World's Longest Bridge Center of Safety Fears
   2011-07-05 07:47:16    Shanghai Daily      Web Editor: Zhangxu

Photo taken on June 29, 2011 shows an aerial view of Qingdao Jiaozhou Bay Bridge in Qingdao, east China's Shandong Province. [Photo: Xinhua]

Safety fears have been raised over the newly opened cross-sea bridge, the world's longest, that links Qingdao City in east China to the island of Huangdao.

There is concern that the tight schedule ahead of the official opening left important work undone or incomplete.

Several gaps were found in the crash barriers on the 42.5 kilometer Jiaozhou Bay Bridge, while bolts inserted to fasten the barriers were found to be loose or uncovered, China Central Television reported Monday.

CCTV said that workers were tightening bolts that could easily have been loosened by hand on the bridge, which has seen nearly 18,000 cars cross it every day since it was officially opened on June 30, on the eve of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.

A worker said they didn't have enough time to install all the safety barriers and to fix the bolts before the bridge's opening.

Workers had also to finish installing the bridge's lighting system, which was not in place yet, another man, believed to be in charge of work at the bridge, told CCTV.

"We have just started installing support facilities on the bridge and it will take two to three months to finish the work," he said.

When the Shandong provincial government announced the opening of the 14.8 billion yuan (US$2.3 billion) bridge, it said the structure, built to withstand earthquakes and typhoons, could take up to 50,000 cars at day, cutting the drive time between the two destinations from 40 to 20 minutes.

But many motorists expressed fears over safety given the high speed of traffic on the bridge and the potential dangers if crash barriers were not fully in place.

The man believed to be charge of the work said safety would not be affected by the loose bolts or the absence of barriers, but wouldn't say whether a too tight schedule was behind the bridge still being unfinished after its opening.

An official surnamed Cui with the bridge's investor, Shandong High-speed Group Co, said some barriers and bolts had been removed by workers to adjust wiring, which was normal practice after a bridge opened to traffic, Jiaodong.net reported Monday. Cui said the adjustments would be done by the end of this month with all bolts and barriers in place.

Workers toiled for four and a half years to build the bridge, which took the "world's longest" title from the 38.35 kilometer Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in the United States.

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