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A Tale of Two Dragon Bridges
Two of the World's Longest Bridges|
Two of the world's longest bridges are situated in the Bay of Hanzhou, just a stone's throw apart. Each bridge cost more than $1 billion, started construction less than a year apart.
The Hangzhou Bay Bridge (36 km) connects Cixi, Ningbo with its deep sea port, Beilun to Jiaxing, a Zhejiang city just south of Shanghai city's administrative zone. This bridge underwent various feasibility studies for a decade before construction was finally approved and begun in September, 2003. Total investment, all from private companies in Ningbo, is estimated at more than 10 billion yuan ($1.25 billion). The bridge has to connect to Jiaxing on the northern coast of the Hangzhou Bay; the city of Shanghai would not permit it to land in that city's territory.
Beilun is a small fishing town on the easternmost edge of the southern coast of Hangzhou Bay. The presence of a deep sea lane with year-round minimum depth of 17 meters stretching along the coast of Beilun motivated the Central Government to build one of the nation's largest deep sea port here. The port is further protected from storms by the mountainous islets of Zhoushan just off the coast of Beilun. Beilun port, which has grown up since the early 1990s, has earned the nickname "Rotterdam of the East" because of its natural, storm-free deep water lanes. 14.31 billion yuan has already been invested in the Beilun port. It should be noted that in 1991, it was proposed that Beilun port be managed by the Shanghai port authority. That would have been a logical move given that Shanghai's own port and water lane - a mere 11 meters deep - can only accommodate container ships and freighters of 50,000 DWT or less. Swift and dangerous undersea currents also contribute to an inefficient port that costs the city a great deal to keep open, and even then it is often only usable during high tide.
The challenge for economic development in the region has been the expensive detour from Beilun to Southern Jiangsu and Shanghai along the coast of Hangzhou Bay. The Hangzhou Bay Bridge would have reduced that 400 km trips from Beilun to about 80 km. Although the high speed superhighway along the coast takes only slightly more than 4 hours to Shanghai, the building of the bridge will make it possible for Shanghainese to drive to Ningbo for some seafood dinner and drive home in time for the 10 o'clock evening news.
The East China Sea Bridge (31 km), situated on the eastern edge of Hangzhou Bay, links the small Shanghai town of Lucaogang with a small, uninhabited island, Da Yang Shan. Total investment on the bridge alone, exclusive of the cost of infrastructure on the island and port facilities, will be 7.11 billion yuan (nearly $900 million. A further 200 billiion RMB will be invested on Da Yang Shan to make it an international deep sea port. This bridge's approval and construction was expedited to enable it to begin a year ahead of the Hangzhou Bay Bridge with scheduled completion in 2005, three years ahead of the Hangzhou Bay Bridge.
The construction of the East China Sea Bridge remains more than two years from completion. Indeed, the port authority of Shanghai has already signed an agreement for a joint venture with the city of Yi-u, Zhejiang, approximately 120 km south of Hangzhou, just off the ear of Ningbo, for a container yard to handle 200,000 containers from that city each year. Shanghai has also reached agreement on container yard project with many other cities in its ambition to become one of the major container shipping ports of the world.
Why are the two cities a bay apart not joining each other in their bridge and deep sea port project? The situation should be understood in the context of rapid economic growth and inter-city competition. The Chinese have always described themselves as "A plate of scattered sand grains" that would never join or unite with each other. Consider some of the following tales of province and city level economic growth in today's explosive Chinese economy.
(from http://www.apmforum.com/columns/china26.htm )