Engineers' plan for Straits bridge ready by 2015

By Hu Meidong and Peng Yining (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-11-03 07:19
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Fuzhou - There may be more than one way to skin a cat, and for engineers in Fujian province there is more than one way to build a bridge across the Taiwan Straits.

While experts from both sides have provided three viable ways to create a land link between the island and the mainland, engineer Lin Yuanpei with the Chinese Academy of Engineering on Tuesday revealed an updated design for a northern route.

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The bridge would stretch about 100 km, connecting Pingtan Island in Fujian and Hsinchu in northwestern Taiwan.

The new design features an enclosed bridge deck to allow the bridge to remain open in all weather conditions, including the heavy fog and strong gales that are common in the Straits.

"It's like a tunnel hanging in the air," said Lin, who also designed the 32.5-km Donghai Bridge in Shanghai, which was the longest cross-sea bridge in the world until the 36-km Hangzhou Bay Bridge opened in 2008.

"The cost will increase for adding the walls and roofs, but the traffic capacity will skyrocket," said Lin, who did not provide any specifics about the cost.

He suggested a suspension bridge style be adopted where the water is deeper than 40 meters but the suspension sections would not be longer than 3.5 km.

Li Dejin, director of the Fujian Provincial Department of Transport, said engineering experts have been discussing the bridge project for 14 years.

"I hope all the scientists and industry associations can work together and promote the implementation of the project," Li said at the 12th annual meeting of the China Association for Science and Technology held in Fuzhou.

Engineers on the mainland are expected to complete a plan for building a bridge across the Straits in the coming five years, Li said on Tuesday.

There has been no response yet from Beijing on the latest proposal and the bridge project has not received official approval.

In 2005, the Ministry of Transport unveiled an expressway plan to link Beijing with Taipei before 2030.

But the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council claimed in 2007 that at least 30 years would be needed for the Beijing-Taipei expressway project and there has not been any timetable set for launching the program.

"Thirty years ago, nobody could have imagined building a bridge across the Straits," said Tsai Chung-chih, a Taiwan engineering expert.

Engineers from both sides of the Straits have provided three plans for building a cross-Straits bridge: a northern route connecting Pingtan to Hsinchu, a middle route connecting Putian to Taichung and a southern route connecting Xiamen to Kaohsiung.

But Lin said the north route is preferred as the water is less than 80 meters deep and the geological structure is quite steady with less risk of earthquake.