China's Drivers Steer Clear of Tolls

Thrifty motorists resort to detours, deception to get around steep fees
By J. Kelman,  Newser User
Posted May 16, 2007 6:02 PM CDT
Vehicles on a Beijing highway pass towering smokestack chimneys...   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Tolls are literally taking a toll in China, where thrifty motorists try to steer around the tollbooths cropping up on the country's highways. An infrastructure boom has created 40,000 kilometers of new toll roads since 1990, and drivers are doing anything—from faking toll-exempt plates to making long detours on back roads—to avoid the pricey fees.

Drivers' unwillingness to pay to use the new roads poses a dilemma for the government, which needs the highways to speed development in the inner provinces. But the fees are roughly equivalent to tolls in Germany, where incomes are far higher. So drivers detour onto peripheral roads, where enterprising villagers have set up a cheaper shadow toll system.