Local residents concerned about planned expressway closures during June 28-29 Osaka summit


A planned expressway closure for the Group of 20 summit in Osaka on June 28-29 is giving rise to concern about its impact on local businesses and people’s daily lives.

Sections totaling 160 kilometers (100 miles) on the Hanshin Expressway will be closed for four days from June 27 to secure clear routes for participants of the event.

The meeting will bring together leaders and other officials from a total of 37 countries and organizations. The closure will facilitate their travel from hotels to the meeting venue on the man-made island of Sakishima in the Osaka Bay area.

The daily traffic volume on the expressway sections totals some 450,000 vehicles. To prevent serious traffic congestion on other local roads, the Osaka Prefectural Police are asking citizens not to drive during the four-day period.

But a survey by the police in early May found that 24 percent were planning to drive during the period, up 8 percentage points from December last year. Most of them cited reasons related to work.

Aiming to cut total local traffic volumes by half during the period, police will step up their campaign through television commercials and other ways.

During the restriction period, goods transportation is likely to be affected significantly, because the Port of Osaka is in fifth place among Japan’s trading ports, with about 310 container ships arriving monthly.

The Japan Coast Guard is asking ships entering the port between June 24-30 to present their schedules in advance. Ships are requested to carry flags for identification that have been distributed to them.

On and near Sakishima, 11 container terminals operate. Some 16,000 transportation vehicles, including trailer trucks, come and go there every day.

Konoike Transport Co., an Osaka-based distribution company, will bring forward planned transportation to avoid expected traffic congestion. A Konoike official, however, said it is not sure whether the company will be able to operate trailer trucks smoothly as inspections are expected on local roads.

Security will be tightened on Sakishima, which has some 24,000 residents.

“The level of security will be much tighter” than during the 1995 summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Osaka, 71-year-old local resident Yoko Iwatate said.

“I’ll try not to go shopping or go out,” said Iwatate, who attended a briefing for locals on security and other measures taken for the G20 summit.

On Saturday, a ceremony was held in the city of Osaka to welcome police personnel from other prefectures who have arrived to help the local police force.

The G20 meeting will be “unprecedented in size as an international conference hosted by Japan,” Takahisa Ishida, head of the Osaka Prefectural Police headquarters, told people attending the ceremony.

The planned operations will be “an acid test” of the nation’s police ahead of other planned large-scale events requiring massive security, he said.

Tokyo will host the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games next year, while the 2025 World Exposition will be held in Osaka.