Historic Markers To Line ‘America’s Oldest Highway’

U.S. 40, also called the National Road, was paid for with funding approved by Thomas Jefferson in 1806.

Cambridge City

Photo: Indiana National Road Association

An historic marker at Cambridge City marks what used to be a major transportation center on the National Road.

The National Road, otherwise known as Highway 40, is America’s oldest highway and the first federally-funded highway in the country. Thomas Jefferson himself approved funding for the route, back in 1806. On Saturday, the highway, which stretches from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois, will get a makeover, as the Indiana National Road Association installs 15 signs at historically significant sites across Indiana.

National Road Association board member Joseph Skvarenina, says by the time Indiana’s section of the highway was completed in 1834, the route was already heavily used by thousands of settlers, looking for opportunity in Indiana and Illinois.

“I myself have traveled the national road from Cumberland Maryland to Vandalia Illinois, just to see the old section of it,” Skvarenina said. “It was a lot of fun ‘cause there’s a lot to see; there’s old inns there’s an old ‘s’ bridge in Zanesville Ohio, there’s old toll gates, there’s museums, there’s just all kinds of things to see. It’s really an adventure.”

Although use of the National road has dropped significantly since the construction of Interstate 70, preservationists like Skvarina say the route’s significance is in its history.

The dedication of the signs is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, at the Old National Road Welcome Center in Richmond.

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