Today, on the 5th October, our first company visit was at Metropolitan Expressway Company Limited, or as the Japanese call it Shutoko.
Shutoko is the owner of all the expressways(in Dutch: autowegen) in the metropole of Tokyo and is founded in 1959 with the purpose to built and maintain expressways in Tokyo for the 1964 Olympics. During the years the network of expressways Shutoko has built and has to maintain has increased, as for now they maintain around 320km and at the moment they are constructing 20km of expressway.
Maintenance of the expressways is very hard. Because unlike in the Netherlands, different traffic flows as train, metro, local traffic and traffic on the expressways are all on an different level. It is not weird if you walk around in Tokyo and you see three levels of roads above you.
The high density of Tokyo is the cause of this problem. The expressway had to be constructed above other roads and rivers because the rest of the space is covered by skyscrapers. Besides that, also the short time span in which all the expressways had to built around 1960 causes a lot of problems now a days. The roads are small with a high amount of corners causing a lot of congestion, furthermore this has also influence on the time in which emergency vehicles can get to their destination and sage people’s lives.
To solve the problem of the high roads Shutoko constructed some tunnels, one of these tunnels is the Yamata tunnel which is 35m under the ground. However, the tunnel had to be connected to the other expressways that are 35m above ground. For this reason Shutoko constructed the Ohasi junction. With this junction the expressways are connected and the distance of 70m between them is covered. This junction can be seen in picture enlarged.
Besides constructing and maintaining the road, Shutoko also performs traffic management. Shutoko relies on three pillars; safety, reliability and comfort.
To help expressway users a safe, reliable and comfort trip Shutoko makes use of matrixboards to inform road users about the situation on the road and possible congestion. This system had been optimized over a long time. At the moment the process of collecting, processing and provision of data is done in about 2,5 minutes. This means the information for road users is very accurate.
The collection, processing and provision of the data is done both automatically as manually. We were shown around in the control room where all the data was provided on a big screen and employees of Shutoko were analyzing data.
Besides employees of Shutoko, also employees of the police, fire department and hospital where in the control room. The reason for this was, by shorting these lines, being much faster in making decisions and taking action in case of an incident. Peculiar regarding this was the need of the police to block a road, because, although Shutoko is the owner of the road they still need permission of the police to (partially) block it.
After all we learned a lot at the company visit and gained some nice insight in the work of Shutoko on both construction management and traffic management.