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Longest suspension bridge opens for traffic in Japan

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The world's longest suspension bridge, Japan's Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, opened for public use on Sunday in western Japan.

The new 2.43-mile bridge spans the Akashi Strait linking Kobe and Awaji Island and has a main span of 1.24 miles, making it the world's longest suspension bridge, Construction Ministry officials said.Prior to its opening, the longest suspension bridge was the Humber Estuary Bridge in Humberside, Britain, with a 4,625-foot main span. The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge is also longer than the 5,330-foot Great Belt East Bridge of Denmark, which is scheduled to open in the near future.

The bridge is the final link in a chain that links all of Japan's four main islands by road, and was built at a site near the epicenter of the Great Hanshin earthquake that leveled the western Japan port city of Kobe in January 1995.

The new bridge's main towers are also the world's tallest, soaring 965 feet above the water.

"Not only the length or height, but also the construction technologies used in this bridge are the top in the world," said a spokesman of the Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Authority, which is responsible for the construction and maintenance of the new bridge.

The bridge was designed to withstand winds of about 180 mph and is built on exceptionally deep foundations, bridge authorities said.

"We built this bridge with new technologies and innovations developed by Japan's top specialists in various industrial and academic fields. Even though the site was near the epicenter of the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995, the bridge was hardly affected by the quake," said Yoshikazu Fujiwara, the president of the Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Authority at the opening ceremony.

The earthquake, which measured 7.2 on the Richter scale, struck while the bridge was under construction but did not cause any damage to the bridge's foundation, bridge authorities said.

The Akashi Kaikyo Bridge is designed to withstand earthquakes of up to 8.5 on the Richter scale.

Bridge construction began in May 1988 and the total construction cost was about $3.7 billion.