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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.
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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 ?
Off-turnpike projects are located within the 10-county area adjacent to the turnpike and are deemed complementary to the turnpike.
Suspicious person/motor vehicle, spoken to, moved along, 40 Hartford Turnpike
Key factors supporting the rating are the turnpike's strong financial performance, experienced management, low per-mile toll costs and support from the Florida Department of Transportation.
The information contained in TEAMS is accessed through a map-driven interface--a virtual turnpike--that allows Turnpike Enterprise staff to locate an individual asset such as a sign, building, or section of pavement as they navigate around an interactive desktop map.
"Florida's Turnpike Enterprise is the second largest revenue generator for the State of Florida so it is vital we have a proven and innovative solution that is completely scalable, has industry-leading performance and allow for network growth for the long road ahead," said Bob Hartmann, director for the Tolls Data Center.
The 1000 kW MTU Detroit Diesel generators will be installed at eight service plazas, with three additional units placed at the Florida Highway Patrol and Florida Turnpike Enterprises headquarters, also along the turnpike.
At the outset of the project, a team from Florida's Turnpike Enterprise and PBS&J were assembled to work together at the Turnpike Enterprise headquarters in Ocoee, Fla.
This jagged rocky outcropping, which the Turnpike's eastern spur uses as a stepping stone over the marshes known as the Meadowlands, is the only natural break from the flat lowlands for miles.
The first piece of our public-goods story is the nearly universal and well-documented poverty of the turnpikes.(14) Of the Middle Atlantic states, Durrenberger [1931, 112] says, "[considered] from the standpoint of dividends, turnpike stocks were exceedingly poor investments," and of the many turnpikes of New England, Taylor [1934, 266] says, "it is doubtful whether more than five or six paid their proprietors even reasonably well." Though information from the period is fragmentary, Taylor [1934, 281] finds that turnpike dividends in New England were far below those of other enterprises: