Istanbul (Reuters) — President Tayyip Erdogan opened a massive suspension bridge across Turkey’s Dardanelles Strait on Friday, the latest in a series of major infrastructure projects which he has prioritized during his two decades in power.
Connecting Turkey’s European and Asian shores, the 1915 Canakkale Bridge was built by Turkish and South Korean firms with an investment of €2.5 billion ($2.8 billion). It has the longest main span — the distance between the two towers — of any suspension bridge in the world.
Such mega projects have been central to Erdogan’s achievements since his AK Party first came to power in 2002, including a new Istanbul airport, rail and road tunnels beneath Istanbul’s Bosphorus strait, and a bridge over it.
“These works will continue to provide profit for the state for many years,” Erdogan said at an opening ceremony on the anniversary of a 1915 Ottoman naval victory against French and British forces in the Dardanelles during World War One.
“These projects have a large share in putting our country ahead in investment, workforce and exports,” he said.
Last year he launched what he previously called his “crazy project”: a $15 billion canal in Istanbul intended to relieve pressure on the busy Bosphorus Strait. However critics have questioned the project’s viability given Turkey’s economic woes, environmental risks and public opposition.
It is the fourth bridge linking the European and Asian shores in Turkey, alongside the three built in Istanbul.
Its towers are 318 meters (347.8 yards) high and the total length of the bridge is 4.6 km (2.9 miles) including the approach viaducts.