We weren’t quite sure what to think when we heard about glass bridges, but there’s no doubt about it at this point: China is being a big show-off.
Proof of concept comes in the form of a 580-ton, 300-foot long bridge girding machine known as the SLJ900/32, which, as a result of an Internet video that shows the machine building a bridge between Chongqing and Wanzhou, has gone viral amongst development nerds the world over.
Once supports are installed along the designated bridge route, the bridge launcher reaches out to the nearest pylon and plants itself while another section of the machine moves forward with a pre-assembled bridge segment and drops it into place.
The first segmental bridge was cast in place over the Lahn River in Germany in 1950 and the first pre-cast concrete bridge was built over the Seine River in France 12 years later. But it wasn’t until the turn of the century in China that bridge launching became a common practice.
Over the past 15 years, according to Bridge Design & Engineering, more than 100 bridge launching gantries have been ordered for use in China, with most of these being commissioned for high-speed rail projects.
Writing this from the US East Coast, it’s hard, first of all, not to be upset that China is building so much high-speed rail while we suffer through long rides on leaky Amtrak dining cars. That they’ve come up with a high-speed development mechanism to let them do it even faster is just a little too much of a load to bear.