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Toll-free period for freeways on CNY get 3-hour extension

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The National Freeway Bureau (NFB, 高公局) said yesterday that the free-of-charge period for drivers using freeways during Chinese New Year will be extended from seven to 10 hours daily.

According to the NFB, from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. between Jan. 29 and Feb. 4, drivers will be able to use the freeways free from toll expenses.

Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Jonathan C.J. Chen (陳純敬) said that adding three more hours to the daily free period is acceptable for the ministry without affecting traffic management.

Chen said that with the extended free period, the amount of income the ministry will earn from freeway tolls will be reduced by NT$100 million.

The extended free-of-charge period was proposed by Kuomintang (KMT) legislators during the extra session at the Legislative Yuan in response to the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) proposal to completely cease the operation of electronic toll collection during Chinese New Year holidays.

KMT caucus whip Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) said that to completely stop charging drivers for using freeways during the holidays will cause serious traffic jams, and extending the free-of-charge period will help divide the amount of vehicles entering freeways.

Director-General Tseng Dar-jen (曾大仁) said that this change of policy is closer to people's demands.

Tseng said that the bureau will carry out stricter ramp control in order to manage the speed of traffic flow on freeways to above 60 kilometers per hour.

According to the NFB, the designed traffic flow for each ramp is about 1,400 to 1,600 hourly, and during holidays, the traffic flow will decrease to about 700 to 800 hourly.

The NFB said that during Chinese New Year holidays, at the sections where traffic jams are easily formed, the strictest ramp control will be carried and about 300 to 400 vehicles will be allowed to go through the ramps each hour.

Tseng said that the stricter the ramp control is, the longer drivers have to wait to enter freeways. Therefore, drivers who plan to travel short distances can consider taking local roads instead of freeways.

The NFB said that during the Chinese New Year holiday, concerns are focused on an abrupt influx of drivers who will travel long distances in order to return home, so free tolls will be canceled during the holidays.

When considering that many drivers might prefer National Highway 3 to National Highway 1 during the Chinese New Year holiday, the NFB said that there will be 20-percent discounts offered to drivers who travel between Hsinchu and Kaohsiung on National Highway 3 during the holidays.

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