高速道路の改修 「造る」から「守る」への転換を

The Yomiuri Shimbun May 5, 2013
Focus should move from rebuilding expressways to ensuring their safety
高速道路の改修 「造る」から「守る」への転換を(5月4日付・読売社説)

How should the nation’s aging expressways be maintained and managed? It is crucial that the focus of expressway maintenance be shifted from building new roads to ensuring the safety of existing ones.

Three major expressway operators–East Nippon Expressway Co., Central Nippon Expressway Co. and West Nippon Expressway Co.–have estimated renovation costs needed for the continued use of their expressways over the next 100 years.

They estimate a total of 5.4 trillion yen will be required: 2 trillion yen for the major rebuilding of aging expressway bridges and tunnels and 3.4 trillion yen for repair work on roads and other facilities. If the operators rebuild all the aging sections instead of repairing them, the total cost will exceed 10 trillion yen, equivalent to seven years of their highway toll revenues.

Construction of the expressways operated by the three companies picked up speed after the 1960s. The length of the roads now extend to about 9,000 kilometers in total. Forty percent of the expressways are 30 years old or older.

The growing size of vehicles, corrosion from salt used for deicing and other factors have damaged the roads.

Late last year, a ceiling collapsed in the Sasago Tunnel on the Chuo Expressway in Yamanashi Prefecture, shedding light on the serious deterioration of infrastructure that is endangering people’s lives. It is evident the current maintenance and inspection system needs to be revamped drastically.

First of all, the expressway operators should conduct inspections to determine the actual conditions of their aging roads. Based on clear-cut standards, they should determine whether the roads should be repaired or rebuilt and set priorities for the work. They also need to accelerate work to swiftly draw up long-term maintenance plans.

Funding is biggest challenge

Estimates also show that renovation work for the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway and the Hanshin Expressway would cost up to 910 billion yen and 620 billion yen, respectively. These figures must be scrutinized to determine if they are reasonable.

The biggest challenge the operators face is how to finance repairs and rebuilding.

Under a plan launched when the highway public corporations were privatized in 2005, their debt of about 40 trillion yen would be repaid by 2050. After the full repayment, the plan calls for the expressways to be tollfree.

However, the plan does not include costs for major repair work on expressways. Due to the current dire fiscal straits, taxpayers’ money cannot be used for the work, but drastic toll increases would spark a public backlash.

In light of this, we view a funding method in which the operators would set aside a certain amount of money from toll revenues for the renovation work as feasible. By reducing the annual amount of repayment, the operators could use the money to maintain the aging roads, but this would inevitably push back the repayment deadline.

Discuss future toll system

However, the companies should not increase the number of wasteful projects in the name of repair and rebuilding. The idea of tapping private funds in tandem with regional development projects and keeping the costs down appears to be viable. Future projects should be decided from the perspective of cost-effectiveness.

To deal with aging expressways, a future toll system should also be addressed. The operators should consider many matters, including a review of toll discounts introduced in fiscal 2008 as part of stimulus measures and the consistency of tolls across the nation, with the tolls on Honshu-Shikoku bridge expressways significantly higher than in other regions.

The highway toll system has undergone flip-flops: A 1,000 yen ceiling was set for tolls for some time, and tolls were once temporally dropped. It is high time for the nation to thoroughly discuss an ideal expressway toll system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 4, 2013)
(2013年5月4日02時05分 読売新聞)


srachai について

early retired civil engineer migrated from Tokyo to Thailand
カテゴリー: 英字新聞 パーマリンク



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