Toll bridge

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Paying toll on passing a bridge.--From a painted window in the Tournai Cathedral (15th century). Paying Toll on passing a Bridge From a Painted Window in the Cathedral of Tournay Fifteenth Century.png
Paying toll on passing a bridge.--From a painted window in the Tournai Cathedral (15th century).

A toll bridge is a bridge where a monetary charge (or toll ) is required to pass over. Generally the private or public owner, builder and maintainer of the bridge uses the toll to recoup their investment, in much the same way as a toll road.



Toll booth at Mississippi River Bridge at St. Louis, Missouri U.S. Library of Congress 8a10895r toll bridge mississippi river.jpg
Toll booth at Mississippi River Bridge at St. Louis, Missouri U.S. Library of Congress

The practice of collecting tolls on bridges harks back to the days of ferry crossings where people paid a fee to be ferried across stretches of water. As boats became impractical to carry large loads, ferry operators looked for new sources of revenue. Having built a bridge, they hoped to recoup their investment by charging tolls for people, animals, vehicles, and goods to cross it.[ citation needed ]

The original London Bridge across the river Thames opened as a toll bridge, but an accumulation of funds by the charitable trust that operated the bridge (Bridge House Estates) saw that the charges were dropped. Using interest on its capital assets, the trust now owns and runs all seven central London bridges at no cost to taxpayers or users.

In the United States, private ownership of toll bridges peaked in the mid-19th century, and by the turn of the 20th century most toll bridges were taken over by state highway departments. In some instances, a quasi-governmental authority was formed, and toll revenue bonds were issued to raise funds for construction or operation (or both) of the facility.

Peters and Kramer observed that "little research has been done to quantify the impact of toll collection on society as a whole" and therefore they published a comprehensive analysis of the Total Societal Cost (TSC) associated with toll collection as a means of taxation. [1] TSC is the sum of administrative, compliance, fuel and pollution costs. In 2000 they estimated it to be $56,914,732, or 37.3% of revenue collected. They also found that a user of a toll road is subject to a form of triple taxation, and that in the final analysis toll collection is a very inefficient means of funding the development of highway infrastructure. Nakamura and Kockelman (2002) show that tolls are by nature regressive, shifting the burden of taxation disproportionately to the poor and middle classes. [2]

Electronic toll collection, branded under names such as EZ-Pass, SunPass, IPass, FasTrak, Treo, GoodToGo, and 407ETR, became increasingly prevalent to metropolitan areas in the 21st century. [3] Amy Finkelstien, a public finance economist at MIT, reports that as the fraction of drivers using electronic toll collection increased, typically toll rates increased as well, because people were less aware of how much they were paying in tolls. [4] [5]

Electronic tolling proposals that represented the shadow price of electronic toll collection (instead of the TSC) may have misled decision-makers. The general public has additionally endured an increased administrative burden associated with paying toll bills and navigating toll collection company on-line billing systems. Additionally, visitors to a region may incur e-toll tag fees imposed by their rental car company. [6] The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 identified and attempted to address a similar problem associated with the government collection of information. Approvals were to be secured by government agencies before promulgating a paper form, website, survey or electronic submission that will impose an information collection burden on the general public. However, the act did not anticipate and thus address the burden on the public associated with funding infrastructure via electronic toll collection instead of through more traditional forms of taxation.

Removal and continuation of tolls

Toll plaza at the Rainbow Bridge, Niagara County, New York Rainbow Bridge Toll Plaza, Toll Building, Rainbow Plaza, Niagara Falls, Niagara County, NY HABS NY,32-NIAF,5B-3.tif
Toll plaza at the Rainbow Bridge, Niagara County, New York

In some instances, tolls have been removed after retirement of the toll revenue bonds issued to raise funds. Examples include the Robert E. Lee Memorial Bridge in Richmond, Virginia which carries U.S. Route 1 across the James River, and the 4.5-mile long James River Bridge 80 miles downstream which carries U.S. Highway 17 across the river of the same name near its mouth at Hampton Roads. In other cases, especially major facilities such as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge near Annapolis, Maryland, and the George Washington Bridge over Hudson River between New York City and New Jersey, the continued collection of tolls provides a dedicated source of funds for ongoing maintenance and improvements.

