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 New York City 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!

Sister Lucy Ferguson / Denmark Copenhagen Mission

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 many factors complicating their efforts. Between the two cities lay five miles of rough seas, where ice floes could get caught on any bridge and block the heavily trafficked trade route. Plus, the water was very deep.

Scoundrelgeo / Wikimedia

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 joint 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) should take priority.

Sendelbach / Wikimedia

Finally, in 1991, the two governments agreed on a bridge between Malmö and Copenhagen, and a Danish engineering and consulting  group known as COWI started developing a bridge. No one could have guessed how spectacular the end result would be.

Cambel Europa

With each country owning a 50 percent stake, construction lasted about five years. There were plenty of setbacks along the way—like the discovery of 16 active bombs on the sea floor—but eventually, engineers finished what they now call the Øresund Bridge.

The bridge starts in Malmö and connects to pylons raised with steel cables. Parts of the bridge were built on dry land and then brought to location by a barge and crane. This thing is way more complicated than it looks!

Beneath four lanes of road span train tracks across a second, lower level of the bridge. The train travels up to 120 miles per hour, making it a perfect commuting option and a great way to facilitate travel between Denmark and Sweden. Amazingly, this isn’t the craziest part of it.

From Malmö, 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 plant and 12 kinds of birds. But wait a second…

Martin Kunzendorf

If this bridge was designed to connect Sweden and Denmark, you could hardly say mission accomplished if the construction ended on an uninhabited island miles off the Copenhagen coast, right? But that’s why this bridge is truly spectacular.

From Peberholm, the roadway literally disappears into the sea! From an aerial view, you can see just how bizarre that looks; one second, there’s a bridge, and in the next, there isn’t. So where’d it go?

The road actually descends into Drogden Tunnel! For over two-and-a-half miles, the tunnel permits under-sea travel from Pebeholm 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 a seabed trench. Five individual tubes comprise the Drogden interior: two for traffic, two for trains, and one for emergencies.

David van Keulen / Flickr

The tunnel allows ice floes 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!

Jens Cederskjold / Wikimedia

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.

Corriere

Due to the migrant crisis in Europe, however, both nations committed to stronger security measures and started regularly checking passports in both directions. Still, the bridge has so far had undeniable beneficial impacts for both countries.

Dagens

At first, travel between the two nations didn’t increase at the anticipated rate, but authorities chalked that up to high toll prices. Eventually, however, more Danish people bought homes in Malmö, a much more affordable place to live. From there, they commuted daily.

Johan Nilsson

But the economic advantages were only one factor in why the governments committed to the Øresund Bridge. Another reason? They wanted to nurture a united feeling between the nations.

The Irish Times

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!

Johan Nilsson / The Local Sweden

Will the Øresund Bridge make it into future conversations about man-made wonders of the world? It shows that European countries really are forward-thinking when it comes to traveling!

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