China's president launches Hong Kong-mainland mega bridge

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Zheng Xiaosong died on Saturday evening

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is made up of almost 35-km (22-mile) bridge and road sections and a 6.7 km (4-mile) tunnel, and has been dubbed the longest "bridge-cum-tunnel sea crossing" in the world.

Originally scheduled to open back in 2016, the bridge endured a number of delays before finally wrapping up construction within the last month.

The bridge incorporates 400,000 tons of steel to withstand against natural disasters.

Vice premier Han Zheng said the bridge would help drive China's strategic blueprint for a "Greater Bay Area" around the Pearl River Delta modeled on other global economic dynamos like San Francisco Bay and Tokyo Bay. The tunnel runs between two artificial islands, each measuring 100,000 square meters.

According to the BBC, several workers died during the construction of the sea-crossing roadway, prompting local media to dub it the "bridge of death".

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The bridge links Hong Kong's Lantau island to Zhuhai and the gambling haven of Macau, across the waters of the heavily industrialised Pearl River Estuary.

It is part of a bigger plan to connect the regions with 11 cities on the Chinese mainland, creating what authorities hope will become a tech and business hub akin to Silicon Valley, called the Greater Bay Area.

Frank Chan, Hong Kong's Secretary for Transport and Housing, has said that travelling time between Zhuhai and Hong Kong International Airport will be shortened from four hours to about 45 minutes. That claim was put to the test in September, when Typhoon Mangkhut swept through Hong Kong, destroying roofs, shattering windows, and toppling trees.

Because Macau and Hong Kong are semi-autonomous regions with a degree of independence from mainland China, some people are suspicious that the bridge could be used to increase Beijing's control across the territories. If a driver yawns more than three times in 20 seconds, the "yawn cam" will raise an alert.

Most people will need to travel the bridge on coaches and buses.

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The bridge is not served by public transport, so private shuttle buses will also ply the route.

"Such a huge investment using the Hong Kong taxpayer's money ... yet basically it is not open to us at all", said one comment on the South China Morning Post website. The newspaper also reports that toll prices for vehicles using the bridge will range from 60 yuan (about $8.50) to 300 yuan (about $43).

Environmental groups say the project may have caused serious harm to marine life in the area, including the critically rare Chinese white dolphin.

Some have argued the bridge was not needed, with other well-established transportation links existing.

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