NE Japan Earthquake Day 146: Traffic at Mito Interchange Doubles and Troubles After Tōhoku Tolls Suspended

Toll Free Tōhoku Highways
Northern highways whose tolls have been suspended for the benefit of disaster victims are in red. The three interchanges named at the bottom of the grid, from left, are Shin-Niigata, Shirakawa, and Mito.

Traffic at Mito Interchange Doubles and Troubles After Tōhoku Tolls Suspended
August 3, 2011

Traffic at the Mito Interchange of the Jōban Expressway approaching Tokyo has increased dramatically since the toll there was suspended as part of the Great Tōhoku Earthquake recovery effort. Since driving on the road became free, there have been noticeably more trucks. The greater number of cars at major roads near the interchange is becoming problematic, and Ministry of Transportation officials are already getting headaches over the traffic jams to come during the Obon holidays in mid-August, when most Japanese return home to visit family gravesites.

As part of the recovery effort for northeastern Japan, in order to help refugees return home, mid-sized vehicles (like trucks and buses) and above have temporarily had the right to travel freely on the road. The policy, which is aimed at those with certificates proving they are disaster victims, went into effect June 20. Excluding the Tokyo metropolitan area, which includes the Shūtō Expressway, they can travel on the highway without paying a toll.

For example, a large-sized vehicle traveling from the Gifu Kakamigahara IC to the Utsunomiya IC on the Meishin, Tōmei, or Chūō Expressway would usually have to pay 16,300 yen. However, middle-sized cars and above leaving Gifu can avoid the toll-charging Shūtō Expressway and take the Tōkai Hokuriku or Ben-Etsu Expressway to the Jōban Expressway, then switch to the Kita-Kantō Expressway at the Mito Interchange and continue to Utsunomiya without showing a certificate or paying a toll.

According to the East Nippon Expressway Company, before the free highway usage system began, about 425,000 cars were on the roads each day, but the daily average was 508,000 from July 11-17. Traffic has increased across the board: the Jōban Hirono IC is seeing 27% more cars than usual, the Tōhoku Sendai-Miyagi IC 28%, the Tōhoku Morioka 41%. The Mito IC’s traffic has doubled from 9100 daily vehicles to 18,600 (104%), and the number of trucks has increased as far away as Kansai and Kyūshū.






(2011年8月3日14時07分 読売新聞)

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