New bridge finally links Miyako and Irabu
Nine years in the making, a new bridge connecting Miyako and Irabu Islands is set to open Saturday.
The 6,500 meters bridge project was begun in 2006 to resolve problems faced by residents, while at the same time spurring development of the two islands. The bridge will officially open at 4 p.m. on Jan. 31st, but invited guests will take strolls across the bridge earlier in the afternoon.
The Miyako-Irabu bridge cost ¥39.5 billion to build. The main bridge span is 3,540 meters, while the sections over water encompass 4,310 meters This will be the longest bridge connecting remote islands on Okinawa, while also holding the record as the longest toll-free bridge in the country.
The construction on the bridge started in 2006, and it took about nine years to complete. Toshihiko Shimoji, the mayor of Miyako Island City, says, “this bridge is opening a new vista of making a significant contribution to promotion and improvement of both Miyako and Irabu Islands.
The opening of the new bridge actually connects five islands, and allows traffic to move back and forth. Irabu is the second largest of the Miyako islands, after Miyako Island. Kurima, Ikema, Irabu and Shimoji are now all connected with Miyako.
With the bridge opening, two ferry companies, Miyako Ferry and Hayate Kaiun, are scheduled to finish the regular service between Hirara port on Miyako and Sarahama port on Irabu Island. On January 31st, the final travel of ‘Upuyuu’ Miyako Ferry is 6:45 p.m. from Hirara port to Sarahama port, and ‘Super Liner Hayate’ of Hayate Kaiun is 6:30 p.m. from Hirara port to Sarahama port.