That will cost you one arm, one leg

October 03, 2007|By KEVIN COWHERD

So here comes another slick move by our grubby little neighbor state to the northeast, which exists for the sole purpose of annoying the tens of thousands of out-of-state motorists who pass through it every day.

I speak here, of course, of Delaware, which has just raised its tolls and will now charge you $4 instead of $3 for the pleasure of traveling the grim, traffic-choked, 11-mile stretch of Interstate 95 known as the Delaware Turnpike.

And you get hammered for the 4 bucks in both directions, too!

With this latest bit of extortion, the First State now shows itself to be devoid of all decency.

The state seal should feature an outstretched palm and the slogan: "Whoa! Where do you think you're going, pal?" The state motto should be: "Delaware: No Free Rides Here!"

On the other hand, in Delaware's defense, it hadn't raised the toll on I-95 since all the way back in -- 2005.

The truth is, this is a state that has some nerve charging motorists anything at all, given the absolute torture it inflicts on anyone who drives through it.

Like everyone else, I have spent more time sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic in Delaware -- caused mainly by the stupid toll booths -- than anyplace else on Earth.

On busy holidays, you can get stuck in a 10-mile backup on I-95 and not go anywhere for weeks.

If I wanted to murder someone, I would do it on I-95 in Delaware. A body slumped over a steering wheel, turning stiff from rigor mortis, that could be anyone caught in Thanksgiving traffic. The cops would never give it a second look.

Here's another thing: What do you have to look forward to when you're traveling on I-95 in Delaware?

The nifty scenery with all those Days Inn and Exxon and McDonald's signs dotting the landscape?

The Delaware House Service Area and another joyless slog through the long lines at Bob's Big Boy or Roy Rogers or Sbarro?

The prospect of stopping at the Bowlerama off Exit 14 in Newcastle to roll a few frames?

The Christiana Mall?

Please.

Look, I've been to the Christiana Mall.

It's an OK mall, as far as malls go.

But no one in their right mind will ever say: "Well, I certainly don't mind paying a $4 toll both ways as long as I can get to the Christiana Mall."

No, the only reason to travel I-95 through Delaware is to get to New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and then back to Maryland, where we at least have the decency to jab a gun in your ribs and hiss, "Hand over your wallet!" when we rob people.

Or we have our politicians rob you.

But we don't build toll booths and charge you to go in both directions and jack up the tolls every couple of years, then give you that phony grin and "Welcome to our fair state, that'll be $4!" jive.

Here's another thing about I-95 in Delaware that drives people nuts: It's always under construction.

Apparently, every highway-construction project takes about 27 years to complete.

So anytime you drive through this wretched little state, you have orange cones squeezing four lanes into three and then into two, and at the end of this horrible snarl is the guy on the bulldozer and the 20 other guys in hardhats leaning on their shovels watching him work.

It's just another reason why people are in a bad mood the minute they cross into Delaware.

Ridiculous tolls, traffic back-ups, endless construction ... why, you just want to blow your brains out.

But you don't, of course.

Instead, you fork over the 4 bucks at the toll plaza -- or they bang it on your E-Z Pass account -- and you floor the gas pedal and try to leave the wretched little state as soon as possible.

Because you know that somewhere beyond the Delaware Memorial Bridge, or in Elkton, or in Philadelphia, the skies are blue and birds are singing, and people are not stuck in traffic cursing and slamming their hands on their dashboards.

Somewhere there is laughter and joy and a Bowlerama you can enjoy without getting caught in a 10-mile backup first.

Somewhere people are glad to see you -- and not just because you brought your wallet.

They never seem to get that in Delaware.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

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