Check It Out

No.160 (3/26/10)

Let's Drive!

By Nao H. Kauffman
Chief Editor

According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism in Japan, expensive toll roads may be phase out to becoming “free” way by 2011. By reducing costs of living, the passage between agricultural/industrial districts and urban regions would be come more economical and convenient. Therefore, the Japanese government is experimenting free toll roads for certain areas from June 2010 in an attempt to spur up the Japanese economy and get a grip of the domestic effects in the economy and the influences on traffic and environments.

Covered Areas
In the first year of the experiment, free routes will be limited to the following criteria (due to budget constraint) 1. Shuto Expressway, Expressway excluding Hanshin Expressway
2. Frequency of traffic jams' occurrences due to 1,000 yen discounts on weekends and holidays
3. Impact on other transportation
4. The intricacy of Expressway networks such as the continuity between the routes with paid and free services

Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Sapporo, Sendai, Hiroshima, Fukuoka and surrounding routes and all the routes connecting to the capitals of those prefectures will be excluded. The total distance of the test routes are 1,626 km (1010.3964 miles.) Any types of vehicles are qualified (cash payers without ETC are also included.) The experiment will be conducted till the end of March in 2011.

The traffic amount and traffic jam on the toll roads and general roads will be measured, and the survey and analysis will be conducted nationwide for the purpose of assessing the influences on the regional economies and othe transportation.

The above information would be greatly related to us because the route from Shimoda I.C. (where the Shimoda Mall is) to Ashiro I.C. (the exit for the Appi ski resort) is included in the test routes. This will bring you more opportunities to get out of Misawa and see other parts of the Tohoku area. It will also help economically for those who often travel down to the Snow Mountains and enjoy winter sports. We will introduce some sightseeing information around the areas in the next edition of the Insider -- April 9th.

On the other hand, the toll road called Michinoku Yuuryou Douro between Shicinohe town and Aomori city was also supposed to become a free way after paying off debt by collecting fees (one way for 830 yen -- standard size car) from drivers for 30 years. However, the original plan is going to be canceled once Aomori prefecture passes a bill that the fee collection will be continued for another 19 years. As of this November, the total remaining debt is estimated to be about 130 billion yen. Contradictory to the free service for Hachinohe Expressway to Morioka and the developed Route 4 to Aomori city, public opinions show more dissatisfaction of the inconvenience and the poor quality road services especially in winter with snow and raise concerns about the need for the toll road. Although the toll road users expect to lower the fees, there would be no possibility as long as the prefecture leaves the debts outstanding; what is worse, the drivers prefers driving on Route 4 by avoiding the expensive fees.

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