A massive piece of Chinese infrastructure is set to open this week. The 34-mile (55 km), $20 billion bridge will connect Hong Kong to the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai.
Originally scheduled to open back in 2016, the bridge endured a number of delays before finally wrapping up construction within the last month. Chinese leadership including President Xi Jinping led the opening ceremony in Zhuhai. The bridge will formally open to the public on Wednesday.
At its opening, it became the world's longest sea-crossing bridge.
Roadways for a connected future in China
The bridge doesn’t just serve as a streamlined way to travel, but it’s a key piece in China’s plan for a “Greater Bay Area.” The project covers a 21,800 sq mile (56.500 sq km) improvement plan throughout southern China. It involves 11 cities -- including Hong Kong and Macau -- and over 68 million people.
World's longest sea bridge: Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge is ready for launch pic.twitter.com/Ditk9pz9IA— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) October 22, 2018
“The Bridge is not just a mega transport infrastructure jointly built by Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao,” explained Secretary for Transport and Housing Frank Chan Fan during a press conference. “The Central Authorities also attach great importance to it. With the unfailing efforts of the engineering teams, and as demonstrated by the outcome of the joint trial last month, the Bridge is now ready for commissioning."
Chinese leadership still expects the bridge to bring together millions upon millions of people, making it easier to navigate through southern China.
"Similar to many other infrastructures, the utilization rate of the Bridge will increase gradually given more time and experience," Chan said.
He continued, speaking on behalf of the government in explaining how officials plan on monitoring the new roadway and remedying any opening issues:
'In light of the development of the Greater Bay Area, the Bridge will be instrumental in enhancing the flow of people, goods and capital, as well as technological collaboration within the region. The Government will closely monitor the utilization rate of the Bridge and actively explore measures in conjunction with our counterparts with a view to optimizing the utilization and benefits of the Bridge."
There's still more to come involving the Greater Bay Area project. According to officials, there will be "strategic advantages" in place to encourage more use of the bridge by the public.
"The mission to construct the Bridge has been accomplished. Our next mission is to make the best use of the topside development at the artificial island and to capitalise on the strategic advantage of the Bridge," Chan explained.
Critics of the bridge
While officials said the bridge is vital to the Greater Bay Area, members of the public have said otherwise.
In Hong Kong, CNN noted there isn’t much demand for more links to Macau or Zhuhai, and locals worry that they’ll only become more swamped with tourists from the mainland.
For other Chinese executives, it symbolically affirms China’s grasp on Hong Kong -- even if the views are impressive.
"You can't see the existing transport connections -- in a literal way. But this bridge is very visible ... you can see it from the plane when you fly in to Hong Kong, and it's breathtaking," lawmaker Claudia Mo told CNN earlier in the year.
"It links Hong Kong to China almost like an umbilical cord. You see it, and you know you're linked up to the motherland."