One lonely tollbooth
Just one manual toll plaza is left in Norway
M. Michael Brady
Along the roads of Norway’s indented coastline and into its fjord valleys, there are some 208 toll plazas, places at which tolls are collected for the use of roads, bridges, and tunnels. The smallest toll plazas consist of just a single booth alongside a road, while the larger ones are multi-booth areas on motorways. Many, particularly the older ones, initially were built for manual operation. But with time, electronic toll collection (ETC) progressively replaced humans sitting in toll booths. Today, just one manual toll plaza is left in Norway, at the east end of the 3.6-mile-long Atlanterhavstunnelen (Atlantic Ocean Tunnel) under the Bremsnes Fjord, connecting the city of Kristiansund with the mainland via Atlanterhavsveien (Atlantic Ocean Road).
The story of ETC has a strong Norwegian-American connection, or chronologically, rather an American-Norwegian one. In 1959, Canadian-born Columbia University professor and Nobel Economics Prize laureate William Vickery proposed a system of electronic tolling in which vehicles are equipped with transponders that communicate with pickup points along roads. After much development and prototype testing, in 1989, Italy became the first country to deploy full ETC under the brand name Telepass. The technology became the de facto European Standard that in turn was employed in Japan and the United States.
An earlier start in Norway led to widespread implementation of ETC. In 1986, ETC was introduced in Bergen and operated together with traditional staffed tollbooths. In 1991, automatic full-speed electronic tolling was introduced in Trondheim. It’s now used on all public roads in Norway, trade named AutoPASS.
A few tolled roads don’t support AutoPASS, because, like the Atlantic Ocean Tunnel, they levy tolls for both a vehicle and its passengers. Along with the logistics of transport in the surrounding archipelago, that fact leaves this toll plaza the sole manual one in Norway. Plans call for it to be disbanded when the debt incurred to build the tunnel is paid off in 2025.
This article originally appeared in the April 5, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.