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A new runway project at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni will be pushed back two years following a cascade of delays and allegations of bid-rigging, according to Japan’s Ministry of Defense.

The $2.4 billion project, which began in 1997, now is slated for completion by March 2010, according to information posted by the ministry.

The delay will not affect base operations or the U.S. military’s realignment plans, which include the relocation of a carrier air wing from Naval Air Station Atsugi to Iwakuni in 2014, ministry and U.S. military officials said.

"The completion date has been pushed back due to readjustments made to the entire project," a ministry spokesman said Thursday.

Iwakuni City held off plans to relocate a sewage treatment plant after concerns arose over bid-rigging allegations, which delayed the handover of land for the runway project, the ministry said.

The ministry said construction of a control tower was delayed due to unsuccessful bidding, and during the delay, the city changed its building code.

This is the second time the completion date has been pushed back for the runway construction, according to the spokesman. It was pushed back three years to March 2008, after ground improvement work became necessary following a large earthquake in 2001.

Such setbacks have been factored into the planning process and will not affect the U.S. military’s realignment plans, said Col. Eric Schnaible, spokesman for U.S. Forces Japan.

"This delay will not affect military operations as the current operating runway will remain in service until the new runway is commissioned," Schnaible said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

The massive project is using fill dirt from a nearby mountain to reclaim a section of the adjacent ocean, increasing the size of the base by about 30 percent and clearing space on the mountain for housing.

The new runway location will also cut down on aircraft noise in the city by changing the angle of takeoff, according to base officials.

Once it’s complete, Iwakuni will be one of the only bases in Asia with both a deep-water harbor and a heavy-lift runway.

author picture
Hana Kusumoto is a reporter/translator who has been covering local authorities in Japan since 2002. She was born in Nagoya, Japan, and lived in Australia and Illinois growing up. She holds a journalism degree from Boston University and previously worked for the Christian Science Monitor’s Tokyo bureau.
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