Early references include the Greek Ferryman Charon charging a toll to ferry people across the river Styx. Aristotle and Pliny refer to tolls in Arabia and other parts of Asia. In India, before the 4th century BC the Arthasastra[?] notes the use of tolls. Germanic tribes charged tolls to travelers across mountain passes. Tolls were used in the Holy Roman Empire in the 1300s and 1400s.
Tolls became popular in England in the late 1600s following the decline of roads after the Protestant Reformation (Catholic monks no longer maintained the roads). By the end of the 1700s the intercity road network in England was primarily a toll road network. Tolls did not require the use of statute labor[?] or the corvee[?] system. Toll roads eventually died out in the late 1800s due to competition from railroads and complaints from users making longer and longer trips (thus stopping more and more to pay tolls).
In the United States, toll roads began with the Lancaster Turnpike[?] in the 1790s, connecting Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Toll roads peaked in the mid 1800s, and by the turn of the twentieth century most toll roads were taken over by state highway departments.
After 1940 with the Pennsylvania Turnpike, toll roads saw a resurgence, this time to fund limited access highways. By 1956, most limited access highways in the eastern United States were toll roads. In that year, the Interstate highway program was established, funding non-toll roads with 90% federal dollars and 10% state match, giving little incentive for states to expand their turnpike system.
Since the completion of the interstate highway program, states are again looking at toll financing for roads, as federal dollars are not as available.
Outside the United States, many countries use private (or public) toll road companies to build their intercity roads. These companies have often fallen in and out of the public sector, and many have had financial problems.
The term turnpike refers to the pike or long stick that was held across the road, and only raised when the traveler paid the toll.
While toll roads have often been disliked by travelers for the toll, they have also caused great annoyance due to the delay at toll booths. New technology, electronic toll collection[?] is eliminating the delay, as travelers can go past toll collection devices at full speed and have their accounts debited electronically without stopping.