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China Province Closes Glass Bridges, Projects

Friday, November 8, 2019

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A province in China has closed all of its glass bridges, mountain viewing platforms and walkways due to hazards and structural concerns, according to reports. The structures were part of a nationwide building craze that picked up speed in the mid-2010s, during which a number of entities looked to cash out on the draw of tourists visiting the see-through structures.

According to The Guardian, the Hebei province has shut down 32 glass bridges, which includes the Hongyagu glass bridge, previously known as the world’s longest glass bridge.

Other Glass Bridge Projects

In November 2017, the Shapotou Suspension Bridge received a glass bottom renovation and was the first of its kind on the Yellow River. The glass was put in place due to increased interest from tourists in such attractions. Located in Zhongwei, Ningxia Province, the bridge sits at 1,076 feet long, featuring 61 panels of normal glass and 77 panels of glass with 3D-printed images.

In February 2018, a “cracking,” swaying span opened in Xuching City, located in Henan Province. The 268-meter (about 880-foot) long pedestrian span, which is 158 meters high at its highest point above land, features an inch-thick glass floor that those brave enough to cross can see right through. To add to the terror, a layer beneath the surface reportedly creates the illusion of cracking as visitors walk across it.

A month prior, another new glass bridge, in the Hongyagu, Hebei Province, opened, at the time claiming the title of longest, at 488 meters. (That bridge is not as high as Zhangjijie, though, with a height of 218 meters.)

Issues and Closures

According to Smithsonian Magazine, China is home to 2,300 glass bridges, as well as an unknown number of glass walkways or slides.

In 2017, in Hubei, a tourist died during an incident with a glass slide, and earlier this year, another accident in the Guangxi province involving a glass slide saw the injury of six people and the death of one other. In 2015, in the Henan province, a panel on a glass bridge, suspended more than 3,500 feet over a canyon, cracked, reportedly caused by someone dropping a stainless-steel mug on the bridge. The panel had three layers, and though only one of them broke, tourists panicked.

The Guardian also reports that the Chinese government has called for the closures, citing a need for authorities to carry out safety inspections on these kinds of structures.

China’s government has also been using tourism as a tool for economic development, and as a result has encouraged foreign investment in rural villages. Initial success with the glass bridges created a proverbial goldrush of projects, resulting in local governments being saddled with diminishing returns on tourist visits as well as significant construction debts.


Tagged categories: AS; Bridges; China; Glass; Government; Infrastructure; Program/Project Management

Comment from Zenith Czora, (11/10/2019, 2:54 AM)

It was very ambitious to build those glass structures, the quality is another story.

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (11/13/2019, 11:06 AM)

You'd think they would use the same sort of multi-pane, treated and coated/laminated glass systems that are used for glass floors at other glass tourist attractions around the world...the walking surface pane should be sacrificial/decorative and not structural so that you can have people dropping stuff and not have to worry about failure of the structure. From the Canadian Consulting Engineers write up of our Columbia Icefields Skywalk: " The glass floor is fashioned from laminated, tempered and heat-strengthened glass, designed by RJC’s Toronto office. Thinner non-structural glass, which is replaceable when scuffed, overlies the three structural layers (totalling 1 1/4 inches in thickness)."

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