Delaware’s Border Tax

On October 25, 2008 · 5 Comments

Recently I featured the Southwick Jog, a little appendage of Massachusetts that juts into the northern tier of Connecticut. A reader brought to my attention a recent article in the Hartford Courant. The town of Southwick in Massachusetts includes the entirety of Congamond Lake within its boundaries and it intends to levy fees for docks and boats on the inhabitants of the eastern shore of the lake. Technically those residents live in Connecticut, but their docks extend into Massachusetts so Southwick considers them fair game. You can see a couple of those docks that are about to be taxed in this satellite photo to get a better understanding of the geographic layout.

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That got me thinking about other examples where politicians use geography to their advantage, and tax outsiders who cannot vote them out of office. We’re all familiar with restaurant and rental car taxes aimed at business travelers to pay for new football stadiums and stuff like that, but I think my favorite and most blatant example has to be the Delaware Border Tax. That’s not a knock on Delaware. I love Delaware; its quirky history; its sandy beaches; its award-winning breweries, and well, the inspiration for the very title of this blog, the Twelve Mile Circle. On the other hand, one has to consider the audacity and fiendishly crafty way it sucks revenue from a heavily traveled interstate corridor that’s well out of proportion to the value it adds. Much like a parasite.

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Interstate 95 is the main traffic corridor along the eastern seaboard of the United States, running nearly 2,000 miles from the Canadian border all the way down to Miami, Florida. It connects some of the most heavily urbanized areas of the country, especially in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. Only 23 miles of it passes through Delaware, but you better believe they have a tollbooth waiting to collect a tribute from the millions of vehicles that transit between southerly locations such as Washington and Baltimore to more northerly locations including Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. With a peak average daily traffic of 180 thousand vehicles per day moving through the state at $4 per vehicle (for a lousy 23 miles?), and that becomes quite a windfall for Delaware.

Admittedly, Delaware found a perfect solution — for its inhabitants anyway — since the locals all know how to jump on and off the highway to avoid the toll. Toll collection from the local citizenry is statistically zero. Truly then, this is intended as a tax on interstate travel, ensnaring those who don’t know the workarounds and have no electoral recourse. Arrive at this tiny wedge and prepare to pay the Delaware Border Tax. The citizens of Delaware thank you.

On October 25, 2008 · 5 Comments

5 Responses to “Delaware’s Border Tax”

  1. […] it. As examples, I discussed situations found in the Southwick Jog of Massachusetts and the interstate highway traveling through northern Delaware. But every once in awhile the tables are turned, and private citizens are able to use geography to […]

  2. Joel says:

    My home state of New Hampshire does something similar on the same road 🙂

  3. John Bernhardt says:

    Two tolls in fact, when one considers the toll to cross the Delaware Memorial Bridge .

    At about 35 cents a mile-The Delaware Turnpike is most expensive turnpike per mile of any turnpike in the USA.

  4. William says:

    I grew up in St. Georges, Delaware. And I love that you named your website after our little Arc!

    I have to say that I’ve NEVER paid that toll. Ever. And I used to take I-95 every day to get to work in North Wilmington. You’re right about Delaware’s clever little ploy to thrust the toll on outsiders.

    I do take umbrage, however, with folks who gripe about paying TWO tolls. One toll is for I-95, the other toll is for I-295/Delaware Memorial Bridge. Two different highways.

    There is actually a bit of a joke in the Delaware Valley about how it’s free to get into New Jersey but you have to pay to leave, like prison!

    Oh, and there is only one FREE bridge across the Delaware River: between New Hope, Pennsylvania and Lambertville, New Jersey.

    • talfonso says:

      Oh yeah – we’ve been on that road a few times. Drive northbound on I-95 from Maryland after, say, a trip in Washington, DC, and you’ll hit the toll for the Del. Tpke. Ouch. Take I-295 N/US-40 E to the bridge (if you’re not careful with money) and if you hit New Jersey and skip the exit for I-295 N, you’ll hit another turnpike – New Jersey’s. Double ouch.

      To add to the fun, there’s the latter turnpike’s trailblazer shield emblazoned on signs that lead you to the bridge. If you don’t know what it looks like, it’s a green, six sided shape with the white initials of New Jersey on the bottom. Separating the letters is the right end of the large white T intersecting the large white P, ending in the center of the half-loop of the letter. Across the large letters’ stems is the word TURNPIKE in smaller font, also in white.

      I can tell you that even if you know you’re in Delaware and you’re seeing those aforementioned green shields of the maligned New Jersey Turnpike, you’ll know which roads should you bypass for finances’ sake!

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