Police to ban cars on 52 routes during major quake

The National Police Agency said Thursday it would ban the passage of regular vehicles on 52 expressway routes and other roads extending a total of 1,770 kilometers if a major earthquake directly hits the greater Tokyo area.

The NPA's plan is based on the premise that a major earthquake, with its focus directly beneath the northern part of Tokyo Bay, hits the southern Kanto region. The aim of the traffic control is to free roadways to send rescue teams and relief goods to Tokyo as quickly as possible.

According to the NPA, it is the first traffic control plan for disasters that covers multiple prefectures. Prefectural police headquarters had separately prepared regulation control plans of their own for disasters, the NPA said.

According to the plan, the NPA will designate the 1,770-kilometers covering 46 expressway routes, including all Metropolitan Expressway routes, and six principal roads, mainly in Tokyo and adjacent prefectures.

After a major earthquake occurs, regular vehicles will be rerouted to undesignated roads, with only emergency vehicles and heavy machinery transport trucks allowed to use the routes.

The regulations will gradually be relaxed depending on the progress of recovery in quake-struck areas and other factors.

The NPA discussed which routes to include with the Defense Ministry and the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry.

The section of the Chuo Expressway subject to the regulation will be extended to Nagano Prefecture, where Self-Defense Forces units are stationed. That of the Tomei Expressway will be extended to Aichi Prefecture to ensure the smooth transport of relief goods to Tokyo from Nagoya and surrounding municipalities.

Until now, prefectural police headquarters had prepared traffic regulation plans for disasters on their own, resulting in inconsistencies in policies where roads cross borders.

Aichi and Nagano prefectural police headquarters have not prepared any traffic regulation plans for major earthquakes expected to directly hit the southern Kanto region.

After the March 11 disaster, the NPA designated emergency routes crossing nine prefectures at 11 a.m. on March 12. However, if the NPA had prepared a regulation plan similar to the one it has planned now, the designation of such routes could have been conducted earlier, the police said.

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