China says it has started building the world's longest sea-crossing bridge in the east of the country.
The Jiangyin Yangtze Bridge is currently the longest in China
According to the country's Xinhua news agency, the Ningbo Hangzhou Bay bridge, on which construction began on Sunday, will be 36 kilometres (22.5 miles) long when it opens to traffic in 2009.
The S-shaped, stayed-cable bridge will link Cixi City on the south bank of Hangzhou Bay with Jiaxing City on the north bank, in one of China's most dynamic regions.
The area includes the country's leading industrial and commercial city, Shanghai, contributing 22% of gross domestic product. The bridge will shorten the distance between Shanghai and the leading port city of Ningbo by 120 km (75 miles).
Xinhua says the bridge "is much longer than the 25.23-km-long Chesapeke Bay Bridge Tunnel in the United States and the 25-km-long Saudi Arabia Baharian Causeway".
At $1.42bn, it will be China's costliest bridge, and is the first major mainland infrastructure project to be built with a private majority stake. Seventeen private enterprises are responsible for 50.25% of the funds.
It is also the largest project of the planned 5,200-km-long (3,250 miles) national highway linking Tongjiang in the northeast Heilongjiang Province to Sanya in southern Hainan Province.
The bridge will have six lanes, allowing traffic to travel at 100 km per hour.
Construction official Jin Jianming says the new bridge "is an indication of China's increasing economic power, and is expected to boost economic development in the Chang Jiang River delta".
"It shows that China now is capable of building world-class bridges," he says.
The country plans to spend a further $12bn on sea-crossing bridges in future, at Bohai Bay, Huangdao in Shandong Province and in the East China Sea region.
Preparations on the bridge began 10 years ago, with more than 500 experts spending eight years on its design, "setting many records in China's history of bridge construction", Xinhua says.
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