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Sum levied on users of certain roads, canals, bridges, tunnels, and other such travel and transportation infrastructure, primarily to pay for construction and maintenance. Tolls were known in the ancient world and were widely used in medieval Europe as a means of supporting bridge construction. Canal building, which became extensive in Europe in the 18th–19th centuries, was financed chiefly by tolls, and many major roads were built by private companies with the right to collect tolls. In the U.S. the National Road, built beginning in 1806, was initially financed through the sale of public land, but maintenance problems led Congress to authorize tolls. Toll roads diminished in the latter part of the 19th century, but the idea was revived with the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the 1930s, and after World War II many states built toll expressways. In many countries tolls are also used to finance long-span bridges, major tunnels, and highways. They have also been blamed for both reducing, and abetting, rush-hour traffic congestion. Canal tolls are still charged in some parts of the world, notably on the Suez and Panama canals.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on toll, visit Britannica.com.