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Driving the world’s longest sea bridge in Qingdao (two times!)

Published July 5, 2011

In 2018 China Car Times was acquired by Autowise. This article originally appeared on ChinaCarTimes.com.

Chinese Car News | AshJuly 5, 201112:10 pm

In the past week Ive received a few emails via China Car Times that basically said weve dropped the ball on various issues, we didnt report on Wen Jia Baos visit to the UK where he launched the MG6 Magnette (aka, the MG6 sedan) and we didnt report on the grand opening of the Worlds Longest Sea Bridge, which just so happened to be in my own back yard. Well, for the MG launch I personally thought an official press release with an official photo would have been coming forthcoming from MG but nothing came, and as for the bridge launch I was too busy driving across it to report on it. Thats right, I drove across it twice in one weekend.

Just over a month ago I made the jump to from Qingdao to Suzhou. Qingdao is a nice place, it has mountains, it has beaches, its probably one of the best places to live in China but as my work was taking me to Shanghai more and more it made sense to move closer to Shanghai, except I dont really like Shanghai so I chose Suzhou. Close enough to Shanghai to go on a near daily basis thanks to the bullet train service, but far enough away and with enough nature and mountains to get away from city life when stress levels reach critical levels. The downside is that my family didnt quite make it to Suzhou yet, they remain in Qingdao until the end of this month which means I get to drive or fly back to Qingdao once every two weeks. Its just over 600km one way, and 1200km round trip which takes roughly 5.5 hours and can be done in a long weekend, but now the trip has been made slightly shorter with the introduction of the Jiao Zhou Wan Bridge.

The bridge was opened on June 30th to mark the 90th birthday of the Communist Party in a bid to show how the Communist Party has given China a steady hand over the past 60 years of governance despite several setbacks over the years. Media reports are already surfacing about shoddy quality on the 14.2 billion RMB bridge with crash barriers not yet being installed and bolts that could be loosened by hand, although barriers were visibly missing on my own trip over the bridge the reasons for them not being present are quite valid.

At 42.5km long, the bridge is now the worlds longest sea bridge and connects Qingdao with the urban area of Huangdao across the bay, Huangdao is a major center for Qingdaos industry (it has some pretty awesome beaches and cheap houses too) and previously the only ways to reach the city was by the Jiaozhou Wan Express way which was a 100km trip or via a ferry service that took 40 minutes at least not including waiting time which could be up to several hours on a busy day. The Jiaozhou Expressway that routed around the bay is an awful two lane highway that is clogged up with trucks, rural vehicles and motor vehicles all trying to push 120kph+ on a highly congested road, the road surface is pockmarked due to the high traffic levels and requires drivers to have both hands on the steering wheels at all times; imagine youre Luke Skywalker trying to slip a bomb into the Death Stars ventilation vent, and you can somewhat understand how bad that road is to drive. Its tight, its narrow, its deadly.

So what is the bridge like to drive across? It is exactly what you would think a bridge is like to drive across, it goes across a giant expanse of sea water, fishing boats can be seen bobbing in the sea and black Audi drivers fly past you, occasionally drifting over the road markers as they attempt to stare at the sea whilst operating a motor vehicle. Armed only with a cell phone camera, as this was an unexpected detour, I shot a few pictures for China Car Times.

Heading onto Hai’er Road Elevated Express Way

Hai’er Road Elevated Expressway – note the lack of cars at 8:30am on a Monday morning.

On the elevated expressway, but the GPS needs an update!

This is the tide coming in before I take to the bridge, note the workers housing below

The bridge has become a popular tourist spot, plenty of coaches stopping in the hard shoulder for pictures

GPS thinks we’re at sea now, and we technically are. Am I allowed to drink and drive now?

This picture really shows the scale of the bridge, it breaks off into two directions, one going to Huangdao, the other to Hongdao

Now the real driving begins – Qingdao to Suzhou, 623km

The Western media, and to somewhat the Chinese media, have failed to indicate that this is not just a bridge, its a major project to develop the north end of Qingdao. You see the south side is a peninsula and has limited land resources which has driven up the cost of housing within the city beyond the economic means of the majority of downtown residents, the governments goal is to develop the north side of the city and also Huangdao with more housing which should lower the price pressure on the south side, to put it bluntly this is Qingdao Citys Manhattan Project. A whole new road infrastructure has been set up with elevated express ways being installed to alleviate Qingdaos often snarled traffic system and to improve road conditions for drivers wishing to head from the Qingdaos CBD to the proposed housing areas in the north, east and west.

The bridge is a serious nod to Chinas ever developing civil engineering skills, Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou maybe full of incredible skyscrapers but building across a sea has to be harder than building upwards into the sky. The odd thing about the bridge is that they have also built a tunnel across the bay, so above the water you have the bridge, and underground you have the tunnel. The tunnel measures in at 6.17km with the under the sea part measuring in at 3.3km itself, the bridge probably had to account for different underwater geographical conditions where as the tunnel could go straight through without much hindrance, although it is of course 87 meters below the seabed. As with the bridge, the new tunnel is also Chinas largest underground tunnel and ranks quite high in the worlds longest tunnels. Its unclear why the government decided to build both a bridge and a tunnel and they have also come under a lot of criticism for funding both projects at the same time. So far it appears that the bridge has been set aside to improve inter-city highway travel across Shandong province, where as the tunnel is aimed at improving Qingdao-Huangdao travel as 4 bus lanes have been set aside within the tunnel with the ability to take 300,000 people per day between the two areas. As Qingdaos Qing-Yin highway that connects Qingdao to Yantai, Jinan and Beyond is so often closed due to thick fog (at least 400 days per year, at least!) then the low-lying bridge might suffer the same fog closed fate.

All the pictures together:

Heading onto Haier Road Elevated Express WayHaier Road Elevated Expressway note the lack of cars at 8:30am on a Monday morning
On the elevated expressway, but the GPS needs an update!This is the tide coming in before I take to the bridge, note the workers housing belowThe toll bridge, note the red hat wearing retired cadres that had been bused in enmasse to check out the bridge. They were peeing.
The Toll Station the entry is fully electronic now, you just press a button and take a cardOn the bridge still a lack of cars, despite media claims of 18,000 per dayNo cars, but plenty of flags.
GPS thinks were at sea now, and we technically are. Am I allowed to drink and drive now?The bridge has become a popular tourist spot, plenty of coaches stopping in the hard shoulder for picturesapproaching the suspension parts.
more suspension partsThis picture really shows the scale of the bridge, it breaks off into two directions, one going to Huangdao, the other to Hongdao
Check out the scope of the bridge amazing!Still at sea!

No cars where are the 18,000 per day?
Finally reached the other sideNow the real driving begins Qingdao to Suzhou, 623km

Ash

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1 Comment so far, why not add your thoughts as well?

  1. Ann says:July 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Interesting

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