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Traffic on the nation’s roads will fall due to lower economic growth and automobile ownership after peaking in fiscal 2030, according to a new projection unveiled Saturday by the transport ministry.

The projection covers the years through fiscal 2050.

It suggests that if the government makes progress in implementing its structural reforms, the volume of auto traffic will peak in fiscal 2030 at a level 16 percent higher than that of fiscal 2000.

The volume of traffic is calculated in unit kilometers by multiplying the estimated number of cars owned with the estimated average number of kilometers driven per vehicle.

By fiscal 2050, volume is expected to decrease to a level 10 percent greater than the fiscal 2000 figure, according to the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry. It is the first time the ministry has forecast a decline in Japan’s automobile traffic.

If the structural reforms do not make headway, economic growth will be stunted more quickly. The peak in traffic will then probably come a decade sooner — in fiscal 2020 — and at a level just 8 percent higher than in fiscal 2000, according to the ministry.

In this case, by fiscal 2050 traffic volume will likely fall to a level 6 percent lower than the fiscal 2000 figure.

A decrease in road traffic would lead to a drop in toll revenues for expressway operators and thus reduce the amount of funds available for investment in the construction and maintenance of roads.

Some observers said that the ministry’s projections could have a major impact on the deliberations of a new government panel set up to discuss the issue of privatizing four road-related public corporations.

The panel, whose seven members were revealed Friday, is slated to hold its inaugural meeting on Monday. The organizations under discussion are Japan Highway Public Corp., Metropolitan Expressway Public Corp., Hanshin Expressway Public Corp. and the Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Authority.

The ministry is expected to have the results of its calculations reflected in its next five-year plan for road construction and maintenance.

The ministry’s latest estimates are based on the assumptions that Japan’s population will start declining in 2007, the number of cars owned in Japan will peak in fiscal 2030 at 84.7 million units, and the nation’s gross domestic product will grow by an annual average of 1.5 percent between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2020, and later by an average of 0.6 percent, if reforms progress.

Without reforms, the ministry assumes the nation’s GDP will grow by an annual average of 0.6 percent between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2020 and will contract after that by an average of 0.1 percent.

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