Road tolls are as old as highways and bridges themselves. Payment could ensure safe passage through tribal lands, guidance through high mountain passes or add to the coffers of vigilant and wiley landowners.
Dublin’s medieval King John’s Bridge (now Father Mathew) was tolled and the local monks acted as keepers of the bridge. Thus the upkeep of the bridge was provided for - though travellers did get a blessing of holy water in return. Through the ages other Dublin bridges also exacted a payment from travellers, their goods and their chattels, including animals, dead or alive.
In the time of George II, the Turnpike Act of 1731 allowed for the making of toll roads and the financing of their upkeep. With the coming of the railway their popularity decreased and the act was repealed in 1854.
In 1919 shortly after the lease of the Ha’penny Bridge ran out, that toll too was abolished. Thus in 1976 when Tom Roche first muted his idea of a toll bridge across the Liffey, he was simply recycling an old method of financing the building and maintenance of a public roadway. The need for an easterly crossing of the River Liffey had been highlighted by road traffic studies. The city authorities, Dublin Corporation had the will but not the means in those tough economic times. Roche’s company, National Toll Roads, proposed building the bridge. The tolls would, in return, accrue back for a specified period of time.
The government having provided the legislative framework of the 1979 Local Government Tolls Act, the Corporation gave Roche the go ahead in 1982 with a number of provisos. Shipping would continue to need up river access and thus an opening bridge was called for. The bridge itself had to be limited to one lane in either direction to integrate with existing north and south street systems and a new southside approach road was to be provided. A simple design with a short construction time was decided by N.T.R. in order to minimise cost and interest payable.
In 1984 The East-Link opened and ownership reverted to Dublin City Council on the 1st of January 2016.