By: Ariana Grabowicz and Austin Brown

Development of Roads

When roads began most were very narrow trail that were barely wide enough for a wagon. The trails often went through muddy swamps where tree stumps would stick up and most likely break the wagon axles of careless travelers. With travelers settling west new roads were a major demand for settlers.


Private companies began building gravel and stone roads. The way they payed for these roads was by collecting tolls from travelers. These roads were the first turnpikes of the United States. Probably the best road in the United States was the Lancaster Turnpike, which was built in the 1970's by a private company. It connected Philadelphia, PA to Lancaster, PA. It was a gravel road which water drained off of quickly, and there were flat stones on top allowing a smooth ride.

Corduroy Roads

Another type of road that was more primitive had been known Corduroy roads. These roads were located in swampy areas and were made of logs. They were called corduroy roads due to the lines of logs looking like corduroy cloths. Although the logs kept the wagon from sinking, the logs made a bumpy and uncomfortable ride.

The National Road

In the early 1800's some states set aside money to improve roads and/or build new ones. In 1806 the Congress approved funds to build a national road for the first time. The road would run from Cumberland, MD to Wheeling, VA. The work began in 1811, but do to the War of 1812 it was not completed until 1818. Eventually the road was added onto and stretched the whole way to Illinois. As each new section of road was built, settlers eagerly used it to drive their wagons further west.

Modern Roads

Coming into the twentieth century roads were due for an upgrade. In the city the roads were mainly paved, but when you got out of the city there was still the issue of dirt and stone roads. With the new developments of bicycles and cars the dirt and gravel roads could not hold up for the fast moving vehicles and were dangerous for the bicycles. The central idea for roads back in the nineteenth century was to help populate urban areas. As the twentieth century came along the demand for transportation increased, and population was no longer the main idea. Shortly afterwards roads began to be created with asphalt and concrete. There were many highways and less back roads as the twentieth progressed and even more highways as the twenty-first century began. Asphalt is known as a flexible pavement, one which slowly will "flow" under the pounding of traffic. Concrete is a rigid pavement, which can take heavier loads but is more expensive and requires more carefully prepared sub-base. So, generally, major roads are concrete and local roads are asphalt. Concrete roads are often covered with a thin layer of asphalt to create a wearing surface. Roads nowadays are now designed to carry a heavier load and withstand a faster speed. Technology has impacted roads very much and as time goes on roads will continue to change and new improvements will always be occurring.
National Road
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