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A toll road (or tollway, turnpike, pike, toll highway or an express toll route) is a privately or publicly built road for which a driver pays a toll (a fee) for use. Structures for which tolls are charged include toll bridges and toll tunnels. Non-toll roads are financed using other sources of revenue, most typically fuel tax or general tax funds. The building or facility in which a toll is collected may be called a toll booth, toll plaza, toll station, or toll gate. This building is usually found on either side of a bridge and at exits.


Three systems of toll roads exist: open (with mainline barrier toll plazas); closed (with entry/exit tolls) and all-electronic toll collection (no toll booths, only electronic toll collection gantries at entrances and exits, or at strategic locations on the mainline of the road).

On an open toll system, all vehicles stop at various locations along the highway to pay a toll. While this may save money from the lack of need to construct tolls at every exit, it can cause traffic congestion, and drivers may be able to avoid tolls (shunpike) by exiting and re-entering the highway.

With a closed system, vehicles collect a ticket when entering the highway. In some cases, the ticket displays the toll to be paid on exit. Upon exit, the driver must pay the amount listed for the given exit. Should the ticket be lost, a driver must typically pay the maximum amount possible for travel on that highway. Short toll roads with no intermediate entries or exits may have only one toll plaza at one end, with motorists traveling in either direction paying a flat fee either when they enter or when they exit the toll road. In a variant of the closed toll system, mainline barriers are present at the two endpoints of the toll road, and each interchange has a ramp toll that is paid upon exit or entry. In this case, a motorist pays a flat fee at the ramp toll and another flat fee at the end of the toll road; no ticket is necessary.

In an all-electronic system (such as that used on Highway 407 in the Canadian province of Ontario and the Fort Bend Westpark Tollway in the U.S. state of Texas), no cash toll collection takes place, tolls are usually collected with the use of a transponder mounted on the windshield of each vehicle, which is linked to a customer account which is debited for each use of the toll road. On some roads, such as Highway 407, automobiles and light trucks without transponders are permitted to use the road (though trucks with a gross vehicle weight over 5,000 kilograms must have a transponder) - a bill for the toll due is then sent to the registered owner of the vehicle by mail; by contrast, the Fort Bend Westpark Tollway requires all vehicles to be equipped with a transponder.

Modern toll roads often use a combination of the three, with various entry and exit tolls supplemented by occasional mainline tolls.

Some toll roads charge a toll in only one direction, such as where the M4 in Great Britainmarker crosses the River Severn on either of the two Severn Bridgesmarker. On these bridges, it is free to travel from Walesmarker into Englandmarker, but a toll must be paid on the return journey. This is only practical where the detour to avoid the toll is very large – in this case about 40 miles.

Toll payments may be made in cash, by credit card, by pre-paid card, or by an electronic toll collection system. In some European countries, payment is made using stickers which are affixed to the windscreen. Some toll booths are automated. Tolls may vary according to the distance traveled, the building and maintenance costs of the motorway, and the type of vehicle.

Early toll roads

Tolls have been placed on roads at various times in history, often to generate funds for repayment of toll revenue bonds used to finance constructions and/or operation

Toll roads are at least 2700 years old, as tolls had to be paid by travellers using the SusamarkerBabylonmarker highway under the regime of Ashurbanipal, who reigned in the seventh century BC.Aristotle and Pliny refer to tolls in Arabia and other parts of Asia. In Indiamarker, before the 4th century BC, the Arthasastra notes the use of tolls. Germanic tribes charged tolls to travellers across mountain passes. Tolls were used in the Holy Roman Empire in the 14th century and 15th century.

A 14th century example (though not for a road) is Castle Loevesteinmarker in the Netherlandsmarker, which was built at a strategic point where 2 rivers meet, and charged tolls on boats sailing along the river.

Many modern European roads were originally constructed as toll roads in order to recoup the costs of construction. In 14th century Englandmarker, some of the most heavily used roads were repaired with money raised from tolls by pavage grants. Turnpike trusts were established in England from 1706 onwards, and were ultimately responsible for the maintenance and improvement of most main roads in Englandmarker and Walesmarker, until they were gradually abolished from the 1870s. Most trusts improved existing roads, but some new ones, usually only short stretches of road, were also built. Thomas Telford's Holyheadmarker road (now the A5 road) is exceptional as a particularly long new road, built in the early 19th century with many toll booths along its length. See also Toll roads in the United Kingdom.

