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Author Topic: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes  (Read 2619 times)

thenetwork

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The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« on: April 16, 2018, 07:41:36 PM »

When I was little and my parents would travel along the Tollways and Turnpikes around the Midwest, each toll road would have it's own unique character along it's mainlines, toll barriers and especially at their service plazas where you could get food and gifts that were hard to find anywhere else.

But especially over the last couple of decades, politics, modern technology and consistent signing practices have pretty much killed off the individual flavors of each toll road.

For those of you who live(d) near a toll road (In Your Opinion):

  When did your toll road / tollway / turnpike lose it's uniqueness?
  What was the final nail in the coffin that made your toll road "just another highway"?
  And when your toll road still had it's character, what were your favorite memories that made it unique?

I'll chime in with my answers in a bit...
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Rothman

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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2018, 09:47:41 PM »

My family used to travel down the Mountain Parkway frequently to visit my grandparents in eastern Kentucky.  I remember the first trip we took down through there when the tolls had been removed, much to our surprise.  I used to get the change ready for the driver; distinctly remember when it hit me that we wouldn't be doing that anymore.
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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2018, 10:21:30 PM »

Chicago Skyway lost its fun, when the McDonalds in the Median near the Toll Plaza was eliminated

The PA Turnpike still has its uniqueness...The Tunnels, and of course Breezewood

I like how ISTHA uses different Lighting and also different sized Lane Striping marks, compared to IDOT Freeways. Also, the Over The Road Service Plazas/Oases are cool, tho 1 is already eliminated (on I-90) and 2 more may be on the chopping block (I-294, with the Central Tri-State Expansion Project)

Early in I-Pass deployment, I believe I-355 was the launch of I-Pass, before it could be used on 88, 294, or 90, with the old Gen 1 Transponder, the black box mounted to the dash board. I dont even remember who made that Gen 1 I-Pass. The EZ-Pass compatible Mark IV transponders started as the system expanded across ISTHA roadways (Gen 2, 3, and now 4).

That said, ISTHA joining the EZ-Pass Group to make I-Pass and EZ-Pass fully compatible, takes a little uniqueness away
« Last Edit: April 16, 2018, 10:25:53 PM by ilpt4u »
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2018, 11:03:02 PM »

^^^

That was really a downer to see the Skyway McDonald's gone last year.  The Ohio Turnpike largely felt like it always had while the Indiana Toll Road felt like a normal Interstate with some toll gantries.  Florida's Turnpike largely has been the only older toll road I've had interactions with in the last ten years that has retained much of it's original charm.  The ramps are winding and weird and all the plazas still have a somewhat refurbished Turnpike feel with the left exits. 

PurdueBill

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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2018, 11:30:03 PM »

The Mass Pike signage now spelling -orough towns as -oro is a loss of character.  The Ohio Turnpike now using signage with rounded white borders, instead of the square corners for the white border, is homogeneous with ODOT roads (Ohio Turnpike not going all Clearview was a bonus in their favor), as well as the Turnpike not installing lighting on signs now (they had been doing it long after ODOT stopped).  And as noted above, the Skyway McDonald's being gone is sad....it was very sad driving by the still-there but closed store when it was still intact.
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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2018, 11:49:22 PM »

The Mass Pike signage now spelling -orough towns as -oro is a loss of character.  The Ohio Turnpike now using signage with rounded white borders, instead of the square corners for the white border, is homogeneous with ODOT roads (Ohio Turnpike not going all Clearview was a bonus in their favor), as well as the Turnpike not installing lighting on signs now (they had been doing it long after ODOT stopped).  And as noted above, the Skyway McDonald's being gone is sad....it was very sad driving by the still-there but closed store when it was still intact.

Those Ontario-esque signs on the Ohio Turnpike are now history? That sucks to be honest. Are these demands by the FHWA to follow the standards of the MUTCD or lose serious federal funds? I'm not sure how it all works to be honest.

Personally, I think a big loss of character to these toll roads will be when the changeover to AET fully comes into effect. In a sense, the toll plazas were very much iconic to the road itself (in the same vein in how you will usually see a defiant style to overpasses in whatever state you're in)



This is a rather new toll plaza, I believe it opened in 2007, for when you clear customs on the Canadian side for the Peace Bridge, despite the QEW having no tolls, it does give the road character. I recall seeing similar turnpike toll plazas that show New Jersey Turnpike in big letters, or even the Chicago Skyway.

