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Expressway to go toll free in June

Date Posted: 2010-02-04

Motorists across Japan will soon find their wallets a bit fatter; they wonít be paying tolls on some regional expressways.

All of the Okinawa Expressway will become free starting June 1st, according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. The fees will be waived on a trial basis through March 2011. Other highways that will become toll free are parts of the Hokkaido Odan Expressway, the Nihonkai-Tohoku Expressway, the Sanin Expressway, and the Higashi-Kyushu Expressway, a total of about 1,500 kilometers. Thatís about one-fifth of the total expressway routes across Japan.

Land Minister Seiji Maehara says all vehicles will be able to travel on the expressway for free beginning in June, regardless of whether they are equipped with the electronic toll collection (ETC) system. The current toll cap and discount system on weekends, which began last March, only works for vehicles with the ETC system.

During the ten-month test, the ministry will evaluate the toll cap system and then introduce a new discount system. The Land Ministry had asked that •600 billion be included in its fiscal year 2010 budget to cover the project, but the government slashed the amount to •100 billion. The smaller amount resulted in fewer kilometers of expressway being covered in the test.

Not covered in the new toll-free expressways are the Metropolitan Expressway, Hanshin Expressway, Tomei Expressway, Meishin Expressway, Honshu-Shikoku Bridge Expressway and Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line Expressway. Government officials say including them would have caused additional traffic congestion.

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