Japan plans a subsidy system for new maintenance rules

19 June 2014

The Japanese government has plans to create a new subsidy system in 2015 for large-scale repairs of road bridges and tunnels by municipal and prefectural governments, according to an 18 June story by Jiji Press.

The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry, which is considering subsidising half of the costs for such repairs, wants to include related expenses into its budget request for the fiscal year from next April.

Roads and other infrastructure built in Japan during its high economic growth period need renovation, but repair costs weigh heavily on financially strapped local governments.

The ministry concluded that financial assistance is necessary for appropriate maintenance of such infrastructure to ensure safety.

Because of fiscal woes and a shortage of engineers in rural areas, municipalities have taken makeshift measures, such as road closures instead of maintenance.

A survey by the infrastructure ministry in 2012 indicated that about 90 percent of municipal governments fear budget shortfalls will cause safety problems for infrastructure under their management.

The ministry has stepped up measures against ageing infrastructure in response to the fatal accident in the Sasago tunnel in Yamanashi Prefecture in December 2012, which was caused by falling ceiling panels.

Starting next month, the ministry will require administrators of all road bridges and tunnels to conduct on-site safety inspections once every five years.