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Road Charging Scheme: South America - Chile, Santiago de Chile

Type of Scheme

  • Network of urban toll roads with variable charging.

Date of Introduction

  • 2004.


  • Santiago de Chile is a city that has struggled to balance need for investments in infrastructure with pressing demand for better social services.
  • Congestion problem has contributed to a serious air pollution problem, and restrictions on use of cars using the number plate method (two digits per day unless the car has a catalytic exhaust) are in operation for most of year. Stricter restrictions are imposed when major pollution episodes are forecast.
  • Car ownership is growing at higher rate than income and despite the use of catalytic exhausts the pollution problem is increasing.
  • Three of the original four urban toll road concessions are operated by private consortia that have financed and built them under 30-year concession agreements. The fourth will open during 2006.
  • These toll roads alleviate air pollution by people spending less time driving and queuing at intersections. They also provide the largest part of investment in the city's new road infrastructure.

The Santiago ETC network

The Santiago ETC network


  • Main objective is to improve the city's environment by reducing air pollution.
  • Secondary objectives are to provide new infrastructure through private finance to alleviate congestion and improve journey times.

How it Works


  • Tolls paid by drivers are based on a charge per km as well as the time of day.
  • Charging according to distance driven is structured around 3 levels of charges - approximately 6, 12 and 18 US$ cents per km.
  • The second level of charging applies to peak periods and when speeds drop below 70 Km/h. The third level applies when speeds consistently drop below 50 Km/ hr and in order to keep the roads free-flowing.
  • Tariff changes can happen every three months and are communicated through the media.


  • Toll roads are fully automated using electronic toll collection (ETC) technology.
  • This entails drivers fixing an electronic tag in their vehicle which communicates with roadside equipment.
  • These tags are distributed free of charge by the private operators of the toll roads as part of their concession contract.
  • About 90% of users have electronic tags fitted in their vehicles, but infrequent users can instead purchase a day-pass, under which their license plate number is entered into the database as an authorised user for that day, to be recognised by the video enforcement system.
  • It is expected that 98% of cars in Santiago will have electronic tags by the end of 2006.
  • Standardised electronic toll collection technology enables complete interoperability between all toll roads.
  • All toll roads have access to a central customer database, under which each concessionaire can bill those who use its roadway, regardless of which company issued the transponder and has the direct customer relationship.


  • A violator without a pass or electronic tag is picked up by the video cameras is offered the opportunity to by a "late day pass", and if that opportunity is not exercised, it is fined $50.


  • The four urban toll road concessions currently raise about US$ 220 million per year.


  • Air pollution has been alleviated by people spending less time driving and queuing at intersections.
  • Number of traffic accidents at intersections has dropped sharply.
  • In one of the most congested areas, a significant portion of vehicular traffic has been diverted underground using an innovative 4 km tunnel beneath the city's Mapocho River and has produced environmental benefits.
  • Pedestrian benefits include hundreds of acres of new parkland that has been built along edges highways and dozens of lighted pedestrian overpasses reduce risk of injury by crossing at ground level.
  • Public resources previously spent maintaining poor roads have now been redirected toward social investments.

Public Opinion

  • Initial resistance to charging dissipated immediately after the operation of the new roads started and significant time savings achieved.


  • Although the three level charging is accepted it is not clear how well this is understood by drivers and how it influences behaviour.

Next Steps

  • Two private proposals for additional concessions - a tunnel and a Northern Access to Santiago - have been approved by the Government and let as additional tolled facilities using the same technology.
  • The concessionaires are discussing how to use electronic tags to pay for other services and the introduction of congestion charging in critical parts of the untolled network seems a natural extension.


Luis Willumsen (2005). London Congestion charging and urban tolling in Chile: contrasts and lessons on fairness and project finance. PIARC Seminar on Road Pricing with emphasis on Financing, Regulation and Equity, Cancun, Mexico

Paul Constance (2004). Chile's toll-road revolution - How one country is using long-term concessions to modernize infrastructure while freeing up funds for social programs. IDBAmerica

Robert W. Poole, Jr (2005). Is it Time to Scrap Toll Booths and Toll Plazas? Technology makes it possible to go fully cashless. Reason Foundation

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