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Expressway tolls to return, but with price modification

Date Posted: 2011-02-18

In a turnabout from talk from Tokyo only a week ago, the Ministry of Land and Infrastructure has decided there's enough congestion on the Okinawa Expressway to warrant reinstituting tolls.

Instead of the tollgate turnstiles being taken away this year, tolls will again be collected starting in July, the ministry has announced, saying it was following recommendations of Okinawa Prefecture officials. The fares will be reduced to 50% of what they were before, and weekend travel on the Okinawa Expressway will remain free.

Citizens have voiced surprise at the announcement, saying they didn't know the Prefecture was even talking such ideas of reinstating tolls.

There is general agreement, though, that the Prefecture is correct about excessive traffic jams around the expressway on weekdays, especially at exits and entrances, and that a return to tolls will reduce or eliminate the traffic snarls.

Okinawa Prefecture conducted a survey during the October-December period last year, and found that 40% of the time there were traffic jams.

Prefecture officials say the announcement of reinstated tolls may not be the final word. "Actually this is not final answer that we said a half price" said one official. "We still have time to discuss this and conduct a survey. We will check what will be and how the traffic jams will go and then we will think about the final answer."

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