Peak restrictions to clamp car clutter; gov’t pushes cutting diesel tax

June 20, 2008

New driving restrictions are set to come into effect today that will keep certain motorists from driving at peak hours in central San José.

Drivers of oversized vehicles will also be prohibited from traveling through the capital or on certain major highways. Violators of either decree could be slapped with a 5,000 colones ($9.70) fine.

Meanwhile, the President Oscar Arias administration hopes to push through legislation in coming weeks that would eliminate the tax on diesel and shift it to regular and super.

The same bill would also double the tax on some diesel vehicles and transfer ¢10 billion (about $19.4 million) to the National Oil Refinery, making up for revenue lost when the government suspended a proposed ¢85/liter hike in diesel prices.

Light freight, transport and special equipment vehicles that run on diesel would be excluded from the new tax.

The newest peak hour restrictions will be enforced on the Circunvalación, the route runs around San José, and will be based on hour, day of the week and the last digit of a driver’s license plate.

Vehicles with plates ending with a 1 or 2 are forbidden on Monday, those with a 3 or 4 on Tuesday, 5 and 6 on Wednesday, 7 and 8 on Thursday, and 9 and 0 on Friday. The restrictions are from 6-8:30 a.m. and from 4:30-7 p.m.

Overweight vehicles can no longer travel through downtown San José, nor along Route 32 (Braulio Carrillo), General Cañas Highway (Alajuela), Bernardo Soto Highway (San Ramón), Próspero Fernández Highway (Santa Ana), and Florencio del Castillo Highway (Cartago).

In a press conference yesterday afternoon, Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias said Costa Ricans are living in a “true national emergency” due to ever-rising oil prices. He urged legislators to work together to pass the bill within the next four weeks.

The government is pitching the diesel tax cut as a means to help the agricultural, industrial and transport sectors, as well as the 80 percent of Costa Ricans who use public transportation on a daily basis for work.

Should the bill fail, Arias said, the Public Services Regulatory Authority will be forced to raise fuel prices across the board.

“Everyone will have to pay equally,” Arias said. “The government insists that we protect the people with the least resources.”

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