A Triumph Over the Lake

Did you know that one of the most fearsome bridges in the world is right here in the United States? Welcome to the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana, which holds the title of the longest bridge over water globally. This incredible structure was officially recognized by Guinness World Records in 1969, and its reputation still stands strong today.

When New Orleans experienced rapid growth in the 1940s and 1950s, the need for a direct connection to the northern part of the city became evident. Lake Pontchartrain presented a significant challenge for motorists traveling between the city and the north. To solve this issue, plans were set in motion to create a direct route across the lake to its northern shore.

In 1955, the Louisiana Bridge Company was established to embark on this monumental construction project. Completed in just 14 months, the first two-lane span of the causeway opened in 1956, spanning a total length of 23.86 miles. It was a remarkable engineering feat of epic proportions.

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is not only long; it also carries with it its fair share of legends. Motorists crossing this humongous bridge often find themselves in awe as they lose sight of land for a staggering eight-mile stretch. Some have even experienced a fear of the open water, causing them to freeze while driving. In those instances, the police step in to provide safety and guidance.

The bridge has also witnessed extraordinary events. Babies have been born on the causeway when their mothers couldn’t reach the hospital on the other side in time. And there’s the incredible story of an airplane that ran out of fuel while flying over the lake but managed to land safely on the bridge. These anecdotes only add to the bridge’s mystique.

A decade after the completion of the first bridge, daily traffic surpassed 5,300 vehicles. Plans were enacted to expand the causeway by constructing a second two-lane span parallel to the original. In 1969, the second bridge was inaugurated, only slightly longer than its predecessor, with a separation of approximately 84 feet between them.

This expansion caught the attention of the Guinness Book of World Records, and the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway was officially recognized as the longest bridge over water in the world. It maintained this prestigious title unchallenged until 2011.

In 2011, the newly completed Jiaozhou Bay Bridge in China emerged as a contender, exceeding the length of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. However, the criteria used by Guinness included aggregate structures, such as land bridges at the ends of the main bridge and an undersea tunnel. Dedicated supporters of the causeway pointed out that these elements were not strictly “over water.”

To resolve the controversy, Guinness wisely decided to create two new categories. Lake Pontchartrain Causeway became the “longest bridge over water (continuous),” while the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge took the title of “longest bridge over water (aggregate).” Although the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge has since surpassed the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway retains its crown as the world’s longest bridge continuously over water, more than 60 years after its initial completion.

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