Three Japanese expressway operators eye ¥3 trillion in renovations

JIJI

Japan’s three expressway operators said Wednesday their costs of renovating aging bridges and tunnels on their roads are estimated to amount to around ¥3.02 trillion over 15 years from fiscal 2014, which starts April 1.

Such repairs are necessary for some 2,110 km of about 9,000 km of expressways operated by East Nippon Expressway Co., Central Nippon Expressway Co. and West Nippon Expressway Co., they said.

The transport ministry currently plans to finish collecting expressway tolls from drivers in fiscal 2050. But it will extend the toll collection period by 15 years in order to secure funds to help cover the repair costs, sources said.

The ministry plans to introduce a bill to revise the special law on road maintenance during the ordinary Diet session that starts Friday, they said.

Large-scale renewals requiring long-term traffic controls will be necessary for some 240 km of bridges, including the Sugawa bridge in Fukushima Prefecture on the Tohoku Expressway. The three operators will spend ¥1.76 trillion for the renewals, including the replacement of bridge girders.

They will also spend ¥1.26 trillion for large-scale repair work that is necessary on some 1,870 km of expressways, including reinforcement work on tunnel foundations.

With some 40 percent of their expressways opened at least 30 years ago, the three companies face the need to deal with widespread concrete cracks and steel corrosion.

In December 2012, concrete ceiling panels in the Sasago Tunnel of the Chuo Expressway collapsed, crushing vehicles and killing nine people.

Metropolitan Expressway Co. said in December that some ¥630 billion is needed over the 10 years to renovate aging roads under its management in the Tokyo area.