Marines christen new Camp Hansen gate complex meant to alleviate Okinawa traffic
Stars and Stripes March 22, 2023
CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa – The Marine Corps dedicated a new main gate complex here Wednesday, marking the end of a massive construction project expected to relieve traffic on one of Okinawa’s busiest thoroughfares.
The $123 million Gate 1 complex, which includes a guard shack, pass-and-ID office, a bridge over an 80-foot ravine, and north and southbound overpasses, directly connects Camp Hansen to the Okinawa Expressway via the Kin Interchange, Maj. Zachary Leuthardt, a spokesman for Marine Corps Installations Pacific, said in an email March 16.
The new gate is expected to take as many as 4,000 cars per day off the congested Route 329, Leuthardt said. The gate officially opens at 6 a.m. Friday.
“The completion of the new main gate project was a long-cherished wish for the Kin town community,” Isao Ono, director of the Okinawa Defense Bureau, said through a translator Wednesday. “From now on, the ongoing traffic congestion of National Highway 329 is expected to be relieved.”
The bureau represents Japan’s Defense Ministry on the island.
Hansen’s new Gate 1 was the result of a May 2018 agreement between the U.S. and Japanese governments, after local leaders requested a solution to the traffic plaguing Kin town, a bureau spokesman told Stars and Stripes by phone Monday.
Congestion on Route 329 was exacerbated by traffic flowing on and off Hansen, along with an influx of local construction vehicles to improvement projects on the installation.
Construction began in July 2020 and was completed in January, the bureau spokesman said. Some government officials in Japan are required to speak to the media only on condition of anonymity.
The Japanese government funded most of the project; the U.S. government covered the cost of components such as cameras and furniture at the gate complex, Leuthardt said.
On Wednesday, about 125 Marines, Japanese government officials and invited guests gathered at the gate complex for the dedication ceremony.
Ono touted the spirit of cooperation between the Marine Corps and local community.
Maj. Gen. Stephen Liszewski, head of the installations command, said the project would relieve traffic congestion and shave 15-20 minutes from the morning commute for local construction workers trying to get on base.
“This is the kind of mutually beneficial development that we owe the communities we serve together,” he said, calling the complex both “impressive” and “beautiful.”
A member of Japan’s House of Representatives, Aiko Shimajiri, joined Ono, Camp Hansen commander Col. Richard Martin, Kin Mayor Hajime Nakama and Joseph Scala, Hansen camp director, to cut a ribbon stretched across the road.
“This will bring joy to the local people,” Shimajiri said.
Stars and Stripes reporter Keishi Koja contributed to this report.