Bridges do more than just connect disparate lands; they blend communities and extend our terrestrial reach. Many a budding architect has sat ashore, gazing out at the mathematical and technological achievement, and many a blossoming artist has taken refuge on an adjacent bench, sketching the unique characteristics that each structure exudes. Bridges inspire us and enrich our lives in many ways, and those that stretch furthest take on a particularly perplexing and intriguing persona. Of the longest bridges in North America, the vast majority can be found in the United States. The following list highlights some of those American achievements, with a few shout-outs to Canada and Mexico.
10 Longest Bridges In North America
- Lake Pontchartrain Causeway - 23.9 miles
- Manchac Swamp Bridge - 23 miles
- Louisiana Airborne Memorial Bridge - 18.2 miles
- Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel - 17.6 miles
- Bonnet Carré Spillway Bridge - 11 miles
- Louisiana Highway 1 Bridge - 8.3 miles
- Confederation Bridge - 8 miles
- Jubilee Parkway - 8 miles
- San Mateo-Hayward Bridge - 7 miles
- Seven Mile Bridge - 6.7 miles
1. Lake Pontchartrain Causeway - 23.9 miles
The longest bridge in North America can be found in Southeastern Louisiana. Lake Pontchartrain Causeway spans 23.8 miles (38.4 kilometers) across, you guessed it, Lake Pontchartrain. The Southbound lane was built by The Louisiana Bridge Company in 1956 (thereby connecting the communities of Metairie and Mandeville), while the Northbound addition came in 1969. The Causeway held the Guinness World Record for the longest bridge over water until 2011, when China's Jiaozhou Bay Bridge temporarily took the crown. Because of subtle semantics, there are now two categories of water-crossing bridges. The Causeway regained its title but nowadays has a "continuous" qualifier in there for good measure.
2. Manchac Swamp Bridge - 23 miles
Coming in at a close second is the Manchac Swamp Bridge in Southeastern Louisiana (a recurring theme throughout this list). This silver-medal structure stretches for 23 miles (37 kilometers) over (here comes trivia-night-stumper round 2) Manchac Swamp! This twin concrete trestle construction is also one of the world's longest bridges over water, one of the longest toll-free bridges, one of the longest freeway bridges, and given that the swamp is reportedly haunted, probably one of the world's leading examples in that fringe category. The Manchac Swamp Bridge, built in 1979, makes up roughly one-third of Interstate 55/US Route 51 and connects the locales of St. John the Baptist Parish and Tangipahoa Parish.
3. Louisiana Airborne Memorial Bridge - 18.2 miles
Louisiana proudly claims all three spots on the podium for the continent's longest bridges. This 18.2-mile-long (29.3 kilometers) marvel is formally known as The Louisiana Airborne Memorial Bridge, but it is more commonly referred to as the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge. It connects the cities of Baton Rouge (Louisiana's capital) and Lafayette across the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest swamp/wetland in the country. Construction on this four-lane, a suspended segment of Interstate 10, began in 1971 and finished two years later. Its design is unique in that it maintains a set of parallel bridges for much of its length before merging into a singular structure at the crossing of Whiskey Bay Pilot Channel and the Atchafalaya River.
4. Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel - 17.6 miles
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel seems to defy physics and also classification, which is why exact measurements vary depending on who you ask. But according to the bridge's official website, the CBBT covers a total of 17.6 miles (28.3 kilometers) both above and below the Chesapeake Bay (there are two, one-mile tunnels to break up the journey). This giant, mixed-medium construction connects the Southeastern Virginia communities of Delmarva and Hampton Roads, as well as an incongruous arm of the East Coast with the state's mainland base. The first two lanes of the CBBT opened in 1964, assisting the strained commuter ferries, and then in 1999, the bridge's capacity was nearly doubled, with four lanes now operating above ground, while the tunnels forge ahead with two.
5. Bonnet Carré Spillway Bridge - 11 miles
Louisiana makes yet another appearance to round out the top five. The Bonnet Carré Spillway, or Bonnet Carré Floodway, opened in 1972, also in the Southeastern portion of the state, and covers 11 miles (17.7 kilometers) above Lake Pontchartrain, Bonnet Carré Spillway, and the LaBranche Wetlands. The bridge runs atop a long flood-mitigation structure, once again forwarding the path of Interstate 10, this time as it connects St. Charles Parish and portions of St. John the Baptist and Jefferson Parishes. Because of New Orleans' vulnerability to severe flooding, the spillway was built to divert the waters of the Mississippi River into Lake Pontchartrain. But it also makes a perfect platform for daily traffic. Talk about killing two big birds with one stone.
6. Louisiana Highway 1 Bridge - 8.3 miles
The name is a dead giveaway that Louisiana hogs another entry on this list (but this is the last one, I swear). The Louisiana Highway 1 Bridge, or the Gateway to the Gulf Expressway, as it is also known, crosses the Bayou Lafourche and some other marshes in the far Southeast end of The Pelican State. Completed in 2009, this extensive concrete trestle toll bridge soars for 8.3 miles (13.3 kilometers) through Lafourche Parish. It makes up an impactful segment of Louisiana Highway 1 (no duh!) – connecting Leeville to Port Fourchon, with a planned Northbound extension to the town of Golden Meadow.
