Joban Expressway section in Fukushima expanded to 4 lanes+

East Nippon Expressway Co. (NEXCO East) opened to traffic on June 13 all four lanes of a 27-kilometer section of the Joban Expressway (two lanes in each direction) between the Iwaki Chuo and Hirono interchanges in Fukushima Prefecture, having expanded it from two lanes. A ceremony celebrating the completion of expansion work was held the same day in the J-Village national soccer training center straddling the towns of Naraha and Hirono. Officials concerned are pinning high hopes on the acceleration of reconstruction from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant. At 10 a.m., the last 4-km part of the expanded section between the Iwaki Yotsukura and Hirono interchanges was put into service after work on it was completed. There are two tunnels and 22 bridges between the Iwaki Chuo and Hirono interchanges. NEXCO East proceeded with construction of this stretch at a rapid pace in the belief that the road is indispensable for post-disaster recovery, completing it in five years since the project was given the go-ahead in June 2016. The speed limit for the enlarged portion has been raised from 70 to 100 km per hour. The road expansion is expected to ease the chronic problem of congestion stemming mainly from the heavy traffic of vehicles involved in reconstruction projects. Two-way traffic on a single lane, implemented during the expansion work, has been eliminated, raising hopes for a reduction in serious accidents. The widened road is also expected to help ensure smooth traffic in times of disaster. About 60 people attended the ceremony. "We will make every effort to make the expressway a road helping to underpin reconstruction from the disaster," NEXCO East President Toru Obata told the gathering. Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori said, "The Joban Expressway is a driving force of reconstruction in the (coastal) Hamadori region and, at the same time, constitutes a double-expressway network together with the Tohoku Expressway (running in parallel), playing a major role in the event of an extensive disaster." In this connection, Uchibori pledged efforts to broaden the entire Joban Expressway to four lanes. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held and a decorative paper ball was split to mark the festive occasion. (Translated by Kyodo News)