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  5. Examining the Policy for Mostly Toll-Free Highways

2013 Vol.1
Examining the Policy for Mostly Toll-Free Highways

2013/01/01

The Democratic Party’s policy for mostly toll-free highways was newly added to its campaign promises at the time of the 43rd lowerhouse general election, in November 2003, and it has been one of the party’s major policies since then. The party’s manifesto issued at the time of the change of administration (The Democratic Party’s Administrative Policy Manifesto 2009) lists three objectives of eliminating highway tolls: (1) reducing people’s living costs through lower transportation costs, (2) revitalizing regional economies by facilitating the transportation of products from the place of production to the place of consumption, and (3) reducing economic losses (traffic congestion, etc.) by increasing the number of highway entrances and exits and using the existing infrastructure effectively. The issues raised in connection with the policy include (1) loss of the convention that people pay a fee to use a highway, (2) possible increases in traffic congestion, (3) burden on the environment, (4) consistency with the”beneficiaries pay”principle, (5) impacts on public transportation systems, and (6) effects on the structure of activities in the country. In addition to these discussing issues, this paper examines whether eliminating highway tolls would effectively achieve the aforementioned objectives in light of the result of a social experiment conducted from June 2010 through June 2011, and discusses the effects of a highway-toll-related measure that had been implemented before the Democratic administration assumed office, as well as the situation surrounding highway tolls in other countries. Furthermore, considering the future direction for Japan’s highway-toll-related measures, this paper discusses (1) the toll as a source of funding highway maintenance and upgrading, (2) implementing proper road pricing, and (3) utilizing highway tolls to create a comprehensive transportation system.

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