Japan’s Dinosaur Shaped Bridge
Tokyo’s new “Dinosaur Bridge” will open to vehicles this weekend. The bridge, whose official name is the Tokyo Gate Bridge is a four-lane road bridge that links the city to a man-made island in Tokyo Bay that has become the location for a huge container port. Government officials were spurred on to do something about the city’s traffic congestion problem after Tokyo lost out on the award of the Olympics (2016) and the existing road infrastructure was criticised by the International Olympic Committee.
The bridge has got its unusual nickname due to the shape of its support structures, they resemble two large dinosaurs facing off at each other. At more than one and a half miles long and weighing in excess of 36,000 Tonnes this ten-year man-made construction puts even the biggest dinosaurs in the shade.
Officials hope that the new bridge will cut driving time from the city to the container port by nearly half and the bridge is forecast to carry something like 32,000 vehicles a day. This development is just one of a number of new construction projects the Japanese Government has planned to help tackle the congestion caused by Japan’s rising urban population.
The rather unconventional design for the bridge has come about as far as we at Everything Dinosaur can understand, because of three major considerations the architects had to take into account. Firstly, a suspension bridge was ruled out as it would have been too high causing problems for planes coming in and out of the nearby Haneda airport. Secondly, the bridge’s design had to be strong enough to withstand the shock waves and forces that occur during an earthquake. Thirdly, the bridge has to permit the passage of large container ships underneath it. This led to the final design described by observers as two dinosaurs facing off against each other.
The architects have certainly produced a radical looking bridge, one that incorporates the very latest in bridge design technology. These metal monsters would not look out of place in a Godzilla movie. A film franchise that originated in Japan and remains one of the country’s biggest film franchise successes to date.
Sauropod dinosaurs may not have been particularly fast but with their huge, column-like legs they were at least very stable, although just how “Earthquake proof” a sauropod such as Diplodocus or Apatosaurus was; is hard to judge given the fact that we have only their body and trace fossils to go on.
Ironically, sauropods have a second link with bridge construction. A number of diplodocids have been described as having the “anatomy of a suspension bridge” with their long necks, long tails and bodies supported by four massive legs. The new bridge built at a cost of something like 140 billion yen represents a considerable investment, although the improvements in travel times and the reduction in congestion will provide a welcome boost to the nation’s economy.
Local construction company Kawada Industries spent two years building the dinosaur-shaped supports for the Tokyo Gate Bridge. According to a company spokesperson, three super-sized cranes were used to position the road sections onto the support structures – a nerve racking experience for the construction crews as one mistake could have led to whole portions of the new build being dropped into the bay.
The bridge also incorporates a walkway for pedestrians, and officials are hoping the unusual prehistoric animal shaped bridge will help to encourage tourism in the area. Sight seeing cruise ships have reported that tickets for boat trips around the Tokyo Gate have been selling very well. Whether or not this construction will become as well-known as some of the dinosaurs it is supposed to resemble remains to be seen.
One cruise ship operator seems to have got confused over the prehistoric animal connection. In a press interview the president of Zeal Cruises stated:
“We want overseas tourists to come and see Japan’s new mammoth bridge.”
Now a bridge with large tusks, small ears and a long, shaggy coat – that would be a tourist attraction!