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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 August 15 - 21  > Aging bridges serious problem also for Japan
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2018 August 15 - 21 TOP3 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Aging bridges serious problem also for Japan

August 19, 2018

The recent collapse of a bridge in Italy is said to be caused by the age of the structure. For Japan as well, aging infrastructure is a serious problem.

The Transport Ministry’s data shows that there are around 730,000 bridges across the country and that 90% of them are managed by local governments. Concerning 230,000 of the 730,000 bridges, no record exists as to when they were constructed. Regarding the remaining 500,000, the percentage of those which are 50 years or older was 23% in 2017 and the figure is expected to go up to 48% in 2027. The collapsed bridge in Italy was constructed five decades ago.

In 2012, ceiling panels in the Sasago Tunnel in Yamanashi Prefecture fell, killing nine people. This highlighted the fact that many bridges, tunnels, and other types of traffic infrastructure in Japan are old and often poorly maintained.

After the fatal accident, the Transport Ministry in 2014 set up a legal rule that all bridges and tunnels must undergo a safety checkup once every five years. As of March 2017, checkups for nearly 400,000 bridges or 54% of the total were finished. Among them, 396 or 0.1% were judged to require emergency measures for enhancement and 11% were found to need maintenance work as soon as possible.

It should be kept in mind that in 2006, just six years before the Sasago Tunnel accident, a similar accident occurred in the U.S. but the operator of the Sasago Tunnel did not learn the lessons offered from the 2006 case. The central and local governments should step up maintenance efforts in response to the recent accident in Italy.

Past related articles:
> Expressway company president indicted over fatal Sasago tunnel accident [November 24, 2017]
> 141 bridges discovered to be unsafe for traffic [October 24, 2016]

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