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2012年10月 8日 (月)

首都高速道路 東京再生につながる改修を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Oct. 8, 2012)
Revamping Tokyo's expressways could give capital a boost
首都高速道路 東京再生につながる改修を(10月7日付・読売社説)

How should a large-scale renovation be undertaken on Tokyo's aging expressway system?

This is a crucial task that will affect disaster prevention preparations, redevelopment projects and distribution networks in the metropolitan area.

An expert panel of the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has compiled a package of recommendations that call for the elevated Inner Circular Route to be shifted underground and for other routes of the weblike network to be revamped. We can understand why the recommendations go further than simply proposing an upgrade of the expressways and instead urge that Tokyo's shutoko tollways be radically overhauled.

We hope the ministry will launch studies with the Tokyo metropolitan government and Metropolitan Express Co., the operator of the network, about specifics of the envisioned changes.

Tokyo's expressways extend across the capital and three neighboring prefectures, making the network a major transport artery for the entire national economy.


Dangerous curves, junctions

This year marks the 50th year since the first section of the expressway system opened. About 30 percent of the network's 300 kilometers was built at least 40 years ago.

The expressways need repairs at nearly 100,000 locations, a threefold increase from seven years ago. Temporary fixes are approaching the limit of their usefulness.

To build as many expressways as possible in time for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, most were constructed above existing roads and waterways to avoid land procurement problems. The result is that 95 percent of expressways are elevated or in tunnels, making it an unusual network by global standards.

The ministry panel focused its discussions on the Inner Circular Route because it has many tight curves and hazardous junctions on roads threading their way through densely built-up areas. Traffic accidents and congestion occur frequently. In addition, making expressways more earthquake-resistant is urgently needed in preparation for an expected powerful epicentral quake with its focus below Tokyo.

One of the panel's recommendations was to dismantle elevated sections that spoil Tokyo's landscape and hang ominously over areas and people below. This could be a good option for a new expressway system.

The biggest problem, of course, will be coming up with the more than 4 trillion yen that would be needed for this massive project.

Considering the increasingly stringent government finances, the panel quite rightly pointed out that restructuring the expressways "should be funded not by counting on government money as much as possible, but instead mainly by toll revenues."


Draw lessons from overseas

However, a large jump in tolls could earn the ire of expressway users. Harnessing private-sector funds as much as possible by such means as selling land that will become vacant in prime locations after elevated sections are dismantled should be scrutinized.

About 60 percent of vehicles that use the Inner Circular Route simply drive through the heart of Tokyo. This is a major cause of the chronic traffic jams, a situation that must be taken into account in remodeling the expressways.

Some observers argue that the Inner Circular Route could be done away with by improving routes that form a concentric pattern in outer areas of the Inner Circular Route, such as the Central Circular Route and Tokyo Outer Ring Road, or Gaikando.

The reconstruction of expressways has rejuvenated the central part of many major cities, such as Seoul, Seattle, Duesseldorf and Paris. We hope these cities provide useful references for Tokyo's case.

The Tokyo metropolitan expressway system is not alone in nearing the end of its expected service life. Many roads, bridges and water and sewerage systems built by the central and local governments across the country during Japan's high-growth days also are becoming decrepit.

Renovating Tokyo's expressway network, if done successfully, could be a good model for upgrading aging infrastructure throughout the country.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 7, 2012)
(2012年10月7日01時27分  読売新聞)


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