Sometimes citizens revolt against toll plazas, as was the case in Jacksonville, Florida. Tolls were in place on four bridges crossing the St. Johns River, including I-95. These tolls paid for the respective bridges as well as many other highway projects. As Jacksonville continued to grow, the tolls created bottlenecks on the roadway. In 1988, Jacksonville voters chose to eliminate all the toll booths and replace the revenue with a ½ cent sales tax increase. In 1989, the toll booths were removed, 36 years after the first toll booth went up.

In Scotland, the Scottish Parliament purchased the Skye Bridge from its owners in late 2004, ending the requirement to pay an unpopular expensive toll to cross to Skye from the mainland.

In 2004, the German government cancelled a contract with the "Toll Collect" syndicate after much negative publicity. The term "Toll Collect" became a popular byword among Germans used to describe everything wrong with their national economy. [7] [8]

Toll collection

Toll rates at Connecticut River Bridge between New Hampshire and Vermont U.S. Library of Congress Toll Bridge Rates at Connecticut River between Vermont and New Hampshire.jpg
Toll rates at Connecticut River Bridge between New Hampshire and Vermont U.S. Library of Congress

It has become increasingly common for a toll bridge to only charge a fee in one direction.[ citation needed ] This helps reduce the traffic congestion in the other direction, and generally does not significantly reduce revenue, especially when those travelling the one direction are forced to come back over the same or a different toll bridge.

Toll avoidance: shunpiking

Dublin's famous Ha'penny Bridge Liffeyeast.jpg
Dublin's famous Ha'penny Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge Golden Gate Bridge from underneath.jpg
The Golden Gate Bridge

A practice known as shunpiking evolved which entails finding another route for the specific purpose of avoiding payment of tolls.

In some situations where the tolls were increased or felt to be unreasonably high, informal shunpiking by individuals escalated into a form of boycott by regular users, with the goal of applying the financial stress of lost toll revenue to the authority determining the levy.

One such example of shunpiking as a form of boycott occurred at the James River Bridge in eastern Virginia. After years of lower-than-anticipated revenues on the narrow privately-funded structure built in 1928, the state of Virginia finally purchased the facility in 1949 and increased the tolls in 1955 without visibly improving the roadway, with the notable exception of a new toll plaza. The increased toll rates incensed the public and business users alike. Joseph W. Luter Jr., head of Smithfield Packing Company, the producer of Smithfield Hams, ordered his truck drivers to take a different route and cross a smaller and cheaper bridge. [9] Tolls continued for 20 more years, and were finally removed from the old bridge in 1976. [10]

Historic examples of toll bridges



North America

See also

Related Research Articles

Toll road Roadway for which a fee (or toll) is assessed for passage

A toll road, also known as a turnpike or tollway, is a public or private road for which a fee is assessed for passage. It is a form of road pricing typically implemented to help recoup the costs of road construction and maintenance.

E‑ZPass is an electronic toll collection system used on toll roads, toll bridges and toll tunnels in the Eastern United States, Midwestern United States, and Southern United States. The E-ZPass Interagency Group (IAG) consists of member agencies in several states, which use the same technology and allow travelers to use the same transponder on toll roads throughout the network. Since its creation in 1987, various independent systems that use the same technology have been folded into the E-ZPass system, including the I-PASS in Illinois and the NC Quick Pass in North Carolina. Negotiations are ongoing for nationwide interoperability in the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Touch 'n Go</span> Malaysian expressway smart card

The Touch 'n Go smart card is used by Malaysian toll expressway and highway operators as the sole electronic payment system (EPS). The credit card-sized smart card is made of plastic with Philips' MIFARE Classic microchip technology embedded in it.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Florida State Road 23</span> Highway in Florida

State Road 23 (SR 23), also known as the First Coast Expressway, is an outer bypass around the southwest quadrant of Jacksonville. As of 2018, the first phase has been built, linking the Middleburg area to Interstate 10 near Whitehouse.

The Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) is an independent state agency responsible for financing, constructing, operating, and maintaining eight transportation facilities, currently consisting of two toll roads, two tunnels, and four bridges in Maryland. It also provides the Maryland Department of Transportation with financing for other revenue producing transportation projects.

The Richmond–Petersburg Turnpike was a toll road located in the Richmond-Petersburg region of central Virginia, United States.

Shunpiking is the act of deliberately avoiding roads that require payment of a fee or toll to travel on them, usually by traveling on alternative "free" roads which bypass the toll road. The term comes from the word shun, meaning "to avoid", and pike, a term referring to turnpikes, which is another name for toll roads. People who often avoid toll roads sometimes call themselves shunpikers. Historically, certain paths around tollbooths came to be so well known they were called "shun-pikes".

Carquinez Bridge Pair of bridges in the San Francisco Bay between Crockett and Vallejo, California, USA

The Carquinez Bridge is a pair of parallel bridges spanning the Carquinez Strait at the northeastern end of San Francisco Bay. They form the part of Interstate 80 between Crockett and Vallejo, California.

Virginia State Route 895 State highway in Virginia, United States

State Route 895, also known as the Pocahontas Parkway and Pocahontas 895, is a primary state highway in the U.S. state of Virginia. It connects the junction of Interstate 95 and State Route 150 in Chesterfield County with Interstate 295 near Richmond International Airport in Henrico County, forming part of a southeastern bypass of Richmond. Due to a quirk in the evolution of the road, the long-planned designation of Interstate 895 could not be used.

A private highway is a highway owned and operated for profit by private industry. Private highways are common in Asia and Europe; in addition, a few have been built in the United States on an experimental basis. Typically, private highways are built by companies that charge tolls for a period while the debt is retired, after which the highway is turned over to government control. This allows governments to fulfill immediate transportation needs despite their own budget constraints, while still retaining public ownership of the roads in the long term.

State Road 589 (SR 589), also known as the Veterans Expressway and Suncoast Parkway, is a north–south toll road near the Florida Gulf Coast. Maintained and operated by Florida's Turnpike Enterprise, this 68-mile (109 km) transportation corridor extends from State Road 60 in Tampa, north to State Road 44 near Lecanto. The Veterans Expressway was built to accommodate the increasing commuter traffic in the Tampa-St. Petersburg metropolitan area, with the Suncoast Parkway opening in 2001, extending from near the northern terminus of the Veterans Expressway to U.S. Route 98, with a possible northern extension to U.S. Route 19/U.S. Route 98 in Crystal River in Citrus County in the planning and development stages. As of February 28, 2022, Phase I of the extension is now open between US 98 and Florida State Road 44. Phase II, which would further extend the highway to County Road 486, is undergoing the design phase.

Open road tolling

Open road tolling (ORT), also called all-electronic tolling, cashless tolling, or free-flow tolling, is the collection of tolls on toll roads without the use of toll booths. An electronic toll collection system is usually used instead. The major advantage to ORT is that users are able to drive through the toll plaza at highway speeds without having to slow down to pay the toll. In some installations, ORT may also reduce congestion at the plazas by allowing more vehicles per hour/per lane.