One of the first U.S. toll roads, the Long Island Motor Parkway (which opened on October 10, 1908) was built by William Kissam Vanderbilt II, the great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt. The road was closed in 1938 when it was taken over by the state of New York in lieu of back taxes.

National toll-road differences

Toll roads are found in many countries. The way they are funded and operated may differ from country to country. Some of these toll roads are privately owned and operated. Others are owned by the government. Some of the government-owned toll roads are privately operated.

Some toll roads are managed under such systems as the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) system. Private companies build the roads and are given a limited franchise. Ownership is transferred to the government when the franchise expires. Throughout the world, this type of arrangement is prevalent in Australia, South Koreamarker, Japanmarker, Philippinesmarker, and Canadamarker. The (BOT) system is a fairly new concept that is gaining ground in the United Statesmarker, with Arkansasmarker, Californiamarker, Delawaremarker, Floridamarker, Illinoismarker, Indianamarker, Mississippimarker, Texasmarker, and Virginiamarker already building and operating toll roads under this scheme. Pennsylvaniamarker, Massachusettsmarker, New Jerseymarker, and Tennesseemarker are also considering the BOT methodology for future highway projects.

The more traditional means of managing toll roads in the United States is through semi-autonomous public authorities. New Yorkmarker, Massachusettsmarker, New Hampshiremarker, New Jerseymarker, Marylandmarker, Ohiomarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, Kansasmarker, Oklahomamarker, and West Virginiamarker manage their toll roads in this manner. While most of the toll roads in California, Delaware, Florida, Texas, and Virginia are operating under the BOT arrangement, a few of the older toll roads in these states are still operated by public authorities.

In Francemarker, all toll roads are operated by private companies, and the government takes a part of their profit.

Critics of toll roads

Toll roads have been criticized as being inefficient in three ways:
  1. They require vehicles to stop or slow down, manual toll collection wastes time and raises vehicle operating costs.
  2. Collection costs can absorb up to one-third of revenues, and revenue theft is considered to be comparatively easy.
  3. Where the tolled roads are less congested than the parallel "free" roads, the traffic diversion resulting from the tolls increases congestion on the road system and reduces its usefulness.

Toll collection technology

An adaptation of military "identification friend or foe" or RFID technology, called electronic toll collection, is lessening the delay incurred in toll collection. The electronic system determines whether a passing car is enrolled in the program, alerts enforcers if it is not. The accounts of registered cars are debited automatically without stopping or even opening a window. Currently, DSRC is used as a wireless protocol. Other systems are based on GPRS/GSM and GPS technology. Such a system (for trucks only) in Germanymarker launched successfully in January 2005 and by the end of its first year of operation will have charged tolls for around 22 billion driven kilometres. One of the advantages of GPS-based systems is their ability to adapt easily and quickly to changes in charge parameters (road classes, vehicle types, emission levels, time slots, etc.). Another advantage is the systems' ability to support other value-added services on the same technology platform. These services might include fleet and vehicle engine management systems, emergency response services, pay-as-you-drive insurance services and navigation capabilities.

The first major deployment of an RFID electronic toll collection system in the United States was on the Dallas North Tollway in 1989 by Amtech (see TollTag). The Amtech RFID technology used on the Dallas North Tollway was originally developed at Sandia Labs for use in tagging and tracking livestock. In the same year, the Telepass active transponder RFID system was introduced across Italy.

Highway 407 in the province of Ontariomarker, Canadamarker has no toll booths, and instead reads a transponder mounted on the windshields of each vehicle using the road (the rear license plates of vehicles lacking a transponder are photographed when they enter and exit the highway). This made the highway the first all-automated highway in the world. A bill is mailed monthly for usage of the 407. Lower charges are levied on frequent 407 users who carry electronic transponders in their vehicles. The approach has not been without controversy: In 2002 the 407 ETR a class action with a refund to users. The same method is used on Highway 6 in Israelmarker and the reversible lanes of the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway in Hillsborough County, Floridamarker (in the latter case, the system reads SunPass transponders).

Throughout most of the East Coast of the United States, E-ZPass (operated under the brands I-Pass in Illinoismarker, i-Zoom in Indianamarker, and Fast Lane in Massachusettsmarker) is accepted on almost all toll roads. Similar systems include SunPass in Floridamarker and FasTrak in Californiamarker. The systems use a small radio transponder mounted in or on a customer's vehicle to deduct toll fares from a pre-paid account as the vehicle passes through the toll barrier. This reduces manpower at toll booths and increases traffic flow and fuel efficiency by reducing the need for complete stops to pay tolls at these locations.