As many could tell you the horror stories of 407 ETR, there's a particular reason why I much prefer to pay for a toll on the spot, but I see that concept is becoming somewhat a thing of the past if you don't have the transponder for that road.
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Rothman

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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2018, 12:02:00 AM »

I miss the old Mass Pike tickets that were practically hand drawn and mimeographed back in the mid-1980s.  Those had character.
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PurdueBill

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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2018, 01:06:42 AM »



Those Ontario-esque signs on the Ohio Turnpike are now history? That sucks to be honest. Are these demands by the FHWA to follow the standards of the MUTCD or lose serious federal funds? I'm not sure how it all works to be honest.


There are plenty of square-corner ones still, but the newest signs are boring standard rounded white borders.  The panels themselves are still square corner extruded, but with the round interior border.  Not a fan.  The new signs approaching the western toll plaza are examples.  Fortunately the famous button copy on OH 49 was not affected.

Ohio Turnpike's use of sign lighting even extended to odd things like a couple signs at the new interchange with SR 8 where ODOT-standard Clearview signs were manufactured for the ramp to southbound 8 but to be installed on the Turnpike's part of the ramp, and the Turnpike had lighting installed on the signs, making for some of the only lighted Clearview signs in Ohio.  (ODOT stopped installing new sign lighting only a little while after stopping button copy, and more recently actively removed the luminaries from nearly all signs that were to stay in place that used to have lighting.  ODOT signs with lighting these days are almost always ones that are slated for removal/replacement soon so they will just take the whole thing down at once.)
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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2018, 11:05:33 AM »

The MassPike started to lose its uniqueness for me in the mid 1990s, when the service plazas were upgraded to the current mega-buildings, and the simple "FUEL-FOOD" signs (with one LOGO for each service) were replaced with the current multi-LOGO panels.

The "final straw" for me was the conversion of AET, and removal of the ticket system (with those unique toll tickets others have mentioned).

As I've noted in other posts, I have fond memories of the MassPike, the New Jersey Turnpike, and other East Coast roads, from riding them with my family as a kid from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s.  Although we never stopped at the service plazas, I still recall their appearance and, of course, the simple "FUEL-FOOD" signs.  I also recall the first time we approached Exit 9 (Sturbridge) after I-86 had been changed back to I-84, and how the MA 15 shield on the exit signs was changed to "TO US 20".
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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2018, 12:31:31 PM »

It would have been cool to grow up in a state that had such transformation with tolling systems and so on... But, I live in Arkansas, not a bad state - just no tolls to experience.
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hbelkins

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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2018, 12:36:04 PM »

It's been many years, but it seems to me there were some subtle differences between the Kentucky Turnpike and the Mountain Parkway.

The Mountain Parkway had all-text signs that were replaced in the mid-1970s (some of the 1970s signs still remain) and exit numbers were added. I don't have a good enough memory of the Kentucky Turnpike or the Bluegrass Parkway (the only two routes that I might have traveled) to remember the signage.
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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2018, 01:01:19 PM »

Would have been great to see that experience, but I live in California, and grew up away from the major toll roads and bridges. But still, I got to venture to OC from time to time, where the toll roads were like open freeways (never mind the occasional trip or two to the SBX.) They have a kind of character to themselves, and AET hasn't diminished that. I think they'll lose it when they become freeways.
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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2018, 02:41:25 PM »

The Maine Turnpike is beginning to lose a lot of character with the elimination of their dual English/metric unit signage. There are now no metric signage remaining north of Falmouth after a rather recent sign replacement project between there and Augusta.
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Rick1962

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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2018, 04:05:59 PM »

The Oklahoma turnpikes began to lose their uniqueness in the late-1970s, when the original signs were replaced on the Turner and Will Rogers Turnpikes. They were demountable copy (rare in Oklahoma), and included such curiosities as white-on-green speed limit signs.

Another unique aspect of the Turner Turnpike that was (fortunately) removed in the late 1970s was the at-grade crossing of US 66 just east of the Tulsa terminus. There was a stop sign for westbound 66 traffic where it crossed the eastbound lanes of I-44.

The 1990s brought large-scale changes with the start of the replacement of the original flat-roofed tollgates, and the removal of the pedestrian bridge across the Turner Turnpike at the midway service plaza. The tollbooths on the Muskogee and H. E. Bailey turnpikes had unique fold-down signs indicating which lanes were open, and the coin-only lanes had small green-tubed neon signs indicating "Coins Only".

