But state officials insist the tolls on the Delaware Turnpike aren't that unreasonable. In fact, they say, there really is no such thing as the Delaware Turnpike — no matter what Wikipedia, major media outlets and some of the state's own websites might say.

Williams said the toll portion of I-95 in Delaware in properly known as the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway, just as it is in Maryland. And he insisted that contrary to the indications on many roadmaps, including those published by the Maryland State Highway Administration and Rand-McNally, the toll road is actually 26 miles long — counting the entire stretch between Maryland and Pennsylvania borders — rather than the 11 miles between the toll plaza and the Interstate 95-295 split.

The distinction might seem technical, but it makes a big difference when Delaware's toll costs are compared to those in other states on a per-mile basis. At 11 miles, it comes to a hefty 36 cents a mile; at 26 miles the cost is a much more reasonable 15 cents.

However they're calculated, the Delaware tolls aren't going away. They are popular in that state because tolls are collected only at the Maryland state line, and most Delaware residents use the highway without charge.

"You can use probably 24 miles of it without paying any toll at all," Williams said. "A lot of the people who live in Delaware don't need to use the toll plaza because they're not going to Maryland."

Even when traveling south, the toll burden doesn't fall too heavily because, as Williams acknowledged, you're hardly a Delawarean at all if you don't know all the local routes to avoid the plaza.

Unlike Maryland, where tolls are retained by the Maryland Transportation Authority for use at its roads, bridges and tunnels, money raised by tolls in Delaware go into that state's Transportation Trust Fund to pay for projects all over the state, Williams said.

And unlike Maryland, where a menu of proposed toll increases is pending, Delaware's $4 one-way charge appears safe for now. Williams said there are no moves afoot to raise that toll.

Neither, he said, is any consideration being given to switching to one-way toll collections, as Maryland did on its part of the Kennedy Highway in 1991. In Delaware, where there are no big rivers such as the Susquehanna to cross, it would be much easier to use the highway in the free direction and take back roads to avoid an $8 toll the other way.

The spokesman said the expansion will add the four E-ZPass lanes to a plaza that now consists of 15 lanes in the main section and five others off to the side in the northbound lanes. The highway-speed lanes — similar to those on Delaware Route 1 or Maryland's new Intercounty Connector — will be Delaware's first full-time dedicated pass lanes on I-95.

There was no room for more lanes because residential development restricts the right-of-way on one side while the highway's administration building limits it on the other, Williams said.

Teri Moss, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Transportation Authority, said Marylanders could be among the beneficiaries of its neighboring state's work.

"This is good news for motorists heading out of Maryland on I-95 this weekend — and I-95 to Route 1 in Delaware should again be a viable route for residents north of Baltimore heading to Maryland and Delaware beach resorts," Moss said.

But some drivers remain skeptical.

"I'm just not going to hold my breath that it's going to be as good as they're making it out to be," said Tewes.

The Severn resident is still fuming over her trip through the nearly-completed plaza last weekend. She said that last Saturday night, even after the new signage for the plaza was in place, southbound I-95 was down to one toll lane.

"We could have almost made it home in the time we sat in this tiny little state," she said. "It's like, 'We got you one more time.'"

michael.dresser@baltsun.com