If you ever find yourself in Hunan, China, rent a car and drive the Jishou-Chadong Expressway: 18 tunnels under the Wuling mountains that culminate at the Aizhai Bridge, a gut-churning 1,150-foot-high suspension bridge over the Dehang Canyon. It’s a man-made wonder, the world’s highest (and maybe even scariest) tunnel-to-tunnel bridge—and yet it ranks only 15th among the world’s longest suspension bridges.
For the thrill of seeing No. 1, you’d need to head to Kobe, Japan, and marvel at the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge. But in the race to build the biggest and baddest bridges of them all, record-hungry China tends to dominate in hard stats; five out of the top 10 suspension bridges are there, for instance. So instead of a China-heavy list of bridges, we’ve focused on a variety of categories, from covered bridges to pontoon floaters, to bring you a diverse cross section of the longest.
Take the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. It may not be the longest bridge over water—Guinness bestows that honor on China’s 25.84-mile-long Jiaozhou Bay Bridge project—but it has the longest continuous stretch over water: 24 miles of roadway easily trumping Jiaozhou’s 16.1 miles once any overland portions are omitted. To us, that’s the essence of the bridge.
For bridges such as suspension and arch, we didn’t look at total length either, but instead opted for the common engineering practice of ranking by span length. Experts agree a larger span indicates greater technological prowess.
From the ice roads of Arctic Alaska to a cable-stayed controversy on the other side of the Bering Strait—stretching over cities, seas, and even the jungle canopy—the world’s longest bridges exist on a scale that can only be described as stupefying. Be sure to gas up before you take them on.