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Coastal bypass altered by funding cutbacks

Date Posted: 2007-03-22

A new Yomitan Village to Itoman coastal highway is being battered by Japanese budget cuts, and area residents are irritated.

The planned Kadena bypass to the 50 kilometers long highway is being forced to modify the design, taking it away from the coast to a more inland route. The 3.2km stretch will wind through Yomitan Village’s Furugen, Toguchi, and Kadena Mizugama areas, forcing demolition of dozens of homes and businesses.

Kadena area residents are upset, saying the changes being forced upon them mean moving houses, schools, vacations and the very essence of their lives. They say the move to a land-based roadway will mean increased noise and traffic pollution.

Officials say the Kadena bypass was agreed to in 1996, and ¥36.5 billion allocated in funding. The town was notified last year that the money was not forthcoming, thanks to implementation of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Trinity Reform Program, which shifted responsibility for much budget funding down to local levels.

Switching to the land-based route will cost ¥26.5 billion, a savings of ten billion yen.

Kadena Town Mayor Tokujitsu Miyagi says he had “agreed to go with the ocean plan, but now I’m ready to ask my members and residents what to do now.” He says “we can’t accept this changing plan”, and Mizugama area residents are voicing strong opposition.

“I have been living in this house for years,” said one resident. “I don’t want to leave this place.”

Mizugama area would lose 50 homes due to the construction, raising the question of where people would move. Nearly 83% of Kadena Town is occupied by the American military’s Kadena Air Base, leaving little land available for new development.

“What about my children and their schools,” asks another soon to be displaced Mizugama resident. “What about the school areas? Will they be far away, or will my children have to move to new schools.” The residents met earlier this month to discuss options, but are now watching the mayor to see how he challenges the government decisions.

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