HARBIN, May 31 (Xinhua) -- Two sides of the first highway bridge connecting China and Russia across the Heilongjiang River were joined together on Friday.
Measuring 1,284 meters long and 14.5 meters wide, the bridge across the Heilongjiang River, known in Russia as the Amur River, stretches from Heihe, a border city in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, to the Russian city of Blagoveshchensk.
It is a key part of a 19.9 km-long highway project that links Jilin-Heilongjiang expressway in China and a highway in Blagoveshchensk. An estimated 2.47 billion yuan (about 358 million U.S. dollars) will be spent on the whole project, with 566 million yuan from China and 1.9 billion yuan from Russia.
To ensure project quality, steel girders that withstand as low as minus 60 degrees Celsius were used by Chinese and Russian builders in the frigid region, together with 60,000 sets of steel bolts with high weatherability.
Green ideas have been practiced in designing and construction of the bridge to minimize the impact on the river's ecosystem.
Huang Yunyong, general manager of a China-Russia joint venture for the project, said that they had purchased fish fry and released them into the upper river. Environmental protection authorities will strictly monitor the water quality and the survival of fish stocks during spawning season.
The joint venture takes charge of construction management, operation and maintenance of the bridge, and tolling to return loans.
Heihe and Blagoveshchensk face each other across the Heilongjiang River. As China opens its door wider to the world, the two cities see more vibrant people-to-people exchange and trade ties.
However, the construction of cross-border infrastructure between China and Russia has long lagged behind, a bottleneck obstructing the accelerated growth of bilateral trade.
The highway bridge was first proposed by China and Russia in 1988. Construction of the bridge began in December 2016, and is expected to complete in October.
With the help of the bridge, the passenger flow between the two cities is expected to reach 1.4 million by 2020, triple the current figure. Cargo volume will see a 10-fold increase to 3 million tonnes.
Shunxing economic and trade Co. Ltd. in Heihe is engaged in vegetable and fruit exports to Russia. Its goods are transported by ferry in summer and via a floating bridge in winter.
The company's general manager Shi Liwen said there were always a few months in a year that their cargo could not be transported due to bad weather. When the bridge opens, their business will not be affected by seasons and the goods going through the customs clearance will increase.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of China-Russia diplomatic ties.
Sergey V. Chernenko, Russian consul general in Shenyang, said the bridge would serve as a new international highway corridor, which can increase the connectivity of Chinese and Russian cities and promote cultural and economic exchanges.
Trade volume between China and Russia exceeded 100 billion U.S. dollars by mid-December 2018, a record high, according to the Ministry of Commerce.
Song Kui, president of the Contemporary China-Russia Regional Economy Research Institute in Heilongjiang, said the bridge would further strengthen economic and trade cooperation between Russian Far East and China's northeastern provinces, boost China's investment in Russia, and inject new vitality to China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination.
A cross-border economic cooperation zone will be established to meet the growing needs of trade between China and Russia, and form a new pattern of all-round opening up for both sides, according to Qin Enting, Communist Party chief of Heihe city.