A toll road is a road on which a person must pay a fee or toll to drive. Collecting payment for travel long predates the now traditional toll road that drivers often see. Charon, of Greek myth, required payment for passage into the underworld and crossing the Styx River. “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” is a very old fable in which goats sport with and finally defeat a troll who wishes to eat one of the goats as a toll for crossing a bridge.
Fortunately, the modern toll road generally does not require outwitting an ogre, though traffic congestion caused by a few have been called nightmarish. The principle behind this type of road is that tolls collected help pay for the repair and upkeep of the road. Such roads usually are not maintained by funds allocated by the state, county, or county.
The toll road, which may also be called a turnpike, typically uses one of two systems for paying the toll. One is called a mainline or barrier toll system. As people exit or enter the road, they pay for using it. Toll fees can vary, but generally, they are not greater than $5 to $10 US dollars (USD), and are often much cheaper. The barrier form slows down traffic, since all must stop and pay the toll.
Some barrier toll systems only charge for using the road in one direction. Toll bridges like the Golden Gate Bridge charge only on entry from the north of San Francisco. Those exiting San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge pay no toll.
Another form of toll road is called entry/exit. This form is rather like using a paying parking garage. Wherever a car enters the road, the driver collects a ticket. When the driver exits the road, he or she pays a toll determined by how far the vehicle has traveled on the road. Using a longer stretch of the road frequently means paying a larger amount of money.
A toll road may not be part of the public road system. This is most common in other countries, but is not entirely uncommon in the US. For example, 17 Mile Drive, which stretches between Monterey and Carmel, California, requires a toll and is privately owned. Drivers can go around this stretch and use Highway 1 to get from Monterey to Carmel, but using the road is well worth it for people who enjoy sightseeing.
The driver who must frequent such roads often resents having to stop in order to pay a toll. This has led many different payment strategies for commuters. In some cases, drivers can purchase a monthly pass, and a flash of the pass allows the car to quickly get through designated booths.
Some newer toll road systems are working with Global Positioning Systems (GPS) on cars, and verifying that the toll is already provided for in a prepaid account. Some other systems may photograph license plates and send users a monthly bill. Commuters may pay a lower amount for using the road almost every day.
For other drivers, paying the toll still means slowing down and waiting in congested traffic. It can help for the driver to have his or her money out and available to make this process as painless as possible. Bringing exact change will also speed up waiting at the toll booth for everyone.