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May 1998

World's Longest Suspension Bridge Opens

The world's longest suspension bridge opened to traffic on April 5, 1998. The 3,911-meter (12,831-feet) Akashi Kaikyo Bridge is 580 meters (1,900 feet) longer than the Humber Bridge in England, the previous record holder.

The bridge across Akashi Strait connects Tarumi Ward in the city of Kobe with Awaji Island, both part of Hyogo Prefecture. Construction began way back in 1988, and it cost nearly 500 billion yen to complete.

Although both Kobe and Awaji were severely damaged in the January 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, the new bridge will be able to withstand even bigger quakes--up to magnitude 8.5 on the Richter scale. It's also built to resist winds as strong as 288 kilometers (179 miles) per hour.

The bridge is part of an expressway link connecting Honshu, Japan's main island, with Shikoku by way of Awaji Island.

A ceremony attended by hundreds of school children was held in mid-March to mark the completion of the bridge. Initially, school kids from both sides of the bridge were supposed to walk across and meet halfway, but this had to be cancelled because of strong winds.

Around 300 students from Higashi Maiko Elementary School in Kobe did get a chance to walk on the bridge for about 500 meters (1,640 feet), though, and kids representing schools in the town of Awaji traveled aboard a bus to meet them. The students shook hands and exchanged gifts.

Tomonori Tamura, a sixth-grader at the Ishiya Elementary School in Awaji, said, "Crossing the bridge was a bit scary because it felt like walking along the edge of a cliff. But I had a great view of the sea."

Photos: (Top) Kids taking a walk on the world's longest suspension bridge (Asahi Shogakusei Shimbun); (above) the islands of Awaji and Honshu are linked at last (Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Authority).

For more about the bridge, link to Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Authority