Once upon a time it was Xerxes, son of Darius, the Persian king who in 480 BC succeeded in leading his powerful army across the Dardanelles Strait by building two pontoon bridges. The same feat was accomplished in 323 CE by Alexander the Great, who fought a battle at the Dardanelles that would go down in history.
Some two thousand years later, a real bridge overlooks that stretch of sea that connects the Sea of Marmara to the Aegean and unites Europe with Asia, just as the bridges over the Bosporus did.
Turkey accomplished a major infrastructure milestone when the 1915 Çanakkale Bridge, or the world’s longest suspension bridge, was inaugurated on March 18, 2022.
The Çanakkale Bridge: Breaking Japan’s record
The Çanakkale Bridge is an engineering marvel. The bridge has a main span length of 2,023 metres (6,637 feet), breaking a previous record set by Japan’s Akashi Kaikyo Bridge. The entire course of the bridge covers about 5 kilometres (3.1 miles). It will be a strategic link in the completion of an ongoing highway project: a major expressway connecting Thrace and Anatolia by joining together the districts and cities of Kınalı, Tekirdağ, Çanakkale and Savastepe.
The bridge is 45 metres (147.6 feet) wide and runs at a height of 70 metres (229.6 feet) above sea level, allowing the transit of the world’s largest ships. It’s a cyclopean work: 180,000 tons of steel were used in its construction, and €2.5 billion ($2.6 billion) were invested.
Traffic flow to revolutionise Turkish transportation
The work will have a significant impact on traffic flow. The opening of the bridge allows vehicles to cross the Strait in just a few minutes; previously, it took about five hours. It now only takes six minutes to cross the 1915 Çanakkale Bridge. Prior to its completion, one had to make a long overland journey and load vehicles onto ferries that took an hour and a half to complete the crossing.
None of this hassle is necessary anymore. Towering over the Straits with its 318-metre-high (1,043-foot-high) towers, this project meets current transport demands, and is sure to help “ferry” Turkey into a new golden age.
The bridge to the Turkey of the future
“We always talk about the link between history and the future. Today that’s what we’re doing,” said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the inauguration of the bridge, in a succinct summary of the ambitious plan to modernise the country’s infrastructure. Following the construction of bridges across the Bosphorus, two of which were built by the Webuild Group, the new Dardanelles Strait link is part of the Visions 2023 plan launched by the Turkish president. Next year, celebrations are set to mark the first centenary of modern Turkey, and the hope is to begin 2023 with a series of major infrastructure works completed. Many of the works in question are aimed specifically at connecting the European part of Turkey with the Asian part.
This bridge is the link in the Kinali-Balikesir highway, which will be 321 kilometres (199.5 miles) long and will connect Istanbul with Balikesir, thereby uniting Thrace with the Anatolian Peninsula. It’s another large-scale work that could soon become a symbol of the union between Europe and Asia.