National Road

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The National Road or Cumberland Road was one of the first major improved highways in the United States to be built by the federal government. Construction began in 1811 at Cumberland, Maryland, on the Potomac River. It crossed the Allegheny Mountains and southwestern Pennsylvania, reaching Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia) on the Ohio River in 1818. Plans were made to continue through St. Louis, Missouri, on the Mississippi River to Jefferson City, Missouri, but funding ran out and construction stopped at Vandalia, Illinois in 1839.


A chain of turnpikes connecting Baltimore, Maryland, to the National Road at Cumberland was completed in 1824, forming what is referred to as an eastern extension of the National Road. In 1835 the road east of Wheeling was turned over to the states for peration as a turnpike. It came to be known as the National Pike, a name also applied to the Baltimore extension. The modern U.S. Route 40 between Baltimore and Cumberland continues to use the name Baltimore National Pike today, and a spur into the Washington, D.C. area (part of Interstate 270) is known as the Washington National Pike.

The approximately 620-mile (1000 km) road provided a connection between the Potomac and Ohio Rivers and a gateway to the West for thousands of settlers. It was the first road in the U.S. to use the new macadam road surfacing.[citation needed] Today the alignment is mostly followed by U.S. Highway 40. The full road, including extensions east to Baltimore and west to St. Louis, was designated "The Historic National Road", an All-American Road, by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta in 2002.[1]

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