The automobile created demand for good roads in the early 20th century. Dirt and gravel were upgraded to brick, concrete, and asphalt. Hills were leveled, valleys were filled, and curves were straightened.
Not quite two miles past the Wilson bridge west of Hagerstown, MD, lies this example of state-of-the-art roadbuilding circa 1930. A straightened and widened US 40 (at left in the photo) left it behind, obsolete.
Compare this photo to the one below, from 1932, at a place called Puzzley Run near Grantsville, Maryland. It shows this type of road being built.
Here’s another period photo showing this road being built on Polish Mountain east of Cumberland, Maryland. See a Polish Mountain view from our trip here.
What’s interesting is that this now-obsolete road was a major improvement and often came with eliminating dangerous curves to make the road safer.
This road is probably 16 feet wide or so, including the concrete shoulders. Oncoming semis would find this a tight squeeze, but that wasn’t an issue in the 1930s as railroads still moved most goods around the country. Modern highway lanes are 12 feet wide, not including shoulders, to make room for semis.
It’s hard telling why this section of road was not torn out when the new road was built, but it’s cool to see it now.
I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.
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