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Expressway owners report tolls to jump 30% next year

Date Posted: 2008-04-04

Okinawa Expressway users have long had a good deal, with tolls fixed at 30% less than those in mainland Japan.

That will end in 2009, as the West Japan Expressway Company, which owns and operates the Okinawa Expressway raises tolls to match those in mainland Japan. Company officials say the discounted ¥1,000 fare for the Naha to Kyodo trip should be ¥1,500. The current toll fee has been in place since 1999. Before that, the Okinawa Expressway rates were 30% higher.

The fees were lowered nine years ago under rules declaring Okinawa a special promotion alignment area. An emergency provision was invoked to show citizens politicians were looking out for the welfare of citizens here.

The Osaka-based West Japan Expressway Company had intended on ending the subsidized fares this year, but agreed to a postponement to 2009 after discussions with Okinawa officials. “We are paying the construction loan to Japan Expressway organization,” a West Japan Expressway official says, “and the payments are so big, we are late paying.” The company expects some hard arguments ahead from Okinawa officials, who note there were only 19,000 cars using the Expressway each day back in 1999, while there are more than 27,000 each day now.

With the higher revenues, Okinawa leaders say they don’t understand the need for boosting toll fares. The West Japan Expressway Company says “the decision will come from the central government. We can’t say anything yet about next year’s toll fees.”

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