How the Road Construction Industry is Destroying Japan

How the "road tribes" — the impenetrable scrum of bureaucrats, politicians and industry that benefit from an ever-expanding program of road construction — are literally paving the road to national ruin in Japan.
April 25, 2009, 11am PDT | Jon
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"The results have been a disaster. Certainly, Japan has a lot of roads: four to five times the number of any other Group of Seven country when measured by kilometers of road to usable land. The trouble is, a lot of these roads are in places where they are not needed. The country has an impressive network of toll roads that will never be profitable. It has expressways that connect industrial parks to ports and airports that industries do not want to use, and monumental bridges that suck people and money out of rural towns rather than reviving them. Yet despite decades worth of road and other infrastructure projects, projects that people actually need remain undone: In 2007 the government identified 110,000 km of roads where there was a high risk of accidents because, for example, children used them to walk to school (including 40,000 km of streets lacking separated sidewalks!). Adding sidewalks to streets used by small children simply doesn't fit the agenda of the road tribes as well as a four-lane expressway to nowhere does."

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Published on Tuesday, April 21, 2009 in Japan Times
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