World Sign
Vol. 47: Neon Lights Used in Tollgate Signs on Chicago Highways

No charges are made for traveling on most highways in the United States, but even when charges are made, they are ridiculously cheap. A single sector in Chicago costs 40 cents or around 50 yen, which is virtually free by Japanese standards.

The tollgates are unmanned. All you have to do is to throw a coin into a large basket through the car window, whereupon the crossing gate opens. America has all kinds of low-value coins, but the machine is able to calculate what has gone into the basket in an instant.

There’s a red arrow pointing toward the coin basket in these automatic payment machines. At night, transparent red neon tubes surrounding the baskets flash on and off in unison by the gates all lined up in a row. For some reason or other, there are no lights on Chicago highways except within the city itself. Having traveled along a completely dark road in the middle of the night, it’s great to be able to see these bright tollgates looming up ahead.

I took some photographs since it made me very happy to see neon lights being used in a place such as this. But it proved a difficult business. Since I was going to have to shoot from a moving vehicle, I’d only get once chance. I took quite a few shots every time I passed through the toll post, but after I’d had them developed I found that they were all blurred. It’s a pity, but all I’ve got to show for it now is photographs taken during the daytime.

1998 Copyright (c) All Japan Neon-Sign Association