It has been said that the greatest invention in history is the wheel. If so, then today's modern superhighways are surely one of humankind's greatest achievements.
The Ohio Turnpike is a modern revival of an ancient form of transportation. Toll roads go back to Roman times. In the early days of the United States, the U.S. Congress authorized a national toll road to be carved out of the wilderness. In time, the new road came through Ohio, thus easing travel for horsemen, buggies and Conestoga wagons on their way west. A toll of two cents per every 10 miles was charged for horses. Additional tolls were charged for conveyances, depending on their expected wear-and-tear on the roadway.
Over the years, new paths were carved as the population of Ohio grew. With the coming of the automobile, dirt roads and wooden bridges gave way to concrete surfaces and spans of steel. Even so, by the mid-20th Century, something more was needed.
The postwar boom meant increased enterprise in Ohio. Farmers and manufacturers needed a surefire way to transport their products to market quickly. Motorists demanded speedier access to distant cities, shopping centers and recreational sites. Existing roadways were choked with traffic. A dramatic solution was needed.
Ohio's leaders envisioned a nonstop span across the state superior to anything that had ever been built. In 1949, the legislature authorized creation of the Ohio Turnpike Commission. To fund the new superhighway, the Commission issued $326 million in revenue bonds. The Turnpike would be the biggest construction project in Ohio's history to that time.
Ground was broken on October 27, 1952. At peak construction, 10,000 workers were on the job and the landscape became dotted with more than 2,300 bulldozers, graders, loaders and other machines. Building the 241 mile highway took only 38 months.
On October 1, 1955, the massive project was completed. Hundreds of eager motorists were lined up to be among the first to drive nonstop all the way across Ohio. Opening Day traffic totaled 44,000 vehicles. The Turnpike was in business.
The Turnpike is administered and maintained under the direction of the Ohio Turnpike Commission. It is officially named the James W. Shocknessy Ohio Turnpike for the agency's first chairman. A prominent attorney known for his civic endeavors, Mr. Shocknessy devoted his extraordinary talents and energies to making the Turnpike dream into a vivid reality. Today's magnificent expressway is his monument.
The Ohio Turnpike is now part of the nation's Interstate Highway System. However, it remains a toll road, superbly maintained by self-generated income, adding nothing to your federal taxes.
In 1956, the first full year of operation, some 10 million cars and trucks used the Turnpike. In 2010, total traffic soared to more than 48.8 million vehicles, more than a fourfold increase.
The Ohio Turnpike has become an economic lifeline helping bring in untold millions of dollars to our state. Whether traveling on a shopping trip to an antique store or the truck shipment of tons of automotive parts, the Turnpike makes every journey safer, more convenient and more efficient. Meanwhile, the Ohio Turnpike Commission continues to promote economic development by planning new projects to increase accessibility to business and industry.
The Ohio Turnpike provides customers with plenty of access points for driving convenience. When first opened, the Turnpike had 17 interchanges, located near the most populous areas of Northern Ohio. In 2001, a direct connection was added from the Ohio Turnpike to Interstate 77 at the Cleveland Interchange (173). By the end of 2004, the Turnpike had 31 access points.
The Commission has embarked on a project to replace the over 40-year-old service plazas with state-of-the-art facilities.
The service plazas are being reconstructed on the existing sites and they offer a multitude of conveniences to Turnpike customers. Included will be a larger variety of food offerings, expanded restroom facilities, and information wall with travel and weather information, more parking for cars, trucks and busses and much more.
Prices for food, fuel and other items are competitive with those charged by off-Turnpike establishments in the same vicinity. Service stations offer gasoline, diesel fuel and auto accessories. Also available are maps, motel/hotel listings, and other traveler aids.
All service plazas have accommodations for the physically challenged, including reserved parking spaces and wheelchair ramps. Picnic grounds and pet walks with water also can be found. Additionally, eight of the plazas, four eastbound and four westbound, provide overnight parking space for recreational vehicles and travel trailers.
Costs for Turnpike construction and maintenance do not come from federal taxes as they do for other major highways. The Turnpike covers its own costs through tolls, restaurant and service station concessions, and similar earnings. The Turnpike also receives about $2.7 million a year from a portion of the state tax on fuel sold only at Turnpike service stations. This money is allocated to bridges and overpasses to state routes.
Toll charges are based on the number of vehicle axles and the height over the first two axles in addition to distance traveled. A new toll collection system was implemented on the Ohio Turnpike on October 1, 2009. This changed the way in which vehicles are classified and compressed the number of vehicle classes from 11 to 7.
Since the Turnpike opened in 1955, the Consumer Price Index has increased 744%, while the Ohio Fuel Tax per Gallon increased by 460%, yet the Ohio Turnpike tolls for passenger car travelers increased by only 275%.
The Commission is presently in the process of adding a third lane east and west on the Turnpike's most heavily traveled 160 miles between Toledo and Youngstown.
Created to reduce traffic congestion and provide better driver safety, approximately 93% of the project was finished by the end of 2006.
Built in the median, third lanes are 12 feet wide, with 14 foot, three-inch paved inside shoulders that are divided by a 50-inch concrete barrier.
The original Ohio Turnpike was designed with paved shoulders, eight to 10 feet wide, and a broad median strip, more than 50 feet wide. Curves and hills are very gradual to give you the best possible sight distance and driving comfort.
Under the administration of the Ohio Turnpike Commission, the 241 mile span is the best maintained highway in Ohio. Service crews are stationed about every 30 miles to keep the roadway in safe condition, clear of snow and ice.
In 2010, cars and trucks logged 2.8 billion miles of Turnpike driving, with an accident rate less than half the national average.
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