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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — In a little more than a year or so, you won’t have to leave the base to get to Camp Foster.

The new timetable for completing a tunnel connecting the two separate sections of this centrally located Marine base calls for work to be done in March 2005.

The $18 million project is well under way, said Phil Kimball Jr., a civil engineer in the Facilities Engineer Division in the Public Works Branch of Marine bases on Okinawa. Some early construction delays have been resolved; the project completion date has been pushed back from next fall to March 31, 2005.

The project’s tab is being picked up by Japan’s Defense Facilities Administration under the Japan Facilities Improvement Program.

Motorists now must leave one side of the base and drive a short stretch of Highway 330 to enter a gate to the other half. But the tunnel will move traffic from the apartment towers on Camp Foster’s Kishaba side under four lanes of busy Highway 330. It will come out near the rear of the base exchange area.

It should cut the number of Y-plated or U.S.-owned cars on the busy highway during rush-hour traffic, Kimball said.

The tunnel will join the area containing Kishaba family housing, the Marine headquarters building and Kubasaki High School to the main base. It will accommodate two lanes of traffic, a bicycle path and pedestrian sidewalks.

In the coming decade, the Futenma Housing Area, at the rear of the exchange, will be redeveloped with new multiplex housing, a new hospital and middle school, base officials have said.

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