Liuguanghe Bridge

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Liuguanghe Bridge
Liu Guangzhen, Guizhou, China
975 feet high / 297 meters high
787 foot span / 240 meter span
World's Highest Bridge 2001-2003


Liuguanghe entered the record books in 2001 when it became the world’s highest bridge at 975 feet (297 mtrs), toppling the 72 year old record long held by Colorado’s 955 foot (291 mtr) high Royal Gorge bridge. Even though Liuguanghe’s record would stand for just two years, it will always have the distinction of being the only beam bridge in history that held the top spot among high bridges. The decision not to use an arch, suspension or cable stayed bridge was probably motivated by the deep height of the gorge where the tall piers of a prestressed concrete beam bridge would be easier to construct since the two sides of the bridge could be cantilevered outward without any temporary cable stays or highlines.

The Liuguanghe bridge is the crown jewel in a highway that is best described as a museum of high Chinese bridges. Located near the city of Guiyang in China’s Western province of Guizhou, this 100 mile (161 km) stretch of 2-lane highway contains 2 suspension bridges, one 650 feet (198 mtr) and one 550 feet (168 mtr) high as well as another concrete beam bridge 600 feet (183 mtr) high and two arches, 380 (116 mtr) and 360 feet (110 mtrs) high. Outside of China, there is no other 100 mile (161 km) stretch of highway on earth to have so many high bridges. Although Liuguanghe is named after a nearby town, the bridge actually crosses the upper end of the Wujiang river, a large tributary of the Yangtze that has 5 of China’s highest bridges including the upcoming Dimuhe suspension bridge, the Liuchonghe cable stayed bridge, the massive concrete beam bridge viaduct at the city of Wujiang as well as the breathtaking Jiangjiehe arch bridge. Only the Beipanjiang River has a more spectacular group of high river crossings in China.

The scale of the Liuguanghe bridge is not always evident from photographs until you realize that the main span of the bridge is 787 feet (240 mtrs) between piers - longer than any beam bridge span that has ever been built in the United States. The pier on the west side of the bridge is the tallest point of the structure standing 295 feet (90 meters) in height. Resting on top of the two piers is a single-cell box girder with a height of 44 feet (13.4 mtrs) over the piers and 13 1/2 feet (4.1 mtrs) at mid-span. On the northwest end of the bridge there is a temporary pullout along the shoulder to park. From there you can walk across the bridge and peer into the void over the 4 foot (1.5 mtr) high concrete barrier.

The beautiful location spawned a food vendor village on the Southeast side of the span sometime after 2008. This probably occurred around the same time period the toll booths were removed making the highway "free" to all motorists. This has increased traffic on the highway along with China's explosion of car ownership. The resulting congestion has made travel along the 2-lane highway a risky and dangerous adventure. Much of this is due to the slow trucks that stack up as they creep along the steeper grades with endless turns that create blind spots. With no passing lane and no breakdown lanes, drivers have no choice but to pull into the oncoming lane to pass. This has created a deadly cocktail with head-on collisions occurring on a weekly basis. Until the Guizhou Provincial leaders decide to widen the road into a 4-lane divided highway, the Gui-bi will continue to decline into a treacherous and unreliable route. China's newer 4-lane highways are all beautifully designed and very safe to drive on. The Gui-bi shows that China's highway planners should continue their more recent pattern of constructing new highways as 4-lane routes with 2 extra safety lanes.


Liuguanghe Bridge Elevation





Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /

Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Royal-GorgeLiuguanghe WMeasure.jpg

Liuguanghe became the first bridge in 72 years to surpass the Royal Gorge bridge in height.


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


A map of the highest bridges along the 100 mile (161 km) Bijie Highway. It is one of the 5 greatest "high" bridge highways on earth. Map by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Truss-arch bridge downstream of Liuguanghe. Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /



Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /



The view looking west up the river gorge is absolutely spectacular. The curving road in the distance leads to a hydroelectric dam. Image by Eric Sakowski /


A sign post with the name of the bridge carved into it. Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


An underground grave rests along a road beneath the bridge. Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Sometime after 2008, a large encampment of food vendors sprung up on the Southeast side of the bridge. Image by Eric Sakowski /


Some food vendor trash is burned next to the bridge. Image by Eric Sakowski /


A collection of trash builds next to the stairs that lead down to the old bridge construction road. Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


A satellite view of the Liuguanghe Bridge area taken sometime around 2000 when the highway was still under construction.


Satellite image showing the Liuguanghe Bridge in the lower left and the downstream arch crossing in the upper right.

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