Summer tumbles toward fall, and before you know it, you'll be able to drive somewhere without passing cars full of kids and inflatable Superheroes.
The change will be especially sharp along our lifeline to Cape Cod, New York, the Carolinas and Florida -- Interstate 95. That busiest of all superhighways again will belong to the truckers -- and whoever else can stay awake while negotiating any of the less-than-scintillating concrete between Maine and Florida.
But Loyal Nye of Kensington says she gave up on I-95 years ago -- under a misapprehension that I suspect is widespread.
Loyal claims that the Middle Atlantic states charge tolls along their stretches of I-95 more frequently than other I-95 states.
Around Richmond, she notes, there is a "monotonous succession of toll booths," while North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia don't charge I-95 motorists a cent. Similarly, she contends, every inch of I-95 in Delaware and Maryland is pay-as-you-go -- but not several of the stretches farther north.
I wouldn't encourage anyone but mad dogs, Englishmen or Mario Andretti to get out on I-95 if they don't have to. Life is precious. Still, Middle Atlantic I-95ers are not disproportionate victims.
Of the 1,858 miles that I-95 covers, 205 are toll roads. Nearly 79 of those miles-that-cost lie between New York City and I-95's northern terminus, Houlton, Maine, according to Richard L. Reilly, a public information officer for the Federal Highway Administration. But only 53.5 "costing miles" lie between the Delaware Memorial Bridge and Richmond. They consist of the Delaware Turnpike and the John F. Kennedy Highway through northern Maryland.
And while it is true that the 35 miles of the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike in Virginia are part of I-95 and are not free, that section will be dropped from I-95 designation once a new section of superhighway south of Richmond is finished, according to Reilly.
What does it add up to?
Not all of I-95 in Maryland and Delaware is toll road. The road is free between Baltimore and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge into Virginia. At the approach to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, I-95 turns north through Wilmington and goes up the west side of the river. More total I-95 miles that cost are found outside the Middle Atlantic states. And the ratio of free miles to paying miles is most unfavorable to drivers in the Northeast, not hereabouts.
FOOTNOTE: It isn't whimsy or an influential congressman that explains how some states charge I-95 drivers and others don't. It's state-level politics.
The Interstate Highway System was authorized by Congress in 1944. But it wasn't funded until 1956. As a result of quickly mounting post-World War II traffic, 17 state legislatures, most of them in the East, decided to build toll roads rather than wait for Washington.
Once construction of interstate highways began in earnest in the 1960s, existing toll roads were incorporated into the Interstate system. The totals today: 40,253 miles of Interstate in use across the country, of which 2,263 miles are incorporated toll roads.
FOOTNOTE TO A FOOTNOTE: To this driver, the New Jersey Interminablepike -- as we call it in our family -- is the most dangerous stretch of highway on the East Coast. Something seems to possess drivers on this road. It isn't sweetness and light.
Proof of the pudding: The New Jersey Turnpike Authority's 1980 accident report. It says that 2,825 accidents occurred on the turnpike last year.
Of that total, 1,309 were attributable to "inattentiveness." Another 187 involved drivers who were asleep or rapidly getting that way. Drinkers or drug-users accounted for 153 more, and 116 victims hit objects dropped in the roadway by other motorists.
But interestingly, mechanical failures caused the surprisingly small total of 292. The moral of the story: that noninflatable Superhero driving the car next to you is nearly five times as much of a threat as a blowout. 292. The moral of the story: that noninflatable Superhero driving the car next to you is nearly five times as much of a threat as a blowout.