Historically, tolls for roads and other pathways like bridges and tunnels have helped local and non-local governments cope with the high cost of maintaining public roads and general infrastructure.

The tolls are like an on-the-spot tax. Eventually, people began to see the cost as the price necessary for better, safer travel from one point to another. In modern times, states rely on tolls for the same reason. Tolls help make up the difference when federal funding and local and state taxes fail to cover necessary infrastructure costs. In recent years, toll-related pathways, known commonly as toll roads, tollways and turnpikes, have become more important than ever because of a decrease in the availability and amount of federal funds.

From a driving perspective, toll roads offer a more convenient way for drivers to reach their destinations. Alternative routes, known as shunpikes, aren't always the fastest or most driver-friendly option. Local governments often repair shunpikes more slowly than toll roads, which means that free routes usually have more potholes and construction delays. The majority of toll roads typically make travel easier than free public roadways because they're designed and maintained to provide a fast, smooth ride. Some toll roads are called toll expressways or superhighways for this reason. Additionally, longer toll roads can reduce the number of curves drivers must maneuver and mountains they must ascend, which helps them bypass geographically difficult and congested traffic areas. Toll roads also often feature multiple lanes, rest stops that offer fuel and food options and higher-than-normal speed limits.

How Does It Work?: Toll Road Travel and Payments

Once you've determined that you need to use a toll road to reach your destination, you simply drive to the closest access point. If it is a short toll road, you might pay a toll booth attendant at the entrance or drop the appropriate amount in a coin basket or scan a pass account smart card. If you have invested in a pass account device, a sensor at the entrance detects it in your vehicle. Some locations have systems that scan vehicle plates. With a long stretch of highway and many exits, you might receive a ticket that lists the exits and the amount you must later pay to an attendant or automated system or via a pass account card or device once you reach your exit. If you travel during off-peak hours or with a low-emission vehicle, you might receive discounts when paying tolls.

The Checklist: What You Need to Use Toll Roads

Before you attempt to use a toll road, you should prepare for your journey. This is a quick list of things you will need:

  • Computer or Phone - Always check the route beforehand so that you can estimate toll and fuel costs. Online- and app-based maps usually display information about toll roads, such as toll road names, estimated distances and related tolls, and alternate routes.
  • Money or Pass Account - Never approach a toll road without the means to pay. Otherwise, you can incur a financial penalty. The penalty amount typically includes the maximum toll and a non-payment violation fee. A pass account can help to prevent non-payments incidents. It also reduces traffic congestion at toll booths. Sometimes you can even use a toll road pass to pay for parking at a nearby lot or structure.
  • Approved Vehicle - States typically permit personal and commercial motor vehicles, including cars, SUVs, motorcycles, freight trucks, buses and certain types of recreational vehicles. You must also have a valid driver's license, registration and insurance.

Questions and Answers:

If you still have questions, don't worry. This sections covers several additional areas. Hopefully, it can help you to use toll roads without difficulty in the future.

Q: Do toll roads pose any sort of danger?

A: Many toll roads, such as turnpikes that run through mountains, are designed to reduce exposure to dangerous driving conditions, such as fog and ice. States also ban some larger vehicles on toll roads during specific types of bad weather in certain regions. Superhighways are often designed with more lanes so that passenger vehicles don't have to compete with large commercial trucks running at high speeds. All of this said, toll roads can pose the same dangers as any roadway in inclement weather conditions and when drivers travel above road speed limits, drive while distracted or act recklessly in other ways. Dangerous traffic congestion can also take place during peak hours.

Q: Is there additional information by state?

A: A simple online keyword search via a search engine using the phrase "toll roads" and the name of a state can produce search results about roads and fees in specific states.

Q: Do I have to use a toll road?

A: It depends on the location that you're trying to reach and the amount of time and money that you have available to spend for travel. As already mentioned, one or more alternate routes often exist. The only problems are that you might have to drive out of your way and a greater distance and deal with poor road conditions.

Q: Do I need to maintain a minimum pass account balance?

A: When you choose to pay via a pass account, you must usually maintain a minimum balance. You will be asked to connect your bank account or credit card to the pass account when setting it up.

Q: What happens if I lose a toll road ticket?

A: You must pay the toll required for drivers who travel from the most distant entry point on that road before the exit that you use. If you're at the end of the toll road, you must pay th