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New road, tunnel to shave travel time to airport

By: By Bill Charles

Date Posted: 2011-03-24

The finishing touches are being applied to a new three-kilometer stretch of highway and a tunnel beneath Naha harbor that will trim travel time from downtown Naha City to Naha International Airport.

A work in progress since 1992, this section of new road and tunnel linking the airport and Wakasa district of Naha City, adjacent to Tomari Grand Bridge, is only a few weeks away from completion. The project is part of a much larger road construction program that will ultimately stretch 50 kilometers from Yomitan Village to Itoman City.

The tunnel stretches some 800 meters under the ocean, reducing the traffic-congested drive from downtown Naha City to the airport by an estimated 8-10 minutes. The massive tunnel element has free standing buildings on each side of the harbor. One tower is filled with air control systems to ventilate the tunnel, while the other has emergency pump systems to evacuate water in event of flooding or typhoons.

The entire project is being built piecemeal, as funds are available. A stretch of new highway along the coast behind Camp Kinser is nearly complete, although it doesnít connect with anyplace yet. Ultimately the highway from the tunnel north side, that opens to Wakasa within the next several months, will connect to the road along Camp Kinser, then to a bridge linking to the Ginowan bypass and the Okinawa Convention Center. Construction where it will rejoin Highway 58 by Camp Foster is to begin shortly, widening the road to Kadena Air Base.

The Naha West Coast Road will connect to Urasoe City, Irijima industrial area near Camp Kinser, the Okinawa Convention Center, Chatan Town and Kadena Town. The major construction is projected to begin in the coming three years. The new route will permit a smooth flow of traffic in the Hamby Town and American Village areas, all the way up Highway 58 to Route 23.

South National Road Office Vice Director Isamu Komesu tells Japan Update the project is moving smoothly to date.

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