The raised-earth medians have been mostly replaced, too. Most with F-shaped concrete barriers, although there's a few sections where the median has been paved, and a cable barrier installed. Unique, but cheap-looking, and a real danger to motorcyclists.
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bzakharin

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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2018, 04:10:32 PM »

The NJ Turnpike is in the process of homogenization now. The "NEW JERSEY TURNPIKE" at the toll plazas has been removed even where the plaza is otherwise intact. Exit signs are getting a lot more standard, and "THRU TRAFFIC" signs are being phased out, replaced by normal pull-thrus. It still has some of its old character with the distinctive curved exit arrows, sequential exit numbering, Turnpike entrance signs, and a few other things.

The Atlantic City Expressway, on the other hand, is a weird hodge-podge of different styles, inconsistent exit tabs, even mile markers, so its "unique" character is not remembered fondly by too many people. It is very slowly improving, but not fast enough.
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CtrlAltDel

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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #15 on: April 17, 2018, 04:38:29 PM »

The Oklahoma turnpikes began to lose their uniqueness in the late-1970s, when the original signs were replaced on the Turner and Will Rogers Turnpikes. They were demountable copy (rare in Oklahoma), and included such curiosities as white-on-green speed limit signs.
Is that McDonald's over the roadway still there? I was surprised to see that when I last drove through. I thought that sort of thing was only in Chicago.

Quote
F-shaped concrete barriers
These do not have the shape I thought they would. :spin:
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Scott5114

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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #16 on: April 17, 2018, 05:10:54 PM »

The Oklahoma turnpikes began to lose their uniqueness in the late-1970s, when the original signs were replaced on the Turner and Will Rogers Turnpikes. They were demountable copy (rare in Oklahoma), and included such curiosities as white-on-green speed limit signs.

That explains this random demountable copy sign in Wellston.




Of course, it doesn't explain why the legend appears to be tacked on over a direct-applied legend, but OTA, so...

Quote
The 1990s brought large-scale changes with the start of the replacement of the original flat-roofed tollgates, and the removal of the pedestrian bridge across the Turner Turnpike at the midway service plaza. The tollbooths on the Muskogee and H. E. Bailey turnpikes had unique fold-down signs indicating which lanes were open, and the coin-only lanes had small green-tubed neon signs indicating "Coins Only".

That sounds super neat. I hope there's photos somewhere. There's less information about '50s Oklahoma turnpikes than other roads of the era (even the Kansas Turnpike) so there might be tons of neat things to dig up about them.

The Oklahoma turnpikes began to lose their uniqueness in the late-1970s, when the original signs were replaced on the Turner and Will Rogers Turnpikes. They were demountable copy (rare in Oklahoma), and included such curiosities as white-on-green speed limit signs.
Is that McDonald's over the roadway still there? I was surprised to see that when I last drove through. I thought that sort of thing was only in Chicago.

Yes, it's still there, though it was recently remodeled to less obviously be a McDonald's. (I think this is because they added a second fast food vendor in there, though I'm not 100% sure.)

Sadly, the Wellston McDonald's, which was placed in the middle of an on-ramp, has been gone for a few years at this point.
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RobbieL2415

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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #17 on: April 17, 2018, 05:14:17 PM »

The Mass Pike portion of I-90 has definitely become more "generic" to travel on with the switch to AET, but its all for the better.

The NJ Tpke., though, has really lost some of its charm.  With the sign replacement, the switch from those cookey/half-unfunctional VMS signs to LED boards and the recent Express carriageway extension and all that.
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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #18 on: April 17, 2018, 08:35:56 PM »

Of course, it doesn't explain why the legend appears to be tacked on over a direct-applied legend, but OTA, so...

They had to have a template to follow so they wouldn't CraIG COunty it.

When I was little and my parents would travel along the Tollways and Turnpikes around the Midwest, each toll road would have it's own unique character along it's mainlines, toll barriers and especially at their service plazas where you could get food and gifts that were hard to find anywhere else.

But especially over the last couple of decades, politics, modern technology and consistent signing practices have pretty much killed off the individual flavors of each toll road.

Honestly, I still find ISTHA rather unique, even with the addition of exit numbers (there were none till 2009).  You have the following:

- Over the tollway service plazas called "oases".
- Longer than normal lane stripes.
- Mileposts every quarter mile.
- Left side yellow side marker reflectors when there's a grassy median.
- Better signage and technology than the local DOT (not that that's difficult with IDOT).
- Triangular sign bridges (as opposed to IDOT's square ones).
- Accident investigation sites/truck pull off areas along rural sections of I-88 and I-90.
- I-90 gets even more unique with the smart road (something IDOT distinctly lacks).
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thenetwork

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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #19 on: April 17, 2018, 09:07:38 PM »

Living in Northern Ohio as a young-'un, it was the Ohio Turnpike for me.

