The Longest Bridge Over Water: Lake Pontchartrain Causeway

In the 1940s and 1950s, as New Orleans expanded, it faced a problem – access to the north of the city. Whether people were heading north or traveling south towards New Orleans, there was one major obstacle in their way: Lake Pontchartrain.

To solve this problem, plans were put in place to create a direct connection across the center of the lake. The Louisiana Bridge Company was established in 1955 to undertake the construction project. In an impressive feat, the first two-lane span of the causeway was built in just 14 months and opened in 1956, spanning a total length of 23.86 miles.

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is such a long bridge that motorists lose sight of land for an eight-mile stretch. It has even been known for drivers to freeze out of some kind of false seaborne fear, at which point the police have to escort them off the bridge. In fact, babies have been born on the causeway when their mothers didn’t make it to the hospital on the other side. And believe it or not, an airplane once ran out of gas over the lake and safely landed on the bridge!

As the years went by, the causeway gained popularity, with daily traffic exceeding 5,300 vehicles a decade after the completion of the first bridge. Plans were then made to expand the causeway by building a second two-lane span parallel to the original. The second bridge opened in 1969, situated about 84 feet away from the original.

While the second span was only slightly longer than the original, it caught the attention of the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest bridge over water. The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway held this prestigious record unchallenged until 2011.

In July 2011, the newly completed Jiaozhou Bay Bridge in China was declared the longest bridge over water by Guinness. With a total length of 26.5 miles, it was undeniably longer than the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. However, loyal supporters of the causeway were quick to point out that the criteria used by Guinness included land bridges at the ends of the main bridge and an undersea tunnel. These elements were clearly not “over water.”

To resolve the controversy, Guinness wisely decided to create two new categories. The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway became the “longest bridge over water (continuous),” while the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge was named the “longest bridge over water (aggregate).” Although the Jiaozhou Bay Bridge has since been dethroned by the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, which opened in October 2018, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway still holds the title for the world’s longest bridge continuously over water, more than 60 years after the completion of its original span.

So, the next time you find yourself driving across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, take a moment to appreciate its impressive length and the remarkable stories that have unfolded on its surface.