Go Ahead. Toll I-80.

Posted by JMcVerry on March 30, 2010 

Go ahead. Toll Interstate 80. What's the big deal? You either pay up or you add some time to your trip. How much is your time worth? And what are you missing while you're going 70 down the interstate?

Sure, this is an easy way to look at it. We can get into the importance of I-80 for tractor-trailers moving through the state from New York to Ohio. We can discuss the possibilities of these truckers avoiding the state all together, thus decreasing traffic to off-highway restaurants, truck stops, and hotels. But I'm going to leave that debate to the trucking folks.

This blog post will focus on those with four wheels—and sometimes two—who use the mammoth interstate to get where they're going. Believe it or not, tolls could actually be a good thing. And it stretches far beyond the prevention of tax increases. 

First off, when I grew up I could hear 80 from my house. I lived two miles away from exit 306 (formerly 49) for over 20 years of my life. I took 80 to get to school, my family took 80 to get to church, we took 80 when we went on vacation, and we took 80 when we visited our relatives in New England. I even took the highway to work every day for an entire summer commuting to New Jersey.

Even today, nine times out of 10, I can use the Interstate when I leave town—either heading home, to New England, or visiting friends. The point is, I know how convenient it is.

Tolling 80 could perhaps encourage folks to navigate the many beautiful, scenic, and rich-with-tradition side roads of Pennsylvania. Not only will you and your family be introduced to gorgeous rivers, mountains, and farm land unseen from the fast-paced interstate, but you'll also have the opportunity to stop in small towns that probably haven't had a visitor since the interstate was put in (1956). There are quaint towns with kind people and unknown specialties for all to enjoy. 

Next time you head east, take Route 45 from Boalsburg to Lewisburg. Just get a taste of the small towns you pass, the picturesque views from your car window—there's even a reindeer farm. Forget about 80's quick stops at McDonald's or Wendy's, and try a town's local tavern, pub, or diner. If you don't like it, 45 runs into 80 a little past Lewisburg. If you do, check out Routes 15 and 11 along the Susquehanna River for more keystone goodness. Find a map. There are hundreds of unique places to discover right here within our own state.

Yes, it'll take a little longer. But what's the rush? I am sure there are some environmental flaws in the fun too, but you can offset it by supporting local businesses and cultures. You'll also develop an appreciation for the land, an appreciation we often forget, and an appreciation that's hard to reach within the confines of the Interstate 80 guardrails. Give it a look, see what you find, and let me know of any spots to check out.

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