A confluence of National Road and US 40 alignments near Vandalia, Illinois

The bonanza of abandoned old pavement along the Illinois National Road dries up just before Montrose, a little town just east of Effingham. Thence west, US 40 almost entirely follows the same alignment of the road from when Illinois paved it in concrete in the 1920s. From a postcard, here’s what that concrete looked like when it was new.


Almost all of that road is covered with asphalt today – almost. A little of this concrete is visible where US 40 and I-70 intersect east of Vandalia. This remarkable confluence of roads includes not only the original US 40 alignment, but a newer alignment of US 40 that bypassed Vandalia. Much of that bypass later became I-70.

Imagery and map data © 2014 Google.
Imagery and map data © 2014 Google.

This 1920s concrete road was built 18 feet wide, where the old abandoned brick and concrete road well east of here was just 16 feet wide. But in this photo you can see concrete strips added on either side to widen it by a few extra feet. Notice also that the original middle portion of the road has no expansion joints, and so it cracked. The 1920s was a time of learning in roadbuilding, and later concrete roads all had expansion joints. This is an eastbound photo from the east end of the concrete alignment.

Abandoned National Road and US 40

I turned around in the same place to take this westbound photo. Notice the curved strip added on the north side of the road to let traffic flow into the later alignment of US 40, which bears right. The concrete alignment picks up dead ahead.

Abandoned National Road and US 40
Westbound from the west end

What an awkward intersection these two old roads must have created when they were still in use.

Confluence of alignments
Westbound from the west end

Here’s an eastbound photo of where the original US 40 alignment ends at I-70.

Abandoned National Road and US 40
Eastbound from the east end

I’ve seen topographic maps from 1969 and 1977 of this area. In the 1969 map, I-70 was nowhere in sight. In the 1977 map, this entire configuration existed. So the old concrete road was in use through sometime during the 1970s, and the time when I-70 merged onto US 40 here lasted a few years at most.

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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10 responses to “A confluence of National Road and US 40 alignments near Vandalia, Illinois”

  1. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    This is a fascinating find of overlapping roads, time, and configurations, Jim, truly. :) I can’t get enough of it. But I blush to admit I’m having a hard time orienting the shots in my mind unless they actually show a road end, where I have a strong reference. Would you be willing to update the overhead shot to show where you were standing for which shots? <:)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It would probably help for me to put markers on the map showing where I took each photo, but who has time for that? I added quick captions to each photo that I hope help you locate each shot.

  2. dehk Avatar

    Where do you keep finding all these roads, you’re good.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      The historic roads, like the National Road, get built and rebuilt and re-rebuilt and so there are old alignments lurking about. But srsly, go to Google Maps, go to Earth view, and follow your favorite highway. You’ll find stuff like this. Here’s a post of mine with lots of tips: http://blog.jimgrey.net/2010/06/24/roadsleuthing/

  3. Ward Fogelsanger Avatar
    Ward Fogelsanger

    A little road history as I remember it. Illinois started bypassing towns and rebuilding US 40 going east from St Louis in the early 40’s. Troy, Highland, Pocohontas, Greenville, Mulberry Grove, and Vandalia all got bypassed before the road was built in the eastern most counties around Greenup, Casey, Marrinsville and Marshall finished about 1955. Don’t know why they didn’t bypass Effingham earlier but it was the widest nicest pavement earlier. My parents always said what a relief it was to hit the wider pavement westbound at Montrose or the 4 lane at the Indiana line. I 70 was built around Effingham around 1961 or 62. It was completed westbound to that confluence of roads by 1964. In your aerial view the northernmost pavement was where new 40 curved to start its bypass around Vandaiia and alt 40 followed the old road probably all the way to Greenville. The eastbound lanes of I 70 were built over the new 40 Vandalia bypass to just west of the Kaskaskia river. In fact the eastbound lanes of I 70 used the old steel truss US 40 bridge until the 80’s. Just west of the river I 70 swings north to its intersection with US 51 and you can see the 40 bypass to the south going around the north edge of Vandalia. I think there was a motel named the Waldorf just west of 51