Cash lane to close at expressway tollbooth near Camp Zama

Cash lane to close at expressway tollbooth near Camp Zama

by Sean Kimmons
U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public Affairs

CAMP ZAMA, Japan – The Japanese expressway system can be a great time saver and option to escape the winding, narrow roads found outside the gates.

But for motorists taking the Ken-o Expressway, they may want to look at getting an ETC card soon or plan on taking a different exit. Starting Thursday, the expressway’s Sagamihara Interchange, which is close to here and Sagamihara Family Housing Area, will be operated as an ETC-exclusive tollbooth as other exits in the area also make the switch.

“If you don’t have the ETC card when you come up to the entrance of an exclusive ETC lane, then it’s not going to let you go through,” said Tim Armstrong, police liaison officer at Camp Zama.

If motorists without an ETC card accidentally use an ETC-only tollbooth, or if their card is not inserted into their vehicle’s on-board equipment, they can go to the “ETC/support” or “support” lane (see photo) and follow instructions from the staff.

Armstrong said the staff may not speak English, but will likely have your vehicle turn around to exit at another interchange that accepts cash.

Currently, there is no indication on if or when the tollbooths at the nearby Atsugi and Sagamihara-Aikawa interchanges will become ETC-only lanes.

To avoid possible confusion and stopping traffic at a busy tollbooth, Armstrong suggests motorists should have an ETC card when driving on an expressway.

“You don’t have to worry about having money on you,” he said of one of the card’s benefits.

ETC discounts are also offered along many routes and its lanes are typically shorter than the cash lanes.

“During the summer months when families go on vacations, the pay line is very long,” he said, “so it does save time if you have the ETC.”

An ETC card is usually linked to a Japanese credit card. Community members without one can also obtain an ETC card through a third-party company online or at or near a U.S. military base in Japan. The companies may require a deposit and a monthly fee, but the discounts, convenience and time saved with an ETC card could be worth it for some.

While many cars sold in the local area may already be equipped with an ETC card reader, the reader will still need to be set up under the current driver’s name. Auto repair shops can charge up to 3,500 yen for that service.

Before taking a trip on an expressway, motorists can also go to the NEXCO Central English website to search for tollbooths, fares and tips on how to use an ETC card.

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