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A Tokyo section of the Gaikando expressway will run through a tunnel more than 40 meters underground, transport minister Chikage Ogi said Friday.

The transport ministry and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government have agreed to the plan, Ogi said, adding that 55 percent of residents surveyed also gave their approval.

The government hopes to reflect the views of local residents when constructing interchanges and other infrastructure, she said.

The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry and the metropolitan government began working on details of the subterranean project in January.

The Gaikando, an 86-km expressway running in a roughly 15-km radius of central Tokyo, will form the third circular expressway in the metropolitan area. The planned tunnel will be 16 meters in diameter.

A 30-km stretch in Saitama Prefecture is already in use and a 20-km stretch in Chiba Prefecture is slated for completion in 2007, but the remaining two sections in Tokyo are still being argued over.

The underground plan has been proposed for one of the two Tokyo sections — a 16-km stretch between Nerima Ward and Setagaya Ward, Ogi said.

Under the agreement struck Thursday, the six-lane Nerima-Setagaya section will be connected to the Kanetsu, Chuo and Tomei expressways, ministry and metropolitan officials said.

The transport ministry and the metropolitan government put off a decision on whether to connect the Gaikando to the national road grid, citing a lack of agreement with municipalities, the officials said.

The metropolitan government hopes to connect the Gaikando with Ome Kaido and other major thoroughfares to ease traffic in central and western Tokyo. Ministry officials left room for negotiations, saying they will make a decision after studying the wishes of the affected communities.

The project, originally envisioned as an elevated road, has been frozen for more than 30 years in the face of objections over expected noise and air pollution.

Under the initial plan, 3,010 houses needed to be bulldozed. The underground plan reduces the number to 480.

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