The world’s longest sea bridge linking the cities of Hong Kong and Macau to the Chinese mainland will be inaugurated this week, reports The Guardian.
The $20 billion Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge will open on Tuesday with a ceremony attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Spanning 34 miles (55 km), the bridge is part of the Greater Bay Area plan, a project that intends to connect Hong Kong and Macau to various Chinese cities in an attempt to create a Silicon Valley equivalent.
Frank Chan Fan, Hong Kong’s secretary for transport and housing, commented in a statement, “The bridge is not just a mega transport infrastructure jointly built by Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau. The collaboration between Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau in terms of trade, finance, logistics and tourism will be strengthened. Hong Kong will assume a more proactive role in the development of the Greater Bay Area.”
The bridge will not be accessible to the public and will require a special permit in order to cross. It will mostly be used by private shuttle buses and freight vehicles.
The project has been incredibly controversial since the start and sparked discussion over the true intentions behind the construction of the bridge and the government’s use of taxpayer money. Some have criticized the bridge, seeing it as a way for Beijing to gain more control over offshore autonomous regions, while others have blamed it for the declining population of Chinese white dolphins.
Mee Kam Ng, a professor at the department of geography at the Chinese University in Hong Kong, is one of many who believes that the bridge is unnecessary.
“I don’t think people are too excited about it. It’s been dragged on for so long and it’s so expensive, and there are already means of going to the western side of the Pearl River Delta. From the opening of the bridge to the eventual integration of these three different places, with three different sets of institutions, regulatory regimes, and very different histories and cultures, it is an interesting experiment.”
Construction of the bridge began in 2009 and was expected to be completed in 2016. However, construction delays, safety issues, and budget problems have delayed its completion by two years. The structure is formed by three cable-stayed bridges that are designed to withstand winds up to 210 mph (340 km/hr). A four-mile (6.7 km) undersea tunnel connected by two artificial islands has also been implemented to prevent the disruption of shipping lanes.
Commuters will pass through three different checkpoints for Hong Kong, Macau, and Zhuhai, with the hope that the bridge will promote better integration between the three connected cities.