Denmark’s ‘Disappearing Road’ Is Really An Awesome Underwater Highway

When thinking of the man-made wonders of the world, it’s easy to fixate on the skyscrapers dominating city skylines, or architectural masterpieces built centuries ago. Structures like the Freedom Tower in NYC, or the Great Wall of China. But there are plenty of little-known wonders in places you might not expect. Take for instance the Øresund Bridge which connects two European countries. Residents were unaware of just how spectacular their new path of travel was going to be. But when construction was finished, people across the planet had to pick their jaws up off the floor. Only a bird’s-eye view could truly show how spectacular and wondrous the bridge was. In the 1930s, both the Swedish and Danish governments proposed the impossible: They would connect the two Nordic countries in a way that finally permitted easy travel between them.
But how? Well, a bridge of course! First, they needed to figure out where to place it. Officials determined that it made the most sense to connect the cities of Malmö (Sweden) and Copenhagen (Denmark), pictured respectively. Both regions were some of the largest in their countries but it wouldn’t be easy. There were so many factors complicating their efforts: Between the two cities lay five miles of rough seas where ice flows could get caught on any bridge and block the heavily trafficked trade-route. Plus, the water was very deep. Even worse, despite a clear need for the project, outside factors deterred any meaningful progress in addressing the gap between the countries. World War II inevitably forced both governments to put their grand plan on hold. Years later, in the 1950s and 60s, discussions about a joined project picked up again but died when the two countries couldn’t decide where exactly to link themselves in the chosen cities. Others argued projects like the Great Belt Fixed Link, pictured here, should take priority. Finally, in 1991, the two governements agreed on a bridge between Malmö and Copenhagen and a Danish engineering and consulting group, known as COWI, started developing the bridge. No one could’ve guessed how spectacular the end result would be. With each country owning a 50% take, construction lasted about 5 years. There were plenty of setbacks along the way, like the discovery of 16 active bombs on the seafloor. But eventually, engineers finished what they now call the Øresund Bridge. The bridge starts in Melmö and connects to pylons raised with steel cables. Parts of the bridge were build on dry land and then brought to location by a barge and crane. This thing is way more complicated than it looks. Beneath the four lanes of road span train tracks across the second lower level of the bridge. The train travels up to a 120mph, making it a perfect communing option and a great way to facilitate travel between Denmark and Sweden. Amazingly, this isn’t the craziest part of it: From Melmö the bridge connects to Peberholm, a man-made island a few miles off the coast of Copenhagen. The island, made up of dirt and unused project materials, serves as home to 454 species of plants and 12 kinds of birds. But, wait a second, if this bridge was designed to connect Sweden and Denmark, you can hardly say “mission accomplished” if the construction ended on an uninhabited island, miles off Copenhagen’s coast, right? But that’s why this bridge is truly spectacular. From Peberholm, the road literally disappears into the sea. From an aerial view, you can see just how bizarre that looks. For one second there’s a bridge, and the next there isn’t. Where did it go? The road actually descends into Drodgen Tunnel. For over 2 and a half miles the tunnel permits undersea travel from Peberholm to the man-made isle of Kastrup, a suburb of Copenhagen. Engineers constructed the tunnel on land in 20 segments, 55 tons each, and nestled them into the seabed trench. Five individual tubes comprise the Drodgen interior: 2 for traffic, 2 for trains and one for emergencies. The tunnel allows ice flows to move unimpeded through the sea, and perhaps more importantly: allows ship captains to steer through the strait as well. Best of all, the tunnel serves as a reef, acting as a home to marine life. For a long time, the bridge promoted free travel between the two nations. At the entrance toll booths in Sweden, officers occasionally performed random customs checks, but for the most part, citizens of either nation could travel unimpeded to the other. Due to the migrant crisis in Europe however, both nations committed to stronger security measures and started regularly checking passengers in both directions. Still, the bridge has so far had undeniable beneficial impacts for both countries: At first, travel beteen the two nations didn’t increase at the anticipated rate, but authorities chalked it up to high toll prices. However, eventually more Danish people bought homes in Melmö, a much more affordable place to live. From there they commuted daily. But the economic advantages were only one factor in why governments commited to the Øresund Bridge. Another reason: they wanted to nurture a united feeling between the nations. Most importantly of all was that the Øresund bridge showed that small European nations could collaborate and achieve something spectacular. And with the way this man-made wonder turned out, there’s no doubt Sweden and Denmark succeeded there. Will the Øresund Bridge make it into future conversations about man-made wonders in the world? It shows that European countries really are forward thinking when it comes to traveling. Check out these other videos from Let Me Know, if you haven’t made the move to subscribe to our channel, all you need to do is click on that red Subscribe button. Thank you for watching!

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