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What is a Toll Plaza?

By Felicia Dye
Updated May 23, 2024
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Toll charges are fees required to pass along a certain route. A toll plaza is a barrier that attempts to prevent vehicles from passing until those payments are made. Toll plazas are often very large and can quickly accommodate large numbers of drivers.

A toll plaza is a physical structure that may be found on toll roads, exit ramps, or at the ends of toll bridges. It allows motorists to pay required toll charges without having to leave their vehicles. Drivers are, however, normally required to slow down. Depending on how they will pay, they may have to stop.

The area of road where the toll plaza is located will often be wider than most other sections of the road. This extra size allows room for the toll booths, which are transaction centers for collecting the toll charges. It also allows more toll booths to be installed so traffic can flow more smoothly.

At a toll plaza, the traffic generally divides into lanes. Drivers can usually choose which lane they would like to use. There may, however, be some restrictions in this regard. Toll plazas are generally designed to accommodate most types of vehicles, from motorcycles to tractors with trailers. Since larger vehicles may require more space, there are often designated lanes for their use that have been made wider or higher.

Smaller vehicles are often permitted to use the lanes that are designated for large vehicles. Payment form, however, is a factor that may restrict small vehicles to certain lanes. Many toll plazas accept cash and electronic payments. The electronic payments are often deducted from an account linked to an electronic device attached to the vehicle. This device works in conjunction with a system that is installed in certain toll booths.

The toll booths designed to allow electronic payments are often unmanned. Motorists who pay using cash are often required to use other toll booths. These may also be unmanned. When this is the case, there are often coin baskets that can collect and count payments. These are only likely to be found when the toll charges are low.

In most cases, there are numerous booths with workers who can accept cash payments. A driver using one of these lanes does not have the exact amount because these workers can provide change. Drivers are generally made aware of which lanes provide which services by electronic boards that may display messages such as “exact change” or “cash only.”

Some people may try to pass through the toll plaza without paying. There are often measures to help control this situation. Some are equipped with cameras that can photograph the license plate of such vehicles. In some cases, police sit and wait for offenders.

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