Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) yesterday said the ministry would not stop collecting tolls on the Sun Yat-sen Freeway (Freeway No. 1), nor would it consider giving drivers discounts.
Mao made the statement at the legislature’s Finance Committee, which was reviewing the transport ministry’s budget plans.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shi-bao (賴士葆) said that since the ministry had redeemed construction costs of Freeway No. 1 two years ago, the ministry could consider exempting drivers from paying toll fees or giving them discounts.
However, it would be impossible to ask drivers to pay on one freeway and let them drive for free on another, Mao said.
“Nor can we charge a higher rate on one freeway and a lower rate on another, or charge full price on one and half price on the other. There will congestion on the freeways charging half prices, and it would not be possible for us to manage traffic that way,” the minister said.
Mao said the ministry’s policy was to encourage the use of public transport, which did not increase its fares despite rising oil prices.
Turning to ongoing projects, he said the ministry was building an overpass the connecting Wugu (五股) in New Taipei City (新北市) and Yangmei (楊梅) in Taoyuan County, which will cost NT$80 billion (US$2.7 billion).
The Freeway Construction Fund, which pays for the construction and maintenance of the freeway, has a debt of about NT$200 billion, he said.
Mao also defended the ministry’s new policy of charging drivers on freeways by the distance traveled, which is scheduled to take effect next year.
He said the old policy was unfair because not all users paid toll fees.
Mao said the ministry would ensure that long distance travelers would not pay more than they do now under the new policy.
Each driver will also be given a certain number of free kilometers a day to avoid increasing the burden on commuters, he said.
Some legislators also urged the ministry to make eTags, the device needed to use the electronic toll system, available for all freeway drivers for free. They said drivers should not pay for eTags, whether they are first or second-time applicants.
“Our goal was that first-time applicants can have one free eTag [per car],” Mao said. “They will not need to pay until they get a new one.”
The National Freeway Bureau estimated each eTag costs NT$220.