Grants to fund local road repairs

JIJI

The infrastructure ministry plans to provide prefectural and municipal governments with subsidies to inspect and repair roads using funds from a proposed supplementary budget for fiscal 2012, its officials said Saturday.

The subsidies, which come in the wake of a fatal ceiling collapse inside the Sasago Tunnel in Yamanashi Prefecture last month, are designed to encourage efforts to ensure the safety of local roads amid the aging of bridges and tunnels built decades ago.

Many areas are struggling to fully implement local road maintenance operations, given the severe financial conditions faced by many prefectures and municipalities, the officials said.

At present, prefectural and local governments can use infrastructure development grants from the ministry to conduct road inspections and repairs. But there is no guarantee this work will be realized because the funds can be used at the discretion of prefectures and municipalities after they are transferred.

The ministry thus hopes to urge local-level governments to ensure the safety of their roads by creating dedicated subsidies for road inspections and repairs.

The length of the nation’s road network totals some 1.21 million km. Local roads account for 95 percent of this figure, with around 1.02 million km of municipal roads about 130,000 km of prefectural roads.

Although the ministry launched safety checks of tunnels managed by expressway operators and the central government following the Sasego Tunnel collapse, it also believes there is a pressing need for safety checks and repairs of local roads.