensive bridge it can call its own. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge – named after Giovanni da Verrazzano, the first European to enter New York Harbor and the Hudson River in 1524 – was first opened to the public in 1964. It connects the two NYC boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn and holds the distinction of being the longest bridge in the Americas at 2.6 miles of length, and at the time of its completion was actually the longest suspension bridge in the world. It took five years and seven months to complete, all at a cost of $2.4 billion.
#2 Great Belt Fixed Link, Denmark – $4.4 Billion
The Great Belt Fixed Link, one of the most magnificent bridges in the entire world. The Danish islands of Zealand and Funen were separated by the Great Belt, a body of water that effectively cuts Denmark into two. Up until the opening of the bridge in 1997, the only way to cross the Great Belt was by ferry. The construction cost $4.4 billion and took over 10 years, but the end result meant that commuting between the two islands took 10 minutes by car instead of 1 hour by ferry. The Great Belt Fixed Link is the longest bridge outside of Asia with a span of 6.75 km, and its construction was one of the most important public works projects in Danish history.
#1 San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge, Eastern Replacement Span – $6.4 Billion
Wait, wasn’t this already here at #6 on our list? Well, if you’ve been paying attention you’d realize that yes, it was. The Bay Bridge deserves two inclusions simply because it is, essentially, two bridges. Damages to the eastern span of the bridge were deemed to be so bad that they would never be able to be fully repaired. Instead, an entirely new bridge was green-lit to be bult in parallel to the old one that would act as its eventual replacement. The new section of the eastern span was opened to traffic in late 2013, and is estimated to be completely finished by 2016. The replacement cost $6.4 billion to design and construct, making it the world’s most expensive bridge by a large margin.