In a move that could lead to lifting a three-decade-old freeze on building, the Construction Ministry and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Friday proposed that a section of a controversial beltway will be built underground.

The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry maintains that by building the beltway section underground, there will be no need to force residents living in areas affected by a surface road to move. There will also be little noise and jolts caused by traffic, compared with the initially planned elevated highway.

The Gaikando (outer loop) Expressway is a planned 85-km highway within a 15-km radius of central Tokyo. It will connect nine expressways radiating from the core of the capital.

The Construction Ministry froze construction on the 16-km section between Nerima and Setagaya wards in 1970 because of fierce local opposition.

According to the new proposal, a six-lane expressway will be built about 20 meters to 40 meters below ground.

The proposal also includes a review of five interchanges envisioned in the original plan, with due consideration for the affected communities.

Such interchanges must be built on the surface — even if the beltway section is underground — and have been a cause of concern for local residents.

In regard to the use of the surface area above the underground section, the proposal offers several suggestions, such as building new parks, walkways, bus lanes as well as keeping the current landscape intact.

In January, Chikage Ogi was the first construction minister to visit the site since the freeze and expressed a positive attitude toward resuming the project.

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