At least twice a year, we would drive the Pike from Exit 10 (I-71) to Exit 5 (I-280) to see my relatives in Detroit, in addition to other trips to Cedar Point and the occasional trip to PA via I-80 or I-76.  In the 70s, you used to be greeted on and off the pike with trapezoid entrance & exit signs, you picked up your ticket at the two-tone green toll plaza with green OHIO TURNPIKE letters above the plaza.  Speed Limit signs on the trumpet ramps were white-on-green and ground-mounted BGSs at the splits would say (CONTROL CITY) & (CARDINAL DIRECTION).  And if you were within 30 miles of the Ohio Turnpike, you could easily stumble across the occasional white-on-green Ohio Turnpike trailblazers with the round arrow that could be rotated to point in the proper direction.

Once on the Ohio Turnpike, you had a white-on-green BGS where 3 speed limits were posted -- Cars, Trucks and Buses.  Then there was one mileage sign for the next big control city (i.e. TOLEDO -- 100 MI).  Many of the bridges over the turnpike were special.  If they didn't have a state or US number to indicate the route that was crossing the bridge, you may have seen a green horizontal sign with some cutesy saying (i.e. STAY AWAKE/STAY ALIVE) or a blue horizontal sign stating the mileage to the next Service Plaza.

We would usually stop at one of the three Service Plazas that we passed along the Turnpike.   The original Service Plazas were full service SOHIO stations with a two-bay repair garage.  The rest-rooms and vending machine hallway connected the garage with the gift shop and sit-down restaurant (usually Howard Johnsons).  There was always a vending machine with gifts for the kiddos (a small compass shaped like a tractor tire, or a telescoping spyglass) a shoe buffer, and a coin-op scale.  At the gift shop, you could buy popcorn, all-day suckers with the outline of Ohio in the middle and OHIO TURNPIKE atop and below it, and theatre-sized candy-bars and candy boxes, amongst other Ohio-branded trinkets.  And all the signs within the service plaza were white-on-blue, including the speed limit signs.

With very few exceptions in the 70s, all of the BGSs on the Ohio Turnpike were ground-mounted -- overhead gantries were used very sparingly, unless it was indicating the 2-mile or 1/2 mile warning before the next exit.  OTC used detachable-text on all their signs -- some button copy, most just reflective lettering. And many of the larger square BGS were mounted off-center to the poles they hung on so they had their own little hip "look" to them.

By the mid-80s when I started driving, speed limit signs were black-on-white, the trapezoidal signs were being replaced by square or rectangular "generic" compliant signs you would find on regular freeways.  There were more exits being built to accommodate new freeway or road connections -- all being given "EXIT n-A" designations. The sit-down restaurants at the Service Plazas were being divided into 2 or 3 fast food outlets, while the service garages were used for storage as Self-Service gas was the norm.  Also the size of the toll tickets shrank, leading many to have a good pair of glasses to read them.

By the 90s, overhead gantries were popping up like weeds, the third lane project between Toledo and Youngstown was being implemented, and toll plazas were being rebuilt -- without the famous OHIO TURNPIKE lettering atop them.  Exits were being converted from sequential to mileage-based.  Gift shops were looking more like what you would see at your neighborhood gas/convenience store as the original Service Plazas were being rebuilt into larger Travel Plazas which look more like truck stops.

Now with the EZ-Pass options, MUTCD-compliant signage and the lack of a grassy median across most of it's trek across the Buckeye State, the Ohio Turnpike looks and feels like just another interstate that just happens to be a toll road.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2018, 09:14:58 PM by thenetwork »
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Rothman

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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #20 on: April 17, 2018, 09:21:54 PM »

It's been many years, but it seems to me there were some subtle differences between the Kentucky Turnpike and the Mountain Parkway.

The Mountain Parkway had all-text signs that were replaced in the mid-1970s (some of the 1970s signs still remain) and exit numbers were added. I don't have a good enough memory of the Kentucky Turnpike or the Bluegrass Parkway (the only two routes that I might have traveled) to remember the signage.

You don't remember the "BG" signs?  When I was a kid, I always wanted to travel on it, but we never did because we were always coming from the northwest and headed southeast.  Bluegrass Parkway just wasn't on our way to anywhere back then.  Since then, I've been on it, but I believe after the "BG" signs were changed to the boring ones now.
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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #21 on: April 17, 2018, 09:47:53 PM »

It's been many years, but it seems to me there were some subtle differences between the Kentucky Turnpike and the Mountain Parkway.

The Mountain Parkway had all-text signs that were replaced in the mid-1970s (some of the 1970s signs still remain) and exit numbers were added. I don't have a good enough memory of the Kentucky Turnpike or the Bluegrass Parkway (the only two routes that I might have traveled) to remember the signage.

