Ohio Turnpike has gone through big changes in its 60 years

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Turnpike turns 60 this week.

The state's only toll road has gone through quite a few growth spurts since then-Gov. Frank Lausche told workers to "open the gates" on Oct. 1, 1955.

Here's a look at the history of the turnpike and some little known facts and figures:



Construction of the turnpike across northern Ohio began in 1952 and was completed three years later. Concrete was first poured for the roadway at the Ohio-Pennsylvania line. The first section — a 22-mile stretch at the eastern end near Youngstown — opened in late 1954. The rest of the road didn't open until the entire route was finished.

One motorist who wanted to be among the first on the finished turnpike waited eight hours near Toledo, according to The (Toledo) Blade. Traffic jams greeted drivers at the entrances on the opening weekend, but there were no traffic accidents on that first day.

While the road was ready for its debut, many of the service plazas weren't completed until a few months later so the turnpike brought in temporary gas pumps and served boxed lunches, The Blade reported.



Completion of 241-mile toll road made it possible to drive from the Ohio-Indiana border to Philadelphia without stopping at a red light.

Supporters said it would slash five hours off truckers' driving time across Ohio and save three hours for other drivers. The original speed limit for cars and buses was 65 mph, while trucks were permitted 55. It's now 70 mph for all vehicles.

Its construction required 8,786 acres of land, 7 million tons of concrete and 108,000 tons of steel for the bridges.

The total cost was $326 million — about $3 billion in today's costs.



In the first full year, 10 million vehicles traveled on the turnpike. There were 51 million on the road a year ago.

Want even bigger numbers?

The total miles traveled on the turnpike in the first year were 198 million. Last year, it was just less than 2.9 billion miles.

Of course, tolls have gone up just as dramatically. The cost for cars traveling the entire route in 1955 was $3 — it's now $17.50 without an E-Z pass.

One of biggest changes began in 1996 when the turnpike began adding a third lane in each direction between Toledo and Youngstown. The project finished last year and was financed mainly through toll increases.

The turnpike now has 31 interchanges across the entire route, 14 more than when it opened.

The Ohio Turnpike Commission, which operates the toll road, says the route generates nearly $500 million in economic activity each year.



Before the Ohio Turnpike even opened, there were plans for additional toll roads across the state.

One route furthest along in planning would have run from Cincinnati to Conneaut in the northeastern corner of Ohio. But instead, the Federal Highway Act came along in 1956 and created the nation's interstate highway system, ending the need for more toll roads.