Happy birthday! The Pennsylvania Turnpike turns 81 on Oct. 1


PENNSYLVANIA (WHTM) — The Pennsylvania Turnpike opened on Oct. 1, 1940, stretching from Carlisle to Irwin, according to the turnpike’s website. Today, “America’s first superhighway” turns 81.

Before it went into service, planners predicted that 1.3 million vehicles would drive on the turnpike each year. Drivers exceeded that expectation by more than a million.

Expansion of the turnpike began in the 1950s. Today it spans more than 550 miles, a significant increase from the original 160-mile stretch.

Throughout its eight decades, the turnpike has undergone numerous upgrades in addition to expansions. The pavement and drainage have been improved, the median has been expanded, toll booths have been computerized, and intelligent devices that monitor roadway conditions have been installed to improve the safety of the turnpike.

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With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the turnpike switched to cashless payments in order to protect toll workers and keep the roadway open. According to the turnpike’s website, 2020 was the first time ever that toll collectors did not staff the booths to collect cash payments as drivers left the turnpike.

This system of All-Electronic Tolling will continue into the future, ushering in a new era for the turnpike.

Learn more about the history of the Pennsylvania Turnpike online here.

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