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Toll-free expressways to disappear in June

Date Posted: 2011-04-29

Japan plans to abolish its expressway toll cap as early as June to save funds for reconstruction in disaster-hit areas, with everyone from Hokkaido to Okinawa to again feel the pinch of paying for the right to travel the expressways.

Transport minister Akihiro Ohata made the announcement, saying the move comes as the government plans to utilize funds allocated to the discount program to help finance a supplementary budget covering measures to rebuild areas devastated by the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. Expressways—including the Okinawa Expressway—that have been free for months under the experimental program implemented fulfilling a Democratic Party of Japan campaign promise, will revert to earlier toll levels. Officials say the exact amounts of the tolls are still being determined. The ¥1,000 cap in holiday tolls that has been in place since March 2009, except in metropolitan areas, will go away.

The ministry will also in June suspend the ongoing pilot program that makes 50 expressway sections toll-free, while withdrawing plans to set a new ¥2,000 weekday toll caps, Ohata said at a news conference. Ohata adopted a positive stance about a proposal that would eliminate expressway tolls in the disaster-hit Tohoku northeastern region. The government adopted a ¥4-trillion extra budget proposal last week to fund reconstruction measures, including building temporary houses for those affected by the disaster.

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