National Road

From Academic Kids

The National Road was the first United States federal highway. Construction of the turnpike was authorized on March 29, 1806, and began in 1811 at Cumberland, Maryland.



The National Road, followed the Braddock Road built by General Braddock and George Washington during the French and Indian War and was also called the National Pike.

Toll Booths

One of the orginal toll booths is preserved in LaVale, Maryland and another in Addison, Pennsylvania

Technology of the Road

The National Road was the first modern road built since the Roman times. An engineer by the name of John Loudon McAdam, designed a new road surfacing material known as Macadam and this was the first road in North America to use the system.


Eastern Terminus is Cumberland, Maryland while the western terminus is at Vandalia, Illinois


The modern U.S. Highway 40 follows the entire length. Interstate 70 follows the route from Washington, PA west, while Interstate 68 follows the orginal route from Cumberland, Maryland to Keyser's Ridge, Maryland

Portions became part of the National Old Trails Highway, and there are 5 Madonna of the Trail monuments located along it. Many local sections in many areas are still called National Road, although the federal government officially ended that designation in 1850.

See also

The following is copied from a page administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (

"After the Revolutionary War, Washington saw the need for such a road to link the States along the East Coast and the territories west of the Allegheny Mountains. He feared that without better transportation, the western territories would be drawn to the English in the north or Spanish interests in the south. President Thomas Jefferson signed the legislation authorizing the National Road on March 29, 1806, to serve as a portage linking the Potomac and Ohio Rivers. It went from Cumberland, Maryland (the head of navigation on the Potomac River in those days) to the Ohio River at Wheeling. The National Road to Wheeling, built of crushed stone and completed in 1818, soon became the route of commerce that helped bind the union of settled East Coast communities and the pioneer communities in the territories.

In 1820, funds were approved to extend the road to a point on the Mississippi River between St. Louis and the mouth of the Illinois River. The western terminus was changed to Jefferson City, Missouri, in 1825. By 1833, the National Road was completed as far as Columbus, Ohio, and it would reach Springfield, Ohio, but beyond that point, the road was simply laid out to Vandalia (then the capital of Illinois). A dispute over location west of Vandalia was not resolved before the coming of the railroad rendered the road obsolete. "

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