Thu, Feb 16, 2006 - Page 3 News List

KMT legislators question need for paying toll fees

ROAD RAGE Amid the controversy over the electronic toll system, two lawmakers said motorists have carried the cost for all freeway construction work since 1997

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

An official uses a megaphone to direct motorists to the dedicated Electronic Toll Collection lanes on the Sun Yat-sen Freeway yesterday.

PHOTO: CHAN CHAO-YANG, TAIPEI TIMES

While a series of issues surrounding the freeway Electronic Toll Collection System (ETC) have sparked controversy nationwide, some legislators are questioning whether the government should continue levying freeway tolls, which they said have already paid for all freeway construction costs since 1997.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Lin Cheng-fong (林政峰) and Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆) said yesterday that the government had already earned more than NT$135 billion (US$4.18 billion) from toll fees by 1997. Deducting freeway maintenance fees of approximately NT$39 billion, 6 percent interest and the construction cost of NT$37.6 billion leaves the government a surplus of approximately NT$6.3 billion.

"Those who drive on the Sun Yat-sen Freeway have absolutely no need to install the electronic onboard units," Lin said.

"The government has already redeemed the complete cost of freeway construction work since 1997. There is no need for motorists to pay toll fees, much less to buy onboard units," Lin added.

Tsai yesterday condemned the Ministry of Transportation and Communications for using gains made from one freeway to help cover the building costs of others, saying that the policy treats motorists on the Sun Yat-sen Freeway as if they were ATMs.

Both legislators said that the ministry should immediately stop collecting freeway tolls, and said they would table a proposal in the legislative committee for further discussion.

They said that the fines faced by motorists who accidentally drive into ETC-only lanes are illegal.

"First, the ministry has not allowed adequate time to promote the new policy, and second, there is no administrative order that drivers must pay the fine anyway," Tsai said.

Dissatisfaction with the new toll-collection policy seems to have crossed party lines.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Kao Chien-chih (高建智)said yesterday that not all of the 30,000 drivers that have installed onboard units will take the freeway every day. Hardly anyone uses the ETC lanes, he said, and this has had a significant impact on the interests of other drivers.

Kao added that the ministry should promptly come up with solutions to promote the use of the ETC system.

An official from the Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that while he recognized the facts to which Tsai and Lin referred, they failed to mention that the nation has accumulated debts of more than NT$200 billion in building all the major freeways.

"Personally I don't like paying toll fees, and I am sure everyone will be happy if they don't have to pay anymore, but the government would have to figure out ways to pay back all the debts, such as by rearranging the budget," he said.

When asked why the government mainly uses the tolls collected from the Sun Yat-sen Freeway to pay for the construction of other freeways, the official said that other freeways were simply not designed to have toll booths on them.

Using income from one road to maintain another has always been the policy of the bureau, he said.

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ETC hints at Big Brother system

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