Transport minister Chikage Ogi pledged Thursday that her ministry will do everything it can to minimize the financial burden from the Haneda airport expansion project on local governments in the Tokyo area.

Ogi made the comment at a news conference after meeting with governors of Tokyo, Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures in the first session of a joint council on the Haneda airport expansion project. The vice governor of Saitama Prefecture and mayors of Chiba, Yokohama and Kawasaki also attended.

Local governments have expressed unanimous opposition to shouldering the financial burden of the project, although they support the idea of turning Haneda into an international airport.

“It would be ideal for the national government to carry out the project without imposing a burden on local governments,” Ogi said. “We may have to ask for their (financial) support when the cost is decided, but essentially the national government must make all possible efforts to fully cover the expenses.”

The expansion project was approved at a Cabinet meeting in June 2002. It involves construction of a new 2,500-meter runway off the existing airport by 2010.

Three construction methods have been proposed — a pier type, a combination of pier and land reclamation, and a floating structure. Construction costs have been estimated at between 578 billion yen and 608 billion yen.

The work is expected to boost Haneda’s capacity by increasing the number of arrivals and departures from the current 275,000 a year to 407,000.

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara pointed out that Haneda is working at full capacity at the moment and that Narita airport, the main international airport serving the greater Tokyo area, will be bursting at the seams in about three years. He also urged the national government to approach the United States to allow Yokota Air Base to be jointly used by Japanese commercial aircraft.

Ogi and the local government leaders will meet again in March to discuss issues such as flight routes, jet noise pollution and other environmental assessments.

The ministry’s budget for fiscal 2003 includes a 1.5 billion yen research outlay for the project.

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