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Highway robbery

Name barWhen I drive home to visit family in Central Florida, I use the Turnpike. Paying the tolls is worth it, especially considering some of the longest stretches of the journey would otherwise be on local roads with stoplights and traffic.

The tolls, presumably, cover repairs, maintenance of the roadways and provide for the 24-hour service plazas that appear every 50 miles or so

It's handy to be able to stop at a service plaza, although traditional highways do have their share of rest areas, minus the access to five fast food joints, stores that sell Florida kitsch and gas stations.

It does appear that there is some kind of monopoly on who provides gas at the stops: All eight plazas feature Shell gas stations.

And nearly every plaza hosts a Dunkin' Donuts.

On my way home last weekend, I thought getting some caffeine would be in the best interest of myself -- and other drivers.

I stood in line at a Burger King for a soda and got out of line fast when I saw the price for a small drink: $2. I walked next door to another place. Soda: $2. At a third restaurant, where I caved in, the price -- which was listed nowhere; I had to ask -- $2. (Plus 7 percent sales tax.)

I rarely buy soda. But I am certain the average fast food restaurant does not charge $2 for a small soda. In the case of the rest stops, folks might get a refill, but many people are in and out in five minutes or less. They're not chugging a two-liter-bottle's worth of cola.

I felt like the price was fixed and I was annoyed. I'd have gotten a cup of coffee (I don't know what it would have cost) had it been cheaper, but the line was about 20 people deep at Dunkin'.

If I'm paying a toll and the restaurants already have a monopoly on customers since there are so few stops (there are eight plazas over 460 miles of the Turnpike) why are they further taking advantage of us by charging an absurd amount for a soda?

On top of that, I have a SunPass, which keeps the state from having to provide a human being to take my toll. But not everyone has one of these gizmos, since they pretty much require having a credit card. Using cash means replenishing the card in person and paying $1.50 every time you do so. (Nearly everything run by the Miami-Dade Expressway appears headed in the direction of, if you don't have a SunPass, we will ticket you because we are eliminating any ability to pay cash at the toll plazas which soon won't exist at all. Nice.) People who pay cash at a toll plaza generally pay more than SunPass users.

Boo hiss to all of this.

The Turnpike is apparently the road to expensive dining, which you've already subsidized with your toll money and by saving the state on paying for personal service. Next time I use it, I will travel with my own caffeine.

Posted by Nirvi Shah at 01:39 PM on August 23, 2010 in Food , Impulsive spending , Savings , Shopping , Vacations | Permalink | Facebook | Digg | del.icio.us | AIM

Comments

Bridget Carey

Oh yeah, since I was a kid the Turnpike plaza prices were always more than the normal franchise prices. Noticed it easily back when they used to have Burger King at the plazas -- the combo meals were about a buck more. But I put up with it for the convenience of having clean restrooms and several food choices at one stop.

LENNY KAPLAN

We have I-Pass in Illinois.It's probably the best thing they have done for drivers on the toll roads.I am one them!!!
As far as the service plazas go,you are at there mercy if you need to stop for drink or a snack.You do have a choice, pass them up or carry your caffein with you.But,if you need petro you will stop and fill up.Question what is your choice now?

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