Several years ago, the U.S. automobile-rental company Avis came up with an imaginative, if not exactly boastful, advertising slogan. “We’re Number Two!” in number of rentals, it went. “We Try Harder.”
The folks in southern Louisiana might want to dust that one off, because, just last month, its Pontchartrain Causeway - which had been the longest bridge in the world - lost that title to a brand-new bridge in China.
A causeway is a long road, often resting on pilings or a dirt embankment, over water or wetlands.
The two parallel spans of the Pontchartrain Causeway, supported by 9,500 concrete pilings, wind for 38 kilometers (24 miles) between the north and south shores of Lake Pontchartrain. That’s America’s second-largest inland body of saltwater behind Utah’s Great Salt Lake.
The Louisiana bridge brought what had been the remote “North Shore,” as it is called, into the Greater New Orleans community. It was only lightly damaged during Hurricane Katrina, the deadly storm that wiped out whole neighborhoods in New Orleans in 2005.
So the causeway was a key route used by rescue and recovery teams based on the North Shore as the city was slowly rebuilt.
Usurping the Pontchartrain Causeway’s title as the world’s longest bridge is a 42-kilometer (26-mile) bridge over Jiaozhou Bay in China’s eastern Shandong Province. It took four years to build.
Since the Chinese built just one span across that bay, the bridge requires only 5,000 pilings. So if the Pontchartrain causeway needs a calling card - admittedly not a very dramatic one - it can claim that when it comes to concrete pillars, it’s still number one.