Skip to main content
Select Source:

turnpike

turnpike, 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 road.

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

Bibliography

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).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"turnpike." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"turnpike." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/turnpike

"turnpike." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved July 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/turnpike

turnpikes

turnpikes were a means of financing road maintenance by tolls charged on users, named from the gate used to restrict access. First applied to part of the Great North Road in 1663 on a temporary basis, the principle was employed from 1695 in a series of private Acts to supplant inadequate parish repair under the statute of 1555. Initially administered by justices of the peace, management by trustees was introduced in 1706, and generalized by 1714. Trusts covered on average 30 miles of road, and were a systematic response to traffic growth: most of the thirteen radial routes from London had been turnpiked by 1750, as had much of the network centred on the leading provincial towns of Bristol, Hereford, Worcester, and Leeds. ‘Turnpike mania’ 1750–72 saw the addition of 500 trusts, covering 15,000 miles, and the spread of the system into Wales and Scotland; further peaks occurred in the mid-1790s and 1820s, one-third in the industrial districts of Yorkshire and Lancashire. Turnpiking was limited to trunk and busy urban routes, and covered only 17 per cent of over 126,000 miles of roads by 1838.

Turnpiking represented a major transport innovation in applying use-based revenues to the increased investment that improved road quality. Mortgage finance was used from the 1750s to permit large-scale engineering work, bridge-building, and improvement of both surfaces and lines. The benefits were reflected in reduced travel times: Edinburgh, ten days from London by the fastest coach in 1754, was only four days away by 1776, and 40 hours by 1840. The cost of travel fell substantially in real terms, and road transport became up to three times more productive between the 1690s and the 1840s as a result of turnpiking. National perceptions of distance shifted fundamentally, and travel began to become a consumer good.

J. A. Chartres

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"turnpikes." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"turnpikes." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/turnpikes

"turnpikes." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved July 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/turnpikes

Turnpikes

TURNPIKES


Turnpikes are toll roads: the user pays a fee to travel the road. Only after the user paid the toll would the gatekeeper turn the "pike" or gate to allow the wagon or carriage on to the road. This practice, which was established in England in the 1700s, arrived in the United States in the late 1700s when turnpike companies began surfacing roads and building bridges for a profit. The first American turnpike was built in 1785 in Virginia. The first major U.S. turnpike that was publicly financed was Pennsylvania's Lancaster Road: some 5,000 investors subscribed 30 dollars each to buy shares in the turnpike that was made of stone and gravel and connected Philadelphia to Lancaster. It opened in 1794 after two years of construction. The project inspired similar projects and around the turn of the century hundreds of turnpike companies emerged. They improved existing routes and established new ones; stagecoach travel increased as a result. As a transportation improvement, the toll roads were a big success for the developing nation. As a private business endeavor, however, toll roads proved a failure. Traveler's fees usually covered only maintenance. By 1825 turnpike companies' stocks had become worthless and most companies folded. Thereafter the government began operating toll roads as a way to finance pike projects: those who would use them had to pay fees. In this way, the taxpayer's burden was reduced.

See also: National Road, Wilderness Road

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Turnpikes." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Turnpikes." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/turnpikes-0

"Turnpikes." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Retrieved July 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/turnpikes-0

turnpike

turnpike Tollgate or barrier across a road to prevent the passage of travellers or goods until a toll had been paid. The money raised was used to keep main roads in repair. In the UK, the first Turnpike Act (1663) covered only three counties, but turnpike roads became widespread in the 18th century. In 1895, the last turnpike trust closed, although tolls are still levied on certain British roads and road bridges.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"turnpike." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"turnpike." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/turnpike

"turnpike." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved July 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/turnpike

turnpike

turn·pike / ˈtərnˌpīk/ • n. 1. an expressway, esp. one on which a toll is charged. ∎ hist. a toll gate. ∎  (also turnpike road) hist. a road on which a toll was collected at such a gate. 2. hist. a spiked barrier fixed in or across a road or passage as a defense against sudden attack.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"turnpike." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"turnpike." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/turnpike-0

"turnpike." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved July 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/turnpike-0

turnpike

turnpike. See stair.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"turnpike." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"turnpike." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/turnpike

"turnpike." A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. . Retrieved July 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/turnpike

turnpike

turnpikealike, bike, dyke, haik, hike, kike, like, mic, mike, mislike, pike, psych, psyche, shrike, spike, strike, trike, tyke, Van Dyck, vandyke •pushbike • motorbike • Klondike •Thorndike • Updike • hitchhike •crablike • lamblike •fanlike, manlike, panlike •trap-like • catlike • starlike • calf-like •glass-like, grass-like •branch-like • plant-like • thread-like •gem-like • deathlike • waiflike •vein-like • wraithlike • fiendlike •leaf-like • dreamlike • queen-like •sheeplike • witchlike • sylphlike •piglike •springlike, string-like, wing-like •lip-like • princelike • ladylike •businesslike • lifelike • childlike •Christlike, vice-like •knob-like •godlike, rod-like •doglike • rock-like • swanlike •foxlike • warlike • lord-like •horselike • globe-like •dome-like, homelike •ghostlike • rose-like • toylike •root-like • tooth-like • hood-like •wolf-like • hook-like •wool-like • suchlike • sponge-like •nunlike, sunlike •dovelike • lion-like • flower-like •soundalike • lookalike •statesmanlike • seamanlike •sportsmanlike • womanlike •workmanlike • fatherlike • worm-like •handspike • garpike • marlinspike •turnpike

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"turnpike." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"turnpike." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/turnpike

"turnpike." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved July 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/turnpike