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Monorail system extension narrows to two new routes

Date Posted: 2006-12-08

A decision on expanding the Okinawa monorail system is inching closer as a group of experts identifies two potential new expansion lines.

The conference involving Okinawa Prefecture, the central government in Tokyo, and Naha City, brought together experts in transportation systems and community promotions. The meeting at Harborview Hotel was the second involving monorail system expansion studies. The Okinawa Urban Monorail Extension Examination Committee, headed by Ryukyu University professor Kiyoshi Uehara, fielded a half-dozen ideas proposed at the initial conference last year.

The committee delved deep into the details of issues raised at the earlier conference, studying budget requirements for expansions, identifying areas, which need the added transportation resources, and how convenience and economics can be blended together. They also studied the issue of how quickly new routes could be added.

The leading candidates for a route expansion are Urasoe City and Nishihara. A proposed line from Okinawa Kokusai Center to the Urasoe-Nishihara Line has drawn high marks from the committee, which calculated town promotion, urban planning, housing and a station site. The area has a combined population of 29,100. Planners estimate constructing the new line would cost ¥31,300,000,000, but the question looming now is how much Urasoe City can put in its budget to help pay for it.

A second route being considered is through Route 82 to connect with Naha Expressway Interchange. While a popular concept, the Naha Interchange Proposal is fraught with problems. To build it, the current Shuri Monorail Station would have to be destroyed and rebuilt. There’s also little housing along the route, raising the question of how many patrons the monorail line would draw.

The committee is meeting again in January, and says it hopes to make a decision then on which route to endorse.

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