Toll roads in the United States

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A high-speed toll booth on SR 417 near Orlando, Florida SR 417 University Toll Plaza.jpg
A high-speed toll booth on SR 417 near Orlando, Florida
Map of states that use E-ZPass or a compatible electronic tolling system
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State uses E-ZPass or has an electronic tolling system that is compatible with E-ZPass
State has an electronic tolling system that is not compatible with E-ZPass
State collects tolls but does not use electronic tolling
State or district does not have tolls E-ZPass states.svg
Map of states that use E-ZPass or a compatible electronic tolling system
  State uses E-ZPass or has an electronic tolling system that is compatible with E-ZPass
  State has an electronic tolling system that is not compatible with E-ZPass
  State collects tolls but does not use electronic tolling
  State or district does not have tolls

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. [1]


Most tolled facilities in the US today use an electronic toll collection system as an alternative to paying cash. Examples of this are the E-ZPass system used on most toll bridges, toll tunnels, and toll roads in the eastern U.S., as far south as Virginia, as far north as Maine, and as far west as Illinois; California's FasTrak; Florida's SunPass; Kansas's K-Tag; Oklahoma's Pikepass; Texas's TxTag (and within Texas, Houston's EZ Tag and Dallas's TollTag); Louisiana's GeauxPass; and Georgia's Peach Pass and Cruise Card. Many toll roads have implemented open road tolling which eliminates the need to stop at toll booths.

Toll roads, especially near the East Coast, are often called turnpikes; the term turnpike originated from pikes, which were long sticks that blocked passage until the fare was paid and the pike turned at a toll house (or toll booth in current terminology).

Origins of funding through toll

In the mid to late nineteenth century, private toll road building was particularly active in the West including California and Nevada. In Nevada, over 100 private toll roads were laid out between the 1850s and 1880s, some of them nearly 200 miles (320 km) long. The owners included stage companies, miners, and ranchers who built the roads, at least in part, to attract business for their primary investments. [2]

Interstate Highway System

Typical Toll Concession P3 Structure as described by the Federal Highway Administration Typical Toll Concession P3 Structure.png
Typical Toll Concession P3 Structure as described by the Federal Highway Administration

By 1956, most limited-access highways in the eastern United States were toll roads. In that year, the federal Interstate Highway System was established, funding non-toll roads with 90% federal dollars and 10% state match, giving little incentive for states to expand their turnpike systems. Funding rules initially restricted collections of tolls on newly funded roadways, bridges, and tunnels. In some situations, expansion or rebuilding of a toll facility using Interstate Highway funding resulted in the removal of existing tolls. This occurred in Virginia on Interstate 64 at the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel when a second parallel roadway to the regional 1958 bridge-tunnel was completed in 1976.

Since the completion of the initial portion of the Interstate Highway System, regulations were changed, and portions of toll facilities have been added to the system. Some states are again looking at toll financing for new roads and maintenance, to supplement limited federal funding. In some areas, new road projects have been completed and later maintained with public-private partnerships funded by tolls, also known as build-operate-transfer systems. One such public-private partnership was the constructions of the Pocahontas Parkway near Richmond, Virginia, which features a costly high level bridge over the shipping channel of the James River and connects Interstate 95 with Interstate 295 to the south of the city.

Toll avoidance

A practice known as shunpiking (not to be confused with toll evasion, which is the non payment of tolls at a toll booth or concealment of a toll RFID tag at a toll reader, both violations) 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 Commonwealth of Virginia finally purchased the facility in 1949. However, rather than announcing a long-expected decrease in tolls, the state officials increased the rates in 1955 without visibly improving the roadway, with the notable exception of building a new toll plaza.[ citation needed ]

The increased toll rates incensed the public and business users alike. In a well-publicized example of shunpiking, Joseph W. Luter Jr., head of Smithfield Packing Company, the producer of world-famous Smithfield Hams, ordered his truck drivers to take a different route and cross a smaller and cheaper bridge. Despite the boycott by Luter and others, tolls continued for 20 more years. They were finally removed from the old bridge in 1975 when construction began on a toll-free replacement structure.[ citation needed ]

See also

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Road transport</span> Collective term for all forms of transport which takes place on roads

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Toll road</span> 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pennsylvania Turnpike</span> East–west toll highway

The Pennsylvania Turnpike is a toll highway operated by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. A controlled-access highway, it runs for 360 miles (580 km) across the state. The turnpike's western terminus is at the Ohio state line in Lawrence County, where the road continues west as the Ohio Turnpike. The eastern terminus is at the New Jersey state line at the Delaware River–Turnpike Toll Bridge over the Delaware River in Bucks County, where the road continues east as the Pearl Harbor Memorial Extension of the New Jersey Turnpike. The highway runs east to west through the southern part of the state, connecting the Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia areas. It crosses the Appalachian Mountains in central Pennsylvania, passing through four tunnels.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Toll bridge</span> Bridge for which road usage tolls are charged

A toll bridge is a bridge where a monetary charge 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.

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.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kansas Turnpike</span> Highway in Kansas

The Kansas Turnpike is a 236-mile-long (380 km), freeway-standard toll road that lies entirely within the US state of Kansas. It runs in a general southwest–northeast direction from the Oklahoma border to Kansas City. It passes through several major Kansas cities, including Wichita, Topeka, and Lawrence. The turnpike is owned and maintained by the Kansas Turnpike Authority (KTA), which is headquartered in Wichita.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">James River Bridge</span> Bridge in VA to Newport News, VA

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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".

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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.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Open road tolling</span> Boothless toll collecting

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dallas North Tollway</span> Highway in Texas

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NationalPass is an interoperable service created by TransCore, which is designed to eventually provide single transponder access to all public toll roads and bridges in North America.


  1. Elliott, Christopher (August 10, 2015). "Don't let the toll booth slow you down". USA Today. pp. 5B. Retrieved August 11, 2015.
  2. David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito,"Rival Road Builders: Private Toll Roads in Nevada, 1852-1880,* Archived 2010-06-10 at the Wayback Machine Nevada Historical Society Quarterly 41 (Summer 1998), 7191.

Further reading