A ceremony was held Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the full opening of the 347-kilometer-long (215-mile-long) Tomei Expressway, which connects Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward and the city of Komaki in Aichi Prefecture.

At the event, held at the expressway’s Ashigara service area in the town of Oyama, Shizuoka Prefecture, participants including Saori Yoshida, a three-time Olympic gold medalist in women’s wrestling, unveiled a commemorative monument with a design of 3,776-meter Mount Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan which can be viewed from the expressway.

The Tomei Expressway went into partial service in April 1968 and fully opened on May 26, 1969. Since then, the key artery has continued to support the movement of people and goods.

Economic ripple effects from the expressway over the past half century are estimated at some ¥60 trillion, according to Central Nippon Expressway Co. (Nexco-Central) which operates the route.

After 50 years, however, the expressway finds itself in urgent need of renovation to some of its facilities, such as tunnels, due to aging. Nexco-Central has launched a large-scale repair program.

“We’ll continue making efforts to keep our roads safe so that people can drive without anxiety,” Nexco-Central President Yoshihito Miyaike said at the ceremony.

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