(redirected from Turnpikes)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal.
Related to Turnpikes: toll


road paid for partly or wholly by fees collected from travelers at tollgates. It derives its name from the hinged bar that prevented passage through such a gate until the toll was paid. See also roadroad,
strip of land used for transportation. The history of roads has been related to the centralizing of populations in powerful cities, which the roads have served for military purposes and for trade, the collection of supplies, and tribute.
..... Click the link for more information.

Development of Turnpike Roads

In England tollgates were first authorized by law in 1346. Although American colonists from Scotland and Ireland, as well as from England, knew the turnpike system, it was not introduced in the United States until after the Revolution. It was then that the business interests of growing cities first required through roads, most of which could not be built and maintained by local funds in unsettled or sparsely settled regions. The tollgate, like the later gasoline tax, was a device to make the traffic pay for the road.

Early Turnpikes in America

The first American turnpike road was a state enterprise, authorized by a Virginia act of 1785. The first American turnpike to be constructed and operated by a private corporation was the Lancaster Turnpike built (1792) in Pennsylvania. Thereafter turnpikes were regularly private enterprises, and turnpike corporations held the leadership in the development of the American corporation system. The construction of turnpikes proceeded rapidly, and by 1825 a map of the Eastern states showing the turnpikes would have looked much like a present-day map showing the railroads. Famous turnpikes included the post road from New York to Boston (now part of U.S. 1), the two roads from New York to Albany (on the two sides of the Hudson River), and the roads from Albany to Buffalo, main lines of communication with the developing West.

Construction and Traffic in the Early Nineteenth Century

Construction of one of the early roads usually began with felling trees and uprooting stumps. Swamps were crossed by corduroy, i.e., logs laid side by side. The surface of the turnpike was sometimes of earth, but often of broken stone or of planks. American turnpikes thrived from c.1800 to c.1840, as did the passenger stagecoach and the Conestoga wagon. The coach had places for 8 to 14 passengers and was drawn by four or six horses; the wagon, for freight, was drawn by six or eight horses. The traffic over the turnpikes also included droves of horses, cattle, and sheep. Settlers going West often used turnpikes on the first part of their route. Tollgates were 6 to 10 mi (9.7–16.1 km) apart, and tolls were commonly from 10¢ to 25¢ for a vehicle, depending on its type. Turnpikes that were not profitable were turned over to the states. After the coming of canals and railroads, abandonment became general.

The Modern Highway System

In more recent times the multilane expressways have often followed the abandoned rights-of-way of the old turnpikes. The opening (1940) of the first multilane superhighway, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, began a new era in tollroad construction. Since then every state has constructed at least one superhighway on either a toll or nontoll basis. Those that do charge tolls are most commonly located E of the Mississippi River.

The American superhighway network is commonly known as the Interstate Highway System (officially the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways). Authorized (1944) by an act of Congress, the interstate system is designed to provide an efficient national transportation system for ordinary use as well as in case of war or other emergency. Construction began in 1956 (although many previously constructed roads were absorbed into the system) and took thirty years to complete; it encompasses 42,796 mi (68,869 km) of roads, all but a few miles of which are completed. It is financed largely by the Federal Highway Trust Fund (established 1956), into which are paid the revenues from most highway-related federal taxes.

The states now also derive considerable income from various forms of road and motor-vehicle taxation, reducing the need for toll collection. Most of the larger roads that still charge tolls have been modernized with electronic toll-collection technology that eliminates the need for coins or tokens at the tollgate; sensors in the tollgate record a car passing through (if the car is equipped with the correct transponder, usually called a tag), and the toll is then charged to the tag's owner's account. In recent years an increasing number of toll roads have been built or operated by private companies


See M. H. Rose, Interstate: Express Highway Politics, 1941–56 (1979); D. L. Brodsly, Freeway (1981); B. E. Seely, Building the American Highway System (1987).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/


(civil engineering)
A toll expressway.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. (between the mid-16th and late 19th centuries)
a. gates or some other barrier set across a road to prevent passage until a toll had been paid
b. a road on which a turnpike was operated
2. US a motorway for use of which a toll is charged
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
After the first decade of turnpike construction all save the most foolhardy realized what turnpikes held in store.
An essay advocating turnpike roads in New York, appearing in 1795, says that such an improvement "lays open all the unexploited resources of a country to come forth to daylight, and to a market."(24) In 1797 we find a discussion in five installments of roads and turnpikes by "A Philanthropist." He expounds at great length on the social importance of good roads and argues that turnpikes are the best means of achieving them.
Likewise, Fisher Ames in New England said most turnpikes were built "to facilitate country produce on its way to market."(25)
turnpikes of New England were built in hopes of benefiting the
Over $11 million was invested in turnpikes in New York, some $6.5 million in New England, and over $4.5 million (excluding state investment) in Pennsylvania (Durrenberger [1931, 61, 102]; Taylor [1934, 211]).
After the most travelled routes had been converted to turnpikes, it became more difficult to raise money for their construction;(32) nonetheless turnpikes continued to be built, even though, by 1810, hope of direct remuneration had disappeared.
The literature on turnpikes is old and primarily narrative.
The cooperative spirit expressed itself in enterprises much like the turnpikes. In his comprehensive study of American business incorporations up to 1800, Davis [1917, II, 284-85] points out that many enterprises were undertaken to make improvements, and debates whether to count them as business corporations.
In financing, many turnpikes closely resembled this dredging company: numerous people contributed liberally for the large fixed costs and then just enough revenue was collected to sustain operation.
Following Margolis [1982], we could say that people contributed to turnpikes due to strong group-interest utility functions, or following Sugden [1984; 1986], we could say that people felt they ought to contribute and they therefore behaved according to a system of moral obligations.
The struggle to gather support is shown in a letter to John Rutherford, a subscriber in several turnpikes, about a newly incorporated turnpike through Trenton: "We open the books on Thursday next - and shall try every means to get the company organized - you know how little spirit prevails with the citizens of this place for any public improvement - but intend pushing them hard." Further, the writer expresses his hope that Rutherford "may think so favourable of [the project] - as to give orders to some friend here to subscribe largely."(48)
The West Virginia Turnpike is an 88-mile long toll road extending from Charleston to Princeton, West Virginia.