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Hong Kong Megaproject Reaches Milestone

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

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The massive Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge project reached a milestone last week, as the construction of the world’s longest and deepest underwater tunnel wrapped up.

According to reports, the authority responsible for the bridge—which spans three jurisdictions on the Pearl River Estuary—announced Friday (July 7) that construction on the underground tunnel section was finished. The authority hopes to have the entire structure—more than 30 miles long, including numerous bridge sections, a 4-mile tunnel section and two artificial islands—open to traffic by the end of this year.

The construction milestone comes even as the project, whose Hong Kong section alone is valued around $15 billion, is under fire for cost overruns, the 10 deaths and hundreds of injuries that have occurred during the seven-year project and 21 arrests in May due to the alleged falsification of concrete tests by a contractor’s lab.

Project Background

Construction on the HKZMB began in 2009 in China, with the Hong Kong section commencing work in 2011. The massive bridge-and-tunnel will connect Hong Kong, mainland China’s city of Zhuhai, and the special administrative region of Macao. The roadway begins near Hong Kong International Airport, starts as a bridge, dives under the water for four miles as a tunnel, resurfaces and crosses the waters of the Lingdingyang channel via the main bridge structure. Two artificial islands were built for the tunnel entrances.

HKZMB map
Hong Kong Highways Department

The roadway begins near Hong Kong International Airport, starts as a bridge, dives under the water for four miles as a tunnel, resurfaces and crosses the waters of the Lingdingyang channel via the main bridge structure.

The tunnel segment was necessary to allow cargo ships to pass through the waters close to Hong Kong; a bridge with sufficient navigational clearance was out of the question because it would be too tall given its proximity to the airport.

The new bridge will reportedly cut the time of a trip from Hong Kong to Zhuhai—currently more than four hours by road—to about half an hour. Zhuhai officials have also reportedly set aside land on an artificial island off the city’s coast for the use of the Hong Kong Airport Authority, leading to speculation that in the future, residents will be able to check in for a flight in Zhuhai and take the bridge straight to the airport.

Recent Problems

In March, two workers died in an incident on the bridge project in Hong Kong; a report on that incident was recently finished, but was not released due to possible pending court cases. In that case, a platform collapsed, and the workers were allegedly tied off to the floating platform, not to a more permanent structure.

In May, 21 employees of Jacobs China, a subsidiary of U.S.-based Jacobs Engineering, were arrested on charges they falsified reports from a lab that was conducting testing of the concrete used on the project. Weeks later, it was revealed that 210 samples from 55 public works projects in Hong Kong were “problematic.” Jacobs is suspended from government contracts in Hong Kong for a year.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly characterized the bridge as spanning "three nations"; it spans three jurisdictions and governmental entities, but all three are part of China.

   

Tagged categories: AS; Bridges; China; concrete; Construction; Contractors; Infrastructure; Program/Project Management; Tunnel

Comment from trevor neale, (7/12/2017, 9:43 AM)

Are the corrosion protection details available for study ?


Comment from Feng Min, (7/12/2017, 8:32 PM)

"which spans three nations on the Pearl River Estuary" Not three nations , They all belong to China.


Comment from Andy Mulkerin, (7/13/2017, 9:02 AM)

You are correct, of course, and the record has been corrected -- the project spans three jurisdictions and governments, but only one nation. Thank you for your comment!


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