By designing a tollgate specifically for electronic collection, it is possible to carry out open-road tolling, where the customer does not need to slow at all when passing through the tollgate. The U.S. state of Texasmarker is testing a system on a stretch of Texas 121 that has no toll booths. Drivers without a TollTag have their license plate photographed automatically and the registered owner will receive a monthly bill, at a higher rate than those vehicles with TollTags.

Another feature of many electronic toll collection systems is interagency interoperability, where the same transponder is accepted at many toll agencies. For instance, the E-ZPass tag is accepted at most toll facilities in the Eastern United Statesmarker, from Virginiamarker to Mainemarker, west to the Peace Bridgemarker spanning the Niagara Rivermarker, and in Indianamarker and Illinoismarker. Ohiomarker is scheduled to join E-ZPass for the Ohio Turnpike in 2009. The TxTAG system allows interoperability throughout the state of Texas, but is not compatible with systems used outside of Texasmarker.

Electronic toll collection systems also have drawbacks. A computer glitch can result in delays several miles long. Some U.S. state turnpike commissions have debated implementing E-ZPass but have found that such a system would be ineffective because most of the people who use the turnpike are not commuters, are from states that have no ETS on turnpikes, or are from states that don't have a turnpike at all. The toll plazas of some turnpikes are antiquated because they were originally built for traffic that stops to pay the toll or get a ticket.

The technology does have its limits. For instance, the Highway 407 automatic number plate recognition technology has a reputation for the occasional misread plate, leading to bills being sent to motorists in remote parts of Ontario who have never been near the tollway. The Ontario government responded to complaints by hiring an ombudsman to address 407 toll complaints.

Closed system

For toll roads, a "closed system" refers to a road where a motorist obtains a ticket upon entering the toll road, then pays a toll upon exiting the expressway. The toll is calculated by the distance travelled on the toll road. The Ohio Turnpike and the Pennsylvania Turnpike currently implement closed systems. In contrast, a toll road using an 'open system' consists of mainline toll plazas (a.k.a., toll barriers) at set intervals; it is possible for motorists to get on an 'open toll road' after one toll barrier and exit before the next one, thus travelling on the toll road toll-free. Most open toll roads have ramp tolls or partial access junctions to prevent this.

Toll road gallery

Image:SR 417 University Toll Plaza.jpg|A high-speed toll booth on SR 417 near Orlando, FloridamarkerImage:Sayama Loop toll road-2005-6-5.jpg|On the Sayama bypass (Saitamamarker prefectural road 397) in JapanmarkerImage:New Jersey Turnpike toll gate.jpg|A New Jersey Turnpike Toll Gate for Exit 8A in Monroe Township, NJmarkerFile:163rd Street Open Road Tolling Lane.jpg|The open road tolling lanes at the West 163rd Street toll plaza, on the Tri-State Tollway near Hazel Crest, IllinoismarkerImage:Caseta San Marcos (Mexico-Puebla).jpg|Toll gate San Marcos, at the Méxicomarker-Pueblamarker autopista (MexicoImage:Gurgaonway.jpg|Traffic at rush hour on Indiamarker's largest and the world's second largest toll plaza in Gurgaonmarker, Haryanamarker.Image:ERPBugis.JPG|ERP gantry at North Bridge Road. SingaporemarkerImage:Table-of-tolls-College-Road-London-SE21-Tollgate.jpg|A table of tolls in pre-decimal currency for the College Road, Dulwich, London SE21 tollgate.Image:Toll-gates.jpg|On the Dom Pedro I Highway near the city of Itatibamarker, BrazilmarkerImage:Balintawak Toll Barrier.jpg|The Balintawak Toll Barrier of the North Luzon Expressway located in Caloocan Citymarker, Philippinesmarker.Image:Ohio_Turnpike_Service_Area_Dscn7189.jpg|Service areas provide food, fuel, and travel information on the Ohio Turnpike, in the United Statesmarker.Image:Electronic Toll Equipment in Ontario.jpg|407ETR overhead cameras used to capture rear license plates in Ontariomarker, Canadamarker.

See also


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