Friday Flashback #184

The debate over tolls on Connecticut highways is far from over.

If we ever get them — for all vehicles, trucks only, whatever — they will be the modern, E-ZPass transponder type.

They won’t look anything like the old toll booths that jammed up traffic every few miles on I-95. There was one on the Westport-Norwalk line, just west of Exit 17.

The West Haven tolls, near Exit 43.

They certainly won’t look anything like the rustic toll booths on the Merritt Parkway.

The Greenwich tollbooth, on the Merritt Parkway.

And they definitely will look nothing like the tollbooth that once stood on the east side of the Post Road bridge, in downtown Westport.

Yes, that really was a thing. The tollbooth was no longer operative, in this 1930s postcard from the collection of Jack Whittle. But at one point — decades (centuries?) earlier — people ponied up to cross the bridge.

16 responses to “Friday Flashback #184

  1. Peter Barlow

    Ah, a non-virus story! I never knew there was once a toll on the bridge, but that “booth” also, later, had the machinery to open the bridge. Some boats, probably commercial, came further north when there was more water (before Parker-Harding). The “booth” then remained unused for a many years.

    • Peter Barlow

      A bit unusual too to have a postmark on the wrong side, and from Los Angeles! Coming or going?

  2. John L Krause

    My old man told this story, probably apocryphal, about a road trip with friends. They told one friend from out of state that there were days when certain cars were toll-free, and today was his day. Might have been a Chrysler, but it doesn’t matter.

    So, they head out, and Dad’s in the car in front. At every toll booth they would toss in 2 quarters, in succession (it was a quarter once, remember? I do.) The machine would only process 1 at a time. So when the friend pulled up, the light was green, and away he went.

    At the third or fourth toll, they only tossed in 1 quarter.
    The friend by now believes the story, and bombs on through,
    When the Police chase him down for running the toll, he explains
    But, it’s Chrysler day!

  3. I don’t have high confidence in that little cabin structure being a toll booth. More likely it’s the control center for the bridge tender. Either way, the Connecticut Turnpike came blazing through what is now the middle of downtown Westport in 1807. Before that, everyone had to go over the Kings Highway bridge. The arrival of the railroad, starting around 1840, ultimately starved the private toll road and, by 1857, it was dead. The town took ownership of the toll road company’s bridge that year.

    • John L Krause

      Ct Turnpike was the 1950’s, not 1800’s
      And, did the Post Road bridge ever Open? I have seen pictures of sailing ships tied-up there.

      • Peter Barlow

        “Connecticut Turnpike” was the name of I-95 when it was more fun to drive on. “Turnpike” is an old fashioned word. The original Connecticut Turnpike of the 1850s became the Boston Post Road.

      • No, John. The CT Turnpike Company was formed on or about 1807. And it’s why the Post Road veers off at Kings Highway North; one of the Turnpike’s main investors, Ebenezer Jesup, wanted the new route to go right past his warehouses. He was so pound of the new venture that he built his house to address it. That residence still stands and is the parsonage for the Saugatuck Congregational Church.

        • I googled this: “Toll roads, especially near the East Coast, are often called turnpikes; the term turnpike originated from pikes, which were long sticks that blocked passage until the fare was paid and the pike turned at a toll house (or toll booth in current terminology).”

          • There IS, in fact, a toll booth still standing in the Town of Westport.

            As it happens, there was another early private turnpike which came down from Newtown through Easton and on to Westport. The toll house for the so-called Easton Turnpike is located at 151 Easton Road in Westport.

      • And yes, the Connecticut Turnpike bridge had to open as many wharves were upstream- including most all of Ebenezer’s (really annoyed) competitors. Some shattered fragments of the bull gears from the bridge’s elaborate opening mechanism were turned into a sculpture which is installed near the south east side of the bridge. I seem to recall that these were uncovered when the most recent bridge was constructed some years back.

  4. Anybody know where the money from the bridge toll would have gone? Was the toll run by the state, town or was the bridge somehow private?

  5. Hal Hutchinson

    Back in the day when a little street racing wasn’t severely frowned upon, the toll booths offered an opportunity for impromptu drag. Although it was considered bad form to lay down a strip of rubber right under the nose of the toll collector, once clear of the booth (with a good look ahead for the cops), it was time for some fun with cubic inches! So incorrect, I know.

  6. Brian Taylor

    1-20-1983. 7 people killed in stratford tollbooth crash.

  7. Joyce Barnhart

    Since no one else has mentioned it yet, I wonder if I’m wrong, but I thought the tolls were east of exit 17, not west. I remember (wrongly?) that I had to pay a 25 cents toll if I took the turnpike from Greens Farms to Saugutuck or vice versa.

    • Wendy Cusick

      The tolls were West. There was more room for them.
      My parents would get on at exit 17 to go northbound on 1-95 and get off exit 17 southbound to go home since we lived closed to that exit anyway.
      That’s how I knew the tolls were in between exits 16 and 17

      • Joyce Barnhart

        Well, Wendy, I guess your memory is better than mine. As I age I know my memory is worse, but I always thought that what I did remember, I remembered correctly. I guess not. My husband just told me you’re right. I coulda sworn…