The Athens Reporter- letter to the editor from 1906. The original newspapers are in the archives of the Heritage House Museum, Athens, Ontario
The Toll Roads- April 25, 1906
(Letter to the editor)
Having recently driven over the road between Athens and Brockville, I feel moved to offer a few observations on the state of that particular highway. To find fault with the roads at this season, and after the kind of winter we have had, may look like fault finding with Providence. No such complaint is intended; we should rather be thankful that through the agencies of frost and rain the disgraceful ruts of the Brockville road have been broken up from the bottom. This upheaval will lead to a smoother road than has been; for when dry weather comes the loose material will pack together and form a comparatively even surface. It is time something happened to these ruts, and we should all be thankful that nature has come to our relief.
But the question is, what part are the toll road people going to take in this good work? Are they going to leave the road to take care of itself, as heretofore, or is it their intention to do the repairing demanded by common decency? There is perhaps no more ridiculous spectacle to be seen in the Province than that of travellers stopping at the toll gates between Athens and Brockville to pay toll. If at these gates travellers were halted and presented with some silver coins, here would be a reason for these gates; for as a matter of fact, people driving over this road should receive remuneration. The labourer is worthy of his hire.
The disgraceful state of this road calls attention again to the fact that it is time for the abolition of tolls between this village and Brockville. It is a notorious fact that toll-roads are seldom or never good roads. The gates are a constant source of annoyance to the public, and, in the opinion of the writer, the work of collecting toll in all weathers and at all hours from people in all sorts of humors must be anything but an agreeable occupation. The toll road, in fact, is almost entirely bad. It is an exceedingly expensive road, that is, expensive to the public. There are three charges against such a road: (1) the interest on the company’s investment (2) the profits of the gatekeepers, and (3) the cost of keeping the road in repair. The public has to “put up” for all three; whereas, if the road were taken out of the hands of the company, two of these sources of expense would be eliminated. Toll roads are also objectionable for the reason that they have a tendency, and by no means a slight tendency, to damage trade. The fact that a toll gate has to be passed is sufficient to keep a certain number of people at home who would otherwise come into town on business. This may seem an unwarranted statement, but it is true. It is the conviction of the writer that if there were any way of arriving at an estimate it would be found that the business of Brockville is damaged every year to the extent of hundreds of dollars through the existence of toll gates, and Athens in proportion. This shortage of business is made up in other places not affected by the gates, or, perhaps, it is not made up at all. Merchants, professional men, and the public generally suffer in consequence. A free circulation of traffic is necessary to prosperity, just as is the free circulation of blood is necessary to the health of the body, and anything that impedes the free movement of traffic and intercourse generally ought to be abolished.
The charges that might be brought against the toll road do not end here. It is time for a change. Toll roads are coning more and more to be regards as barbarous relics of by gone days. All over the Province they are being taken over by the local and county municipalities. Why should we in this district lag behind other municipalities in the march of progress and go down in history with the unenviable record of having been the last to abolish the toll road nuisance?
Signed: I.N. Beckstedt