Space & Innovation

World's Highest Bridge Nears Completion in China

The Beipanjiang Bridge soars 565 meters above a river.

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Chinese engineers have completed the structure of what is expected to become the world's highest bridge, local authorities said.

The Beipanjiang Bridge, in mountainous southwestern China, soars 565 meters (1,854 feet) above a river, the Guizhou provincial transport department said in a statement.

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As such it overtakes the Si Du River Bridge in the central province of Hubei to become the world's highest bridge, said the statement posted on Sunday.

The two ends of the bridge were linked on Saturday, it added.

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The 1,341-meter span is expected to open to traffic at the end of this year and will cut road trips from Liupanshui in Guizhou to Xuanwei in neighboring Yunnan province from around five hours to less than two, state broadcaster China Central Television reported Monday.

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Several of the world's highest bridges are in China, although the world's tallest bridge -- measured in terms of the height of its own structure, rather than the distance to the ground -- remains France's Millau viaduct at 343 meters tall.

We humans are an engineering species by nature -- in the modern age, at least. After so many millennia of being forced to go around obstacles -- or go home -- we now prefer to go over them, below them or through them. Bridges and tunnels come in all shapes, sizes and obscure categories. For instance, Canada's Hartland Bridge, pictured here, is the world's longest covered bridge at 1,282 feet. We look at some other record holders from around the planet.

Generally considered the world's longest bridge of any type -- the

number crunchers

at Guinness say so, anyway -- the Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge in China is more than 102 miles long. It's technically a viaduct, or a series of spans supported by arches over low ground and various bodies of water.

At 15.23 miles in length, the Laerdal Tunnel in Norway is the world's longest road tunnel. The Laerdal runs straight through a mountain range and required the removal of more than 2 million cubic meters of solid rock. To reduce driver fatigue, the tunnel employs different lighting schemes along its length and features three giant mountain caves where motorists can pull over and take a break.

Completed in 1998, the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Japan is the longest suspension bridge in the world. At 12,828 feet, it's the length of four Brooklyn Bridges laid end to end. The bridge uses mechanical counterweights called "tuned mass dampers" to compensate for sway -- when the wind blows one way, the counterweights swing opposite.

Now in the final stages of completion, the Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) runs more than 35 miles beneath the Alps in Switzerland. When it officially opens in 2016, it will be the world's longest railway tunnel. The project used four gigantic tunnel boring machines -- two drilling from each end -- named Sissi, Heidi, Gabi I and Gabi II.

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana is officially classified by Guinness World Records as the longest continuous bridge over open water. The bridge spans more than 24 miles of Lake Pontchartrain -- seen here in aerial image -- supported by 9,500 concrete pilings.

Arguably the planet's most famous tunnel, the Channel Tunnel (or Chunnel) connecting the U.K. and France incorporates the longest stretch of undersea tunnel in the world. The Chunnel runs for more than 23 miles beneath the English Channel. Completed in 1994, the Chunnel used 11 different tunnel boring machines, whose combined weight exceeded that of the Eiffel Tower.

With its original construction dating back to the 12th century, the Krämerbrücke in Erfurt, Germany, is the world's longest and oldest inhabited bridge. (Well, there's

some debate

on that, actually.) The half-timbered buildings on each side of the bridge were originally built as vendor stands. Today, 32 different structures still remain, housing various homes, businesses and artisan shops.

The labyrinth of tunnels, mines, quarries and passages that sprawl beneath the city of Paris holds no official world record, although the section called the Catacombs of Paris is known unofficially as "The World's Largest Grave." It's estimated that the historical ossuaries beneath the city hold the bones of more than six million people.

The Taman Negara National Park in Malaysia boasts the world's longest canopy walkway bridge, the better to inspect top layer vegetation of the 130-million-year-old rain forest. The walkway consists of 10 different bridge sections totaling 510 meters at an average height of 45 meters.