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From Value One, Autumn 2009, No. 26  

View from one of the 300-meter-high main towers (Awaji Island is seen close at hand.)

Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the world. This ultralong bridge linking Kobe and Awaji Island was completed in 1998, taking about 10 years' time and embodying the very best of Japan's bridge building technology. Its center span (the distance between the main towers) is 1,991 meters, surpassing that of the Humber Bridge in the United Kingdom, the longest in the world before the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge was built, by more than 500 meters. Mr. Shinichi Oe, director of the Maintenance Planning Division of Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Expressway Co., Ltd., says, "At the time of its construction, many employees, including myself, joined the company out of enthusiasm for having a part in the construction of the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge. It was an epochal suspension bridge embodying the ultimate in Japan's bridge building technology. I do not think such huge bridges will be built any more."

The unparalleled size of the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge was not the only major challenge its builders faced. They suffered just as much from the severe natural environment of the construction site. In the Akashi Strait linking Osaka Bay and Harima Sea, the current is very fast, and the maximum depth is approximately 110 meters. In addition, a 65-meter overhead clearance needed to be secured to let large passenger ships pass easily underneath the bridge because the site is located on an international sea route. The answer to all these difficult problems was a suspension structure in which the bridge girders would be supported by two main towers and steel cables spanning them.


"Cables are lifelines" for a suspension bridge, according to director Oe. For the cables, high-strength galvanized high-carbon steel wires jointly developed by Nippon Steel Corporation and Kobe Steel, Ltd. were selected. The cables previously chosen for the Great Seto Bridge and other long bridges had a tensile strength of 160 kg per mm2, but cables of 180 kg per mm2 in tensile strength were developed for the first time in the world for use in the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge. As a result, only two such main cables were sufficient for the new bridge instead of the four considered necessary at the time of the initial designing, and this meant substantial savings in terms of cost and construction time.


Mr. Yoshiro Hashida, general manager of the Steel Structure & Sabo Department of Kobe Steel declares, "The technology and know-how we gained through the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge project are Japan's assets." This appreciation is succeeded by the rest of the world through the technology licensed for the construction of the Yeongjong Bridge, completed in 2000 to link Incheon International Airport with Seoul City in South Korea, and other big projects.


A cable is being stretched.



A full-size model of a cable exhibited in front of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge Exhibition Center







.


 
Photo courtesy of Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Expressway Co., Ltd



Akashi Kaikyo Bridge Exhibition Center
4-114, Higashi Maiko-cho, Tarumi-ku, Kobe-shi
Tel: +81-78-784-3339
Hours: 9:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (closes at 4:30 p.m. from December through February), closed on Mondays
Admission: ¥200 for adults, ¥100 for elementary and junior high school students

The center span of the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge was at first designed to be 1,990 meters. However, it was extended approximately one meter because the Kobe earthquake of 1995 struck during the bridge's construction and invited crustal disturbances, which in turn dislocated the positions of the main towers. Episodes of the construction process like this one as well as outlines of the design and technology embodied in the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge can be discovered at the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge Exhibition Center located at the starting point on the Kobe side. The center provides an "experience tour" (reservation needed for participation), including an opportunity to go up one of the 300-meter-high main towers on weekends and other holidays. Participants can see with their own eyes how big the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge is.

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