You don't remember the "BG" signs?  When I was a kid, I always wanted to travel on it, but we never did because we were always coming from the northwest and headed southeast.  Bluegrass Parkway just wasn't on our way to anywhere back then.  Since then, I've been on it, but I believe after the "BG" signs were changed to the boring ones now.

I may have asked you this before, but do you remember the big BLUE guide signs on the Thruway? I've assumed that was an inspiration along with Quebec's A-10 led to Hwy 407 ETR in Ontario using blue signs.
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Rothman

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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #22 on: April 17, 2018, 09:55:35 PM »

It's been many years, but it seems to me there were some subtle differences between the Kentucky Turnpike and the Mountain Parkway.

The Mountain Parkway had all-text signs that were replaced in the mid-1970s (some of the 1970s signs still remain) and exit numbers were added. I don't have a good enough memory of the Kentucky Turnpike or the Bluegrass Parkway (the only two routes that I might have traveled) to remember the signage.

You don't remember the "BG" signs?  When I was a kid, I always wanted to travel on it, but we never did because we were always coming from the northwest and headed southeast.  Bluegrass Parkway just wasn't on our way to anywhere back then.  Since then, I've been on it, but I believe after the "BG" signs were changed to the boring ones now.

I may have asked you this before, but do you remember the big BLUE guide signs on the Thruway? I've assumed that was an inspiration along with Quebec's A-10 led to Hwy 407 ETR in Ontario using blue signs.

I do not.  Didn't really travel the Thruway when I was younger.
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hbelkins

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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #23 on: April 18, 2018, 11:08:54 AM »

It's been many years, but it seems to me there were some subtle differences between the Kentucky Turnpike and the Mountain Parkway.

The Mountain Parkway had all-text signs that were replaced in the mid-1970s (some of the 1970s signs still remain) and exit numbers were added. I don't have a good enough memory of the Kentucky Turnpike or the Bluegrass Parkway (the only two routes that I might have traveled) to remember the signage.

You don't remember the "BG" signs?  When I was a kid, I always wanted to travel on it, but we never did because we were always coming from the northwest and headed southeast.  Bluegrass Parkway just wasn't on our way to anywhere back then.  Since then, I've been on it, but I believe after the "BG" signs were changed to the boring ones now.

Well, yes, I remember them, but I was speaking more about the exit signage along the route, and not remembering if it was all-text like the Mountain Parkway signage was, or if it was in button copy, or what. They didn't change the signage until 2005 or so, so I obviously remember both incarnations of the route marker signage (the BG signage, and the first round of Martha Layne Collins Bluegrass Parkway signs before the KUS logo was added.)

I'm not sure when my first trip down the BG was. It's entirely possible that I never traveled its full length until the early 1980s. I do remember that when it was a toll road, there was very little traffic on it. Traffic picked up after the tolls were removed.
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SP Cook

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Re: The Homogenization of Toll Roads & Turnpikes
« Reply #24 on: April 18, 2018, 11:56:58 AM »

The WV Turnpike is easy, it was a unique (and deadly) road as built as a 2-lane, and is 99.9% indistinguishable from anything else as rebuilt.   

The old WVT:

- Had its own signage which consisted of its own font and in all caps.
- Had no posted mile markers (currently it just uses I-77's).
- Had its own route marker which was a downward pointing isosceles triangle with the points cut off, making a six sided whatever, blue, with white with an interlocked TP similar to New Jersey.
- Was signed at ramps as "CHARLESTON NORTH" and "PRINCETON SOUTH' with "BECKLEY" tossed in as appropriate as a second control city. 
- Had three service areas with Esso, later Exxon, at the end Gulf, and its own table service restaurant similar to a Denny's or a Shoney's called The Glass House.  For reasons I never understood the Turnpike charged a confiscatory toll if a person returned to the same toll booth he started at, but you could present your receipt from the Glass House  at the Beckley toll booth with your Beckley on-card and it was only a dime.   These later became Howard Johnson's.
- Used a card based "closed system" with toll booths that looked a lot like the ones in The Godfather, where Sonny gets his.

Also, before I-77 and Corridor Q were built, there were a lot of mileage signs in southwest Virginia that listed "W.VA TURNPIKE", rather than "Princeton, WV" as a place.  This was, AFAIK, Virginia's doing.  There are still a few around.

Today, other than the tolls and the plethora of toll-paid cops, the only real difference is that Turnpike vehicles are orange, regular WV DOH ones are white with blue and yellow stickers. 
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