For the last several years, the center lanes of Tsuchiura-Gakuen Sen to the east of Higashi Odori and Chuo Dori to the west of that same road have been closed for the construction of a tunnel between the two. The purpose of this new addition to Tsukuba's road system is to improve traffic flow by allowing cars coming from Tsuchiura to approach the bus center without going through 4 lights and a couple of turns. Likewise, cars can return the same route and save a few seconds on what it otherwise would be.
Present traffic conditions would not seem to warrant the great expense that was incurred to build this tunnel. Thus, the rationale for this tunnel was not the present needs but the presumed future needs that relate to the building of the new train line to Tokyo. The Joban Shinsen was originally envisioned to be complete by the beginning of the new century, but the schedule has had to be put back by several years due to the economic downturn and other such problems. A good bid to the basic construction has been completed or is underway particularly from Moriya on into to Tokyo, but nothing has yet started in or near Tsukuba. The completion date now being given is 2005, but, of course, that is certainly not a sure thing.
The line is to run between Akihabara in Tokyo (where the underground tunnels have been under construction for several years already) and Tsukuba, with the end of the line being an underground station planned where the tennis courts are between the bus terminal and Azuma elementary school. When it is finally completed, one should be able to zip into central Tokyo from downtown Tsukuba in 45 minutes, which, depending on your perspective, will either be a blessing or a curse. This will certainly make a trip into Tokyo very convenient and easy, but that convenience will also bring a lot more people to Tsukuba and make things more crowded.
This brings us back to the apparent pork barrel project. Viewed in the light of the future, the new tunnel make a good bit more sense, as it will prevent a lot of traffic from congesting the Higashi Odori - Tsuchiura-Gakuen Sen intersection as traffic flows from the east into the station complex.
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