Daily traffic on the Aqualine bridge-tunnel span of Tokyo Bay rose 31.6 percent in fiscal 2000, following toll reductions introduced last summer, the transport ministry said Wednesday.

After the reductions were implemented July 20, daily traffic grew to 12,900 vehicles on the 15-km loss-making link between Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, and Kisarazu, Chiba Prefecture. For the same period the previous year, traffic averaged 9,800 vehicles per day.

Among the cuts, the toll for standard-size passenger cars was dropped to 3,000 yen per trip from 4,000 yen.

The daily traffic increase surpassed the 11,600 vehicles the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry had predicted. On May 4, during the holiday-studded Golden Week, a record 45,700 vehicles used Aqualine.

Drivers “have become less reluctant to use (the road) as a result of the reduction in tolls, which were seen as high,” a ministry official said. “Toll revenue has also been running around 10 percent higher than our estimate, which is good news for the existing debt repayment plan.” The link consists of a roughly 5-km bridge from Kisarazu and a 10-km underwater tunnel to Kawasaki.

Opened Dec. 18, 1997, it took 31 years and a whopping 1.44 trillion yen to complete. More than 1 trillion yen was financed by loans from the government and the private sector.

In fiscal 1997, daily traffic was steady, at about 11,900 vehicles, but gradually ebbed to around 9,600.

The Transport Ministry decided to cross-subsidize the toll reductions for Aqualine from several money-making highways.

But the current 3,000 yen per car is scheduled to rise back to 4,000 yen in fiscal 2008 and then to 4,900 yen five years later.

Aqualine has cut the drive between Kawasaki and Kisarazu, which sandwich Tokyo, by around 80 km, enabling motorists to cross Tokyo Bay in 15 minutes.

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