Sotto pushes toll-free holidays
MANILA, Philippines—Toll-free holiday road trips? Why not?
As recent holiday makers struggle to motor their way back to Metro Manila today, Sen. Tito Sotto has proposed that all tolls be waived for motorists on the expressways during holidays to avoid congestion at the tollgates.
The goal, he said, is to ensure smooth travel through the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx), South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) and other connecting toll highways.
The toll-free days may not necessarily fall exactly on such holidays as Christmas, New Year’s, Holy Week, All Saints’ Day and other holidays but on the days around them when city folk leave for the country and days later head back.
“What will be the effect? It will ease traffic on the expressways,” Sotto said in a phone interview. “Watch out for the trek back home on Sunday. If there’s no toll collection, there won’t be any traffic,” he added.
He said he would file a resolution this week to review the franchise of the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) which operates and maintains the toll facilities.
Sotto recalled that Senate President Franklin Drilon had to endure a 12-hour drive up to Baguio City from Manila the day after Christmas, a trip that normally took four hours, due to the enormous backup of vehicles at the tollbooths.
“I drive my own car, that’s why I know the problem. When the motorists start driving back, everyone will get caught in huge traffic jams. So they should skip paying the toll,” Sotto said.
He believed this would not take a heavy financial toll on the operators since collections would be suspended for only a few days.
“They collect fees every day,” he said. “They shouldn’t be too greedy. They’re not going to lose anything. Besides, they can’t solve the traffic problem.”
If not for the buildup of cars at the tollgates, travel time to the north has been drastically slashed thanks to the seamless connection of the NLEx with the Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) and the new Tarlac Pangasinan La Union Expressway (TPLEx).
For those traveling south of Manila, traffic has been eased by the Skyway, the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (Star) Tollway and the Cavite Expressway (Cavitex).
If the TRB rejects his proposal, Sotto said he might initiate a review of the agency’s charter or franchise, and introduce a provision mandating toll-free passage for motorists during holidays.
“If they don’t agree, then we will look into their franchise. If the government mandates it in their own franchise, then they can’t do anything,” he said in a separate interview over dzBB radio.
The Manila North Tollways Corp. runs NLEx, while the South Luzon Tollways Corp. runs SLEx.
After a grueling 12-hour car trip to Baguio on Dec. 26 that he blamed on an inefficient collection system, Drilon pushed for an integrated mechanism to collect toll fees at the NLEx, SCTEx and TPLEx.
Interconnecting the three expressways would address the problem as this would reduce the number of toll plazas and speed up traffic.
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