Jiaozhou Bay Bridge in Qingdao, Shandong Province, opens to traffic on June 30. Critics have accused authorities of timing the opening of the world's longest cross-sea bridge before July 1 even though it still had loose bolts on parts of the railings. Photo: CFP
The chief engineer of the world's longest cross-sea bridge on Wednesday defended the project from widespread criticisms that it had been too hastily thrown open to meet the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.
Chief Engineer Shao Xinpeng insisted the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge in Qingdao, Shandong Province was safe, adding that unscrewed nut caps and incomplete guardrails belonged to a subsidiary affiliated project that did not affect normal operations, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
The bridge had passed inspection and is ready for traffic, agreed Li Jiansheng, a member of the bridge quality inspection team.
Spanning 36.48 kilometers across the mouth of the Jiaozhou Bay, the 14.8 billion yuan ($2.3 billion) bridge connects urban Qingdao with the city's less-developed district of Huangdao, slashing the traveling time between two places from 40 minutes to 20 minutes.
Some 15-16 meters of the bridge near the toll station on the Qingdao side have no guardrails with nut caps simply placed over guardrails without being screwed tight, the report said.
In China Central Television (CCTV) footage on Monday, a reporter unscrewed the nut caps on the guardrail and noted the bridge lighting system had not been installed.
Construction workers told CCTV it would take at least two months before finishing all the subsidiary projects.
In defense, Engineer Shao argued that the relevant law allowed the highway project to start operating before the subsidiary affiliated projects like the guardrail were completed.
The key structures were the vertical bars that support the guardrails and they already had been completed, he explained.
Unscrewed nut caps would not affect the safe operation of the bridge, Han Bin, an associate professor with the department of bridge engineering at Beijing Jiaotong University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
"However, if accidents occur and hit the guardrails, problems might rise," he said.
The bridge itself had no quality problems, he argued. The only problem was "on the administrative side," he believed.
"In order to present a gift for July 1, some works were unable to be finished before the bridge rushed to open to traffic, which we oppose," he said.