7. Confederation Bridge - 8 miles
The neighbors to the North claim one spot in the continent's top ten. The Confederation Bridge is an 8-mile-long (or 12.9 kilometers in the Canadian tongue) section of the Trans-Canada Highway and connects the Maritime provinces of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. Given the harsh realities of North Atlantic winters, this concrete box girder construction is the longest bridge in the world over ice-forming waters (i.e., the Abegweit Passage of the Northumberland Strait). Given the bilingual nature of the area, this two-lane toll bridge is also called the Pont de la Confédération in French. The other Canadian bridge to feature on the top-25 table below is the Frederick G. Gardiner Expressway in Toronto, Ontario. Its elevated portion runs for 4.2 miles (6.8 kilometers).
7. Jubilee Parkway - 8 miles
Southern Alabama's Jubilee Parkway is just a few bricks shy in length of Canada's Confederation Bridge. This section of Interstate 10 also stretches for 8 miles, or 7.99 to be precise (or 12.87 kilometers), taking motorists across the Northern portion of Mobile Bay and parts of Baldwin and Mobile Counties. Built in 1978 and originally called America's Junior Miss Byway, this set of adjacent viaduct bridges (two lanes a piece) runs roughly parallel to the Battleship Parkway, linking Blakely Island and Spanish Fort/Daphne. There have been ongoing discussions for decades about expanding the Jubilee Parkway to eight lanes, as well as rerouting it in order to skip the traffic-ridden George Wallace Tunnel.
9. San Mateo-Hayward Bridge - 7 miles
The one West Coast bridge to crack the top ten is California's 7-mile (11.3-kilometers) San Mateo-Hayward Bridge. The western terminus is in Foster City, in San Mateo County, while the east side drops into the Alameda County city of Hayward. Along the way, this hockey-stick-shaped construction spans the iconic San Francisco Bay. The creative design was put together by the California Department of Transportation and constructed by Murphy Pacific Bridge Builders and Pomeroy-Gerwick Steers in 1967, at which point it officially became California's longest bridge. The Westbound portion of the San Mateo Bridge (which it is commonly referred to for short) wasn't added until 2002.
10. Seven Mile Bridge - 6.7 miles
The state of Florida can be forgiven for rounding up slightly in order to stamp this construction with a cool name. The Seven Mile Bridge is technically 6.7 miles (10.8 kilometers), but who's counting? This pragmatic yet visually appealing construction has been a favorite shooting location of Hollywood blockbusters over the years. High-octane scenes from True Lies, Licence to Kill, and 2 Fast, 2 Furious all take place as the stars race across the Florida Keys, from the city of Marathon to Little Duck Key (or vice versa). The modern bridge (built in 1982) funnels two lanes of the US 1 highway over the Moser Channel, while the older, narrower bridge (originally a railroad bridge, built in 1912) is still going strong and is open only to pedestrians and cyclists.
Honorable Mention: Zacatal Bridge
The longest bridge in Mexico is the Zacatal Bridge (or Puente El Zacatal, in Spanish). It was built over the Laguna de Términos (adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico) in 1994 in order to connect the Atasta Peninsula with Isla del Carmen. This 2.4-mile (3.9 kilometers) beamed boundary-breaker is part of the state of Campeche and sees an impressive amount of traffic coming to and from Ciudad del Carmen and the bigger city of Campeche to the Northeast. In a broader sense, Puente El Zacatal is a vital piece of infrastructure, as it is part of the Federal Highway 180, which opens the door to the Yucatán Peninsula.
Most of the time, driving over a bridge is a quick blip that barely even registers as part of the road trip. But the longest bridges in North America take some serious time to get across – providing captivating views of the surrounding waters and an up-close look at some of the astounding feats of modern engineering. In 2019, the average American spent 27.6 minutes commuting to work (one way). For those lucky enough to have one of these colossal crossings as part of your daily journey, hopefully, those miles are a welcomed lift to an otherwise mundane routine.
Longest Bridges In North America
|Lake Pontchartrain Causeway
|Manchac Swamp Bridge
|Louisiana Airborne Memorial Bridge
|Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
|Bonnet Carré Spillway Bridge
|Louisiana Highway 1 Bridge
|San Mateo-Hayward Bridge
|Seven Mile Bridge
|General W.K. Wilson Jr. Bridge
|Norfolk Southern Lake Pontchartrain Bridge
|Chacahoula Swamp Bridge
|Frank Davis Memorial Bridge
|Virgina Dare Memorial Bridge
|LaBranche Wetlands Bridge
|James River Bridge
|Huey P. Long Bridge
|Frederick G. Gardiner Expressway
|Sunshine Skyway Bridge
|St. George Island Bridge