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Expressway to go ‘toll free’ starting June 28th

Date Posted: 2010-06-11

Okinawa’s Expressway is to begin toll free operations beginning Monday, June 28th, fulfilling one of the Democratic Party of Japan’s major promises of last year’s election campaign.

The program is being described by Japan’s Transport Ministry as a test project, although the DPJ has vowed to eliminate all expressway tolls gradually by the end of fiscal year 2011. For the moment, plans are to run the toll free operations through next spring.

While Okinawa’s Expressway will be toll free, not all expressways in mainland Japan will see the new benefit. A total of 50 sections of 37 expressways are in the test project, most of them expressways with somewhat light traffic, mainly in non-metropolitan areas. The Hokkaido Expressway is included, while major expressways including the Tomei and Meishin Expressways that link Tokyo through Hyogo Prefecture in western Japan will be excluded.

Transport Ministry officials say all vehicles, including those equipped with devices for electronic toll collection systems and those without, are eligible for the toll free travel. On expressways, and sections of expressways in mainland Japan not in the test project, the Transport Ministry says the current ¥1,000 toll cap for vehicles with ETC devices on weekends and public holidays will be kept in place.

A government plan for launching a new expressway toll system that sets maximum tolls, depending on vehicle sizes, has been sidelined for now, according to officials.

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