Penny protest produces minor disruptions in Merrimack NH

August 27, 2007
By Peter Samuel

Minor disruptions were produced yesterday in a toll protest in which drivers were asked by local politicians to pay in pennies (one cent pieces) in Merrimack New Hampshire. In the morning rush hour the protest flopped.

Toll collectors and coin machines appeared to handle the penny payments just fine, and traffic flowed through the toll plazas as usual.

Motorists with transponders were asked by the publicity-seeking town councillors to take their E-ZPass transponders off the windshield and load up with pennies to block the toll lanes. That didn't work either. No one noticed a difference.

Unusual backups wanted for publicity failed to eventuate.

However at lunch time a council organized cavalcade drove slowly to the ramp toll plaza and caused delays. Police booked two motorists for obstruction for driving below 45mph on the Turnpike. One was town council chair and an organizer of the disruption, David McCray. There were also citations issued for stopping on the Turnpike in the absence of an emergency and walking on the roadway.

The toll protesters waved posters and honked their horns.

NHDOT spokesman Bill Boynton said the protesters were "not adversarial" to toll collectors, who rather enjoyed the break in their routine.

Merrimack politicians are moaning about people in Merrimack having to pay tolls while people in Nashua to the south and Manchester to the north have free ramps. That came about because a few years ago they had no ramp and wanted one, and the deal reached was they'd get their ramp with a toll. Now they've got their ramp they want to welch on the toll part of the deal.

COMMENT: The obviously solution is for the Turnpike to close the ramp at Merrimack with some Jersey barrier and see if the whiners like a return to pre-toll conditions.

But seriously there is a problem with partial or "open" toll systems like New Hampshire's in which toll points provide for some trips to be tolled and others free within the same facility. The presence of freeloaders nurtures a constant sense of grievance among those paying the tolls. Miami-Dade, West Virginia Turnpike, Maryland's Kennedy Highway, Delaware Turnpike and New Hampshire are all like this. Also increasingly the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Everyone should pay when they use a tollroad.

Bastard roads half toll and half free cannot long endure, as Abraham Lincoln said in his famous 1858 "house divided" speech.

NOTE: an earlier report was based on the lack of any disruption during the morning rush hour.    

TOLLROADSnews 2007-08-28


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