July 17, 2000
Out of control Japanese Public

Out of control Japanese Public Projects:

Edogawa is the home of the Shinkawa parking garage, and if parking garages were cathedrals, this would be their Notre Dame.

It took four years and $130-million to build. Ultrasonic sensors tell staff which of the 250 spots are filled. Carbon-dioxide monitors ensure that the air is clean. A digital sound system fills the space with pleasant orchestral music. The men's and women's bathrooms are spotless.

To top it all, the whole thing is underwater. To save on land costs, officials dammed and drained a river, drove pilings into its bed, built the garage and then filled the river back up again.


But, like the Shinkawa parking garage, many public-works projects are underused.

Take the Akashi Kaikyo bridge that links the city of Kobe to Awaji Island. When it was finished in 1998, it became the world's longest suspension bridge. But it carries no more than 4,000 cars a day, a 10th the number forecast by planners.

Then there is the Aqualine Expressway, the world's longest underwater highway tunnel. It traverses Tokyo Bay and cost $16-billion. Despite amenities that include restaurants, cafes, gift shops and, yes, a parking garage, many motorists shun it because of the high toll: $45 for a 15-minute ride.

Or consider the spectacular new toll highway that runs through Kagoshima prefecture. It, too, is a marvel of engineering skill, but most motorists stay away. The reason: the older highway that runs parallel is free.

Posted by Bill Stilwell at July 17, 2000 12:00 AM
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