Inside Tsugaru Strait Tunnel: The $7 Billion Construction Project In Japan

The futuristic country Japan is once again taking into consideration the construction of a 31 km tunnel that would costs about $7 billion. The so-called Tsugaru Strait Tunnel Project will be an underground tunnel structure connecting the main land of Japan to the northern region Hokkaido. Although there is already one tunnel called Seikan Tunnel in place that is serving the same purpose, the said tunnel only caters to trains only.

The proposed second Seikan Tunnel would be able to hold both trucks and cars. The need for building another tunnel is pretty much because the project would allow auto traffic between Honshu and Hokkaido. Take a peek at the $7 billion underwater tunnel to be build in Japan.

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The Idea Behind The $7 Billion Tunnel

The idea of the tunnel project called Tsugaru Strait Tunnel Project is to connect Japan’s main island of Honshu to the north of Hokkaido. The project has gained its momentum after years of being considered as an unfeasible project. It will be a complement project to the already existing rail-only tunnel called Seikan.

The undersea tunnel will be about 31 kilometres long and would costs around 720 billion yen or almost $7 billion. It might also costs more than just $7 billion since the price projection does not include tunnel exits and links to the existing highways and rail lines yet.

The scheme in building a tunnel under the Tsugaru Strait has been planned over the last decade. The plan was to build a two-deck construction with the top level being the road for the self-driving vehicles while the bottom level is for the freight trains. The vehicles which are not equipped for self-driving would need to ride on a flatbed trucks.

The Transport Minister of Japan Kazuyoshi Akaba has confirmed that they are still awaiting the go signal for the project. The monumental undertaking would test the engineering ability of Japan as they build the multibillion worth tunnel. The same team who took over one of the world’s longest and deepest tunnels, Seikan Tunnel, will be handling the project as well.

Just like when they were building the Seikan Tunnel, they would be facing the same budget constraints and labor shortages while building the gigantic project. The said problems have hindered the other Japanese infrastructure projects that took over in the recent years.

The Economic Benefits Of Project

Hokkaido is the only remaining big island in Japan that was not linked to the Honshu through a bridge. Because of this, cars and trucks cannot pass through the only for bullet and freight trains, the Seikan Tunnel. The tunnel would be build for about 15 years starting from the initial surveys until the tunnel completion.

Despite some of the foreseeable hurdles, the people behind the project believe that the tunnel would produce economic benefits as they would enormously cut the transport costs while also boosting the movement of the people as well as the Japanese goods. After all, the project was a well thought of project as noted by the visiting professor at the Hokkaido University Public Policy School named Yoshiharu Ishii.

The construction costs would be recovered in the total of 32 years in the estimate of just 1.16% interest rate on the loan project. It was believed that the economic benefits of the tunnel would be about 87.8 billion yen a year which is about $642 million.

These include all the agricultural shipments from Hokkaido since it is one of the biggest farming regions in the country with shipments of 600,000 tons that could generate a total of $300 million of economic value. The proposed toll fees for the usage of the tunnel would be about $175 for large vehicles and $65 for cars. With the assumption of daily traffic of 3,600 trucks and 1,650 cars passing by through the tunnel, it would be viable to recover the costs in the estimated time.

Aside from helping the agricultural aspect of the area, it is believed that the tourism in Hokkaido would also increase in the area. Since Hokkaido is about 1,150 km away from Tokyo, a lot of tourists do not bother coming to the area anymore. The estimate increase to attract massive amount of tourism is projected to yield about $400 million in total earnings.

A Tunnel That Can Withstand The Biggest Of Disasters

The tunnel that would constructed is said to be the most stable tunnel to be build with the vision of overcoming several challenges such as major floods. Since the technology has come a long way since the last tunnel was built, the said forecast is definitely possible.

With the construction of the Tsugaru Strait Tunnel Project, the bottleneck would be relieved for the bullet train service linking Tokyo and the northern island, the Hokkaido Shinkansen. The ongoing construction of the tunnel would be comparable to the ongoing construction of a magnetic levitation railroad between Nagoya and Tokyo in terms of scale and difficulty.

The effort on building the tunnel has been stalled due to the dispute between the local governments over the effects on the rocks underwater.

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Sources: Asia Nikkei, Tunnels Online, Seetao

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