Which City Has the Most Bridges in the World?
Which city has the most bridges in the world, you ask? Well, what even is a bridge? Does a log felled over a stream qualify? Probably not, hopefully you get our point. What counts as a bridge isn’t a question with an immediately obvious answer. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for instance has long claimed to have the most bridges in the world and calls itself the City of Bridges; but why, when you compare its 446 bridges with New York City’s 789? One engineer claims that we should be counting only “carefully designed bridges of significance,” which maybe gives Pittsburgh an edge over NYC.
How bridges are counted matters for a number of reasons. The United States government will spend $27 billion repairing bridges in 5 years. California is expected to get $4.2 billion, and you bet Pittsburgh
will take the lion’s share. However, this isn’t the only city in the world with a considerable bridge maintenance budget. Let’s look at five cities that have lots of bridges, both within and beyond city limits.
Seattle, United States-124
Though Washington doesn’t top the list for most bridges, the state certainly has a unique collection of historic bridges, which counts for something if we’re considering both quantity and quality. Seattle has the most bridges in Washington, totaling about 124. The West Seattle Bridge was famously upgraded 1984 for efficient passing of ships through the Duwamish Waterway. And this updated bridge was then renamed the Jeanette Williams Memorial Bridge in 2009 to honor councilmember Williams. She played a pivotal role in securing political support for the bridge’s construction. The bridge was unfortunately closed in March 2020 due to cracks. Rehabilitation will complete by 2060 and is projected to cost about $107 million.
Another important bridge to note is the 1911 Arboretum Sewer Trestle, which made it onto the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1982 and is also a city landmark. Though it was constructed to house a sewer line that needed to run across Washington Park, one citizen, in a letter to the city noted that the bridge was beautiful and a “very much greater thing than the sewer itself, in every way.”
The Italian City of Venice has over 150 canals within city limits, necessitating 391 bridges. Historically, Italians built their bridges simply using wood laid flat across canals. However, they later learned that boats were more efficient and changed the bridge designs to include archways that would allow boats to pass through.
Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the 391 bridges. Construction was completed in 1591, after three years of work. 6,000 timber piles support the stone-arch bridge. As a result, people view it as an architectural and engineering achievement of the renaissance.
Ponte dei Pugni is one of the most famous bridges in Venice, and comes with a fascinating 17th-century history. Throughout the 1600’s the bridge played host to the “War of the Fists,” where rival clans got together to fight with their fists. Losers would be plunged into the water underneath the bridge, hence the name Ponte dei Pugni (the Bridge of Fists).
New York, United States- 789
Pittsburgh has 446 bridges, while New York has 789. So, why isn’t New York nicknamed the City of Bridges? It’s pretty simple. Besides the fact that “the Big Apple” is catchier, people base the comparison on bridges found within city limits. If we were just counting bridges in Manhattan, then the number would be smaller.
The New York City Department of Transportation owns, operates, and manages these 789 bridges and tunnels. And while it’s almost impossible for locals and tourists to know all these bridges, you should know those with cultural and historical significance. The Brooklyn Bridge is the most famous. Construction was completed in 1883, after 14 years of construction. Developers spent $320 million in today’s dollars. Unfortunately, they lost about two dozen lives, including the original designers. The bridge made history as the first steel suspension bridge with the longest span globally, 1,600 feet from tower to tower. Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge is also famous as the busiest bridge in New York, supporting over 5,000 cyclists, 145,500 vehicles, and 1,900 pedestrians daily.
Like Venice, Amsterdam has several canals that need bridges for connectivity. The city reportedly has 165 canals, served with 1,281 bridges. These bridges are rich in history, thanks to the historical significance of the canals. The Canal Ring (Grachtengordel), for example, has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 2010. Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) is Amsterdam’s most iconic bridge, having been featured in numerous films. The Torensluis Bridge is the oldest and widest bridge, completed in 1648 and still in its original state. Python Bridge is worth the visit for modern history. It’s a three-bridge complex constructed in 2001. It won the International Footbridge Award in 2002. Nescio Bridge is the first suspension bridge in the Netherlands, about 10 meters above the water.
Hamburg, Germany- Over 2300
The German city of Hamburg, surrounded by water, necessitates the erection of bridges to ease transport. There are over 2,300 bridges in the city. This is inclusive of bridges without piers and stands. This makes Hamburg the city with the most bridges in the world within city limits.
Hamburg is an important German city with both tourist and historical significance. The Köhlbrandbrücke is an important landmark in the city. The 3,618-meter-long bridge was built in 1974 and is the second-longest road bridge in Germany. The Trostbrücke is the historical bridge of Hamburg. The small stone bridge built in 1881 features Count Adolf III Von Schauenburg and Bishop Ansgar sculptures. Count Von Schauenburg founded Neustädter, the merchant’s district, while Bishop Ansgar founded the Cathedral in the old part of the city. The Trostbrücke, also known as the comfort bridge, is historically significant. It was the last place for comfort for the accused while on their way to trial at the town hall.