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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Private Toll Roads in America - The First Time Around


The notion of private highways, which must have seemed fantastic to Americans just a few years ago, was commonplace to our great-great-grandparents. Built in the 1790s in the growing Republic, the first toll roads stimulated commerce, settlement, and population. Fiscal constraints and insufficient administrative manpower led communities to search outside the public sector for help. During the 19th century more than 2,000 private companies financed, built, and operated toll roads. A glimpse at our history may provide a useful perspective on today's budding toll-road movement. 

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