Driving it

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The New Turnpike Age
Toll Roads Make a Comeback

[see large picture]

Out of style by the 1830s, one hundred years later toll roads were revived and even applauded on souvenirs like this commemorative drinking glass. Money raised through bond sales supported road projects that otherwise might not proceed; the money was paid back through toll revenue, thus avoiding taxing locals.

The very first of the mid-20th century toll highways was Pennsylvania's, proudly featured on this glass. While 1939 estimates put the daily traffic for the new highway at 715 vehicles, the actual figure two weeks after it opened in 1940 was 26,000! Along with the completion of the New Jersey and Ohio turnpikes in the 1950s, drivers had an uninterrupted trip from New York to Chicago. Traffic on all far surpassed early estimates, and overshadowed critics' predictions that drivers would never choose a pay road over a free one.

Souvenir glass (3 sides) featuring the Pennsylvania, New Jersey,
and Ohio turnpikes, mid-20th century.
Collections of The New Jersey Historical Society