Traffic restrictions lifted on Namie natl highway route(国道114号が自由通行)

Vehicles travel on National Highway Route 114 in a difficult-to-return zone in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture.(帰還困難区域の国道114号を通り抜ける車両=浪江町室原)

 On Sept. 20, the government lifted traffic restrictions on National Highway Route 114 in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, and other roads in areas that were designated as difficult-to-return zones following the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.'s Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant.
 Unrestricted traffic on these roads resumed for the first time in 6.1/2 years, since April 2011, in the immediate aftermath of the nuclear accident.
 The resumption of unrestricted traffic is expected to help improve convenience for residents and business operators involved in such work as restoration and reconstruction, and accelerate the reconstruction of the town.


 Although Route 114 served as an arterial roadway, following the nuclear accident, manned gates were set up after the government designated as warning zones areas within a 20-kilometer radius of the nuclear power plant. No one except residents and business operators with permits issued by the Namie town government were allowed to travel the route.


 Traffic restrictions have now been lifted for an about 27-kilometer section of the national highway connecting an area near the Namie interchange on the Joban Expressway and Kawamata, the town adjacent to Namie, as well as parts of the prefectural highway roads leading to the national highway.
 For the purpose of crime prevention, only automobiles can travel on these roads. As an anticrime measure, the central government has set up barricades at 88 points along branch roads.


 The Fukushima prefectural police will patrol around-the-clock in police cars and increase the number of checkpoints, while its air unit will conduct air patrols.


 In the sections where unrestricted traffic was resumed, there is an about 10-kilometer section where mobile phones do not work, which poses another concern. The Namie town government calls for drivers to use emergency telephones set up at points along the roads in the case of an accident.


 ◆High hopes among residents
 At 6 a.m. on Sept. 20, the gates on the Kawamata and Namie sides were opened by officials in charge.
 "I no longer need to show a travel permit, and this will shorten travel time," Hisashi Suzuki said with delight.
 He was going to Namie from his accommodation in Nihonmatsu, in the same prefecture. "I hope the [town's] reconstruction will move forward a little."
 Suzuki planned to visit his family grave in the autumn equinoctial week and report on the resumption of traffic to his ancestors.


 While road traffic was restricted, the gates were open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. People using the roads often worried about the time when they traveled.
 Hidezo Sato, chairman of the association of Namie administrative district heads, used the newly reopened national highway route from Namie. "Now I don't need to be anxious about the time, and I can travel at my own convenience," Sato said cheerfully.


 "The resumption of unrestricted traffic will help boost interactions between people and exchanges of goods," said Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba. "We'd like to take thorough security measures."

( Translated by The Japan News )


 【 2017年9月21日付・福島民友新聞掲載 】