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China to open world's longest sea bridge

Oct. 22, 2018 3:01 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 24, 2018 12:12 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The world's longest sea bridge is set to open this week, connecting the cities of Hong Kong and Macau to the mainland of the Chinese city of Zhuhai, as part of a broader contentious plan to integrate the special administrative regions into China.

After nine years of construction, the $20 billion bridge marks the completion of the longest sea-crossing bridge ever built.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to attend the opening ceremony in Zhuhai on Tuesday, along with top officials from Hong Kong and Macau.

The sea bridge will be open to the public on Wednesday.

The 55-kilometer bridge was initially due to open in 2016, however, construction delays, budget overruns and safety issues pushed the opening date until now.

The structure is supported by three cable-stayed bridges and designed to withstand winds of up to 340km/hour. In addition, a 6.7km undersea tunnel has been built to avoid disrupting shipping lanes, connected by two artificial islands.

The bridge is a key part of the Greater Bay Area plan, a campaign to connect Hong Kong and Macau to 11 Chinese cities, that are home to a combined 68 million people, to form a high-tech region to rival Silicon Valley; it will reportedly reduce travel time between the cities from three hours to 30 minutes, which will enable commuters and tourists to easily move around the region.

Despite the focus on travel time, private cars will only be able to use it after applying for a special permit. The crossing will mostly be used by private shuttle buses and freight vehicles.

The shuttle buses would cost $8-10 for a single trip depending on the time of day.

Hong Kong's secretary for transport and housing, Frank Chan Fan, said "The bridge is not just a mega transport infrastructure jointly built by Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau."

Fan added "The collaboration between Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao 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."

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