Pinellas Bayway Highway in Florida, United States of America

The Pinellas Bayway System is a series of bridges on two state roads in Pinellas County, Florida. It is a toll road complex maintained and operated by the Florida Department of Transportation. It also is compatible with the SunPass ETC system currently in use on all other FDOT-owned toll roads. The Pinellas Bayway consists of:

Card Sound Bridge Bridge in Florida, United States of America

Card Sound Bridge is a high-rise toll causeway connecting southern Miami-Dade County and northern Monroe County. It is one of only two ways that motorists can leave or enter the Florida Keys. The toll for two-axle automobiles is USD $1.50 if paid via SunPass. The prior toll plaza was demolished during hurricane Matthew and has been replaced with a toll-by-plate plaza. The toll fee will be charged by plate automatically and sent via the mail to the address on the vehicle registration. The cashless all-electronic tolling system replaced the previous staffed toll booth on October 20, 2018. The toll fee is waived upon evacuating the Keys for hurricanes or in instances in which US 1 is impassable.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Interstate 95 in Maine</span> Section of Interstate Highway in Maine, United States

Interstate 95 (I-95) in the US state of Maine is a 303-mile-long (488 km) highway running from the New Hampshire state line in Kittery, to the Canadian border in Houlton. It is the only two-digit Interstate Highway in Maine. In 2004, the highway's route between Portland and Gardiner was changed so that it encompasses the entire Maine Turnpike, a toll road running from Kittery to Augusta.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel District is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is overseen by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel Commission, and operates the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel between the Hampton Roads and Eastern Shore regions of the state. The District comprises six cities, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, and the two Eastern Shore counties of Northampton and Accomack.

Toll roads in the United States Overview of toll roads in the United States

There are many toll roads in the United States; as of 2006, toll roads exist in 35 states, with the majority of states without any toll roads being in the West and South. In 2015, there were 5,000 miles (8,000 km) of toll roads in the country.

High-occupancy toll lane Traffic lane or roadway on which high-occupancy vehicles are exempt from tolls

A high-occupancy toll lane is a type of traffic lane or roadway that is available to high-occupancy vehicles and other exempt vehicles without charge; other vehicles are required to pay a variable fee that is adjusted in response to demand. Unlike toll roads, drivers have an option to use general purpose lanes, on which a fee is not charged. Express toll lanes, which are less common, operate along similar lines, but do not exempt high-occupancy vehicles.


  1. Peters, Jonathan R.; Kramer, Jonathan K. (2003). "The Inefficiency of Toll Collection as a Means of Taxation: Evidence from the Garden State Parkway" (PDF). Transportation Quarterly. Eno Transportation Foundation, Inc., Washington, DC (Vol. 57, No. 3, Summer 2003 (17–31)). Retrieved Dec 8, 2015.
  2. Nakamura, Katsuhiko; Kockelman, Kara Maria (2000-01-01). Congestion Pricing and Roadspace Rationing: An Application to the San Francisco Bay Bridge Corridor. CiteSeerX .
  3. "Tolling Agencies Find Efficiency Through Consolidation". Xerox. Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved Dec 8, 2015.
  4. "Analyzing the Hidden Costs of EZ Pass Tolls". Retrieved 2015-12-08.
  5. "Study: Toll Transponders Hide Cost of Tolling". Retrieved 2015-12-08.
  6. "How to Avoid E-Toll Tag Fees - Consumer Reports". Retrieved 2015-12-08.
  7. (, Deutsche Welle (2004-02-17). "German Government Cancels Toll Contract". DW.COM. Retrieved 2016-03-14.
  8. Flyvbjerg, Bent; Garbuio, Massimo; Lovallo, Dan (2009). "Delusion and Deception in Large Infrastructure Projects: Two Models for Explaining and Preventing Executive Disaster". California Management Review. 52 (2): 170–193. arXiv: 1303.7403 . doi:10.1225/CMR423.
  9. Lon Wagner, Groups driven to save James River toll plaza, The Virginian-Pilot, June 20, 2004
  10. State Highway and Transportation Commission (May 20, 1976). Minutes of Meeting (PDF) (Report). Richmond, VA: Commonwealth of Virginia. p. 28.