For purposes of common definition, a bridge may be dismissed to be nothing more than a structure designed for convenience of passage over water bodies or other unassailable domains. When your destination is what lies across the bridge, then the bridge itself is of great importance. But any great philosopher will tell you that the journey is more important than the destination. Take this sentiment to heart and survey these magnificent structures that is probably one of the greatest inventions of mankind. Huge blocks of concrete suspended over thin air is more than just an engineering marvel. It is a miracle, especially considering where we started out. The first bridges in the world were constructed by nature when a log of wood fell accidentally over hillocks, swamps or marshes. Taking the seed of an idea from here the early Americans used bamboo poles or fallen logs to act as a bridge between rivers and caverns. Then they originated the idea of tying together these logs, poles, branches, and leaves and tied them together with woven fibre to form longer collective bridges. From the ashes of these humble origins rise the modern bridges that have concrete slabs running thousands of metres long, spanning the high-rise of America. Though the times we live in have afforded us some wonderful facilities, it also has given us the curse of taking everything for granted. If you let imagination take the precedence over knowledge for a moment, then you’d be spellbound at the majestic beauty of these sheer monstrosities.
10. General W.K. Wilson Jr. Bridge
This one has a naughty nickname, the Dolly Parton Bridge. Two parallel arches of weathered steel carries the Interstate 65 across the Mobile Tensaw River Delta over Mobile, Alabama. There is a red warning light atop the supporting arches. That along with the suggestive shape of the arches is why it earned this salacious nickname. The dubious nomenclature aside, the bridge was actually named after Walter K. Wilson, a chief engineer with the United States Army Corps of Engineers. He was an honoured citizen of Mobile and one of the first people to realize that a bridge was urgently needed over the Mobile River so as not to hinder with waterway development. The construction was completed in 1978 with the bridge spanning an impressive length of 6.02 miles.
9. Seven Mile Bridge
This is one of the most famous bridges in the world, given its appearance in blockbuster Hollywood movies like License to Kill, True Lies and many more. At the time of its construction in 1982, it was also one of the longest bridges in the world. It connects Florida to the Knight’s Keys, Middle Keys and Little Duck Keys and is a part of the iconic Overseas Highway in the US. The bridge is 440 sections of concrete designed in a box girder structure. At the centre of the bridge is a 65 foot high arch, while the rest of the bridge is teetering close to the water. The sturdy structure is 6.79 miles long. A Saturday every April the bridge is sealed off to vehicles for what is known as a “Fun Run”. 1500 runners participate in the Seven Mile Bridge Run that is held to commemorate the Florida Keys Bridge Rebuilding project. This bridge has won numerous prestigious awards for excellence in architecture.
8. San Mateo Hayward Bridge
This 7 mile long bridge crosses over California’s San Francisco Bay, connecting the San Francisco Peninsula with the East Bay. Built in 1967, it handles approximately 93,000 vehicles per day. However it was always not as popular a commute choice as it is today. Prior to the widening of the Bay Area in January 2003, passengers considered it the worst evening commute route with almost interminable traffic. The long bridge stretching over the wide blue bay makes for a splendid sighting.
7. Jubilee Parkway
Some of the mightiest bridges of US are to be found in Alabama, since this is the second one from there making it into this list. The story behind that jovial name goes thus. Every year thousands of fish, crabs and other sea creatures crawl their way into the shallow waters of the Mobile and some even find themselves on land. This bizarre event is much celebrated amongst the locals and even lends its name to the bridge. Things have not always been so jovial for Jubilee Parkway by the way. On March 20th 1995, one of the largest vehicle collisions in the history of USA occurred on this bridge. It involved in 200 vehicles, injuring more than ninety people and one resultant death. However the people of Alabama have put this tragedy behind them and celebrate Jubilee Parkway as a major structure of Mobile.
6. Bonnet Carre Spillway
This was built as a relief measure after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. First operational during the flood of 1937, it has been opened numerous times after that to control flood related damages ever since, the most recent being in 2011. The latter was done when the river levels at New Orleans became dangerously high. It allows floodwaters to flow into the Lake Pontchartrain and thence onto the Gulf of Mexico. More construction is currently on to enable the spillway control hurricane damages more effectively. The 11 mile long bridge crosses the Interstate 10 and US 61.
5. Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
More than a hundred million vehicles have traversed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel ever since it was inaugurated on April 15th 1964. That year it was selected as, “One of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World”. Half a century later, the legacy still holds true. The 23 mile long bridge links the Delmarva Peninsula’s Eastern shore of Virginia with Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads, Virginia. There are only ten bridge tunnel systems in the world, three of which are located in Virginia itself. This is one of them. A drive down the bridge can be a liberating experience, making you feel incredibly free.
5. Louisiana Highway
This is the longest highway in Louisiana and among the top few in America. It runs across the state connecting the various oil and gas near the Grand of Isle with Shreveport. Maintained by the Louisiana DOTD, this massive bridge links all the major intersections of the state. The DOTD are in the process of converting some parts of the highway into elevated expressway, in order to prepare in the event of hurricanes. With the oil and gas field links as well the thousands of vehicles travelling here every day, this is one of the most important bridges in the country.
3. Atchafalaya Basin Bridge
At 18.2 miles, this is the fourteenth longest highway in the world. The Atchafalaya Basin is the largest swampland in USA and the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge, dually known as the Louisiana Airborne Memorial Bridge, carries the Interstate 10 over this marshland. The basin bridge is actually a pair of parallel bridges between Baton Rouge and Lafayette. These merge when crossing the Whiskey Bay Ppilot Channel and the Atchafalaya River. Approximately twenty five thousand vehicles go over the bridge daily. Due to the area being an accident prone zone, the speed limit of the place was lowered to 60 MPH in 1999. There are numerous cameras mounted at several vantage points all over the bridge, so keep your mischief to a minimum while checking out these twin beauties.
2. Manchac Swamp Bridge
Another swamp bridge from Louisiana on this list is really no surprise since it is home to some of the largest and most marvellous of these in the world. The similarities between Manchac Swamp Bridge and the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge are quite many. This is also a twin concrete structure. With a length of 22.8 miles, it is also one of the longest bridges in the world. Inaugurated in 1979, the bridge cost $7 million per deep foundation piles. It carries the Interstate 55 over the Manchac Swamp.
1. Lake Pontchartrain Causeway
It is quite predictable really that the number one bridge on this list would be from Louisiana too. With its recent economic boom, China has been gleefully constructing away the champion records of US. Built in 1956, Lake Pontchartrain Causeway was the longest water bridge in the world till China constructed the Jiaozuo Bay Bridge in 2011 to beat the record. New Orleans tourists still faithfully frequent this engineering wonder to see the longest water bridge in the world, even though the term no longer technically applies. However, at 24 miles, this is not a gross overstatement either. Debates still go on about the superiority of this one over the Jiaozuo with the Guinness World Record creating a separate category altogether to accommodate the two sides of the arguments. While the Jiaozuo Bridge is still considered the longest bridge over water aggregate, Lake Pontchartrain has earned the new honour of being the longest Bridge over water continuous. The hotbed of such controversy and loyalty decrees a personal tour of this Causeway, what say?