Debuting its latest modern marvel, China has opened the world's longest sea bridge, a 26.4 mile-long structure that could easily span the length of the English Channel.

Expanding across the wide blue waters of Jiaozhou bay, the vast Y-shaped bridge connects the Northern port city of Qingdao with an airport built on a nearby island and the industrial suburb of Huangdao. The bridge halves the journey time to the other side of the bay, making it just 30 minutes.

The first motorists to drive onto the six-lane bridge will have a free journey. For the first month, cars can plow the 110ft-wide highway across the bay free of charge, but after that, a trip on the bridge will cost 50 yuan ($7.75 USD).

City officials predict that within a few months, around 30,000 cars will cross each day.

Built in just 4 years at a cost reported by the Chinese state media yesterday as $2.27 billion, the bridge stands on 5,200 pillars and was entirely designed by Chinese engineers at the Shandong Gausu Group. Over 10,000 workers in two teams worked around the clock to build the bridge, constructing from opposite sides of the bay and linking the two ends together in the middle.

It is a magnificent and very advanced bridge, said Li Qun, the local Communist party secretary, at the opening ceremony. It is another stepping stone in the city's smooth and rapid development.

The bridge beat out the current Guinness World Record-holder, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana, by at least 2 ½ miles.

However, it will be eclipsed in 2016 by another Chinese bridge, a 30-mile long connection being built to link Hong Kong with Macau and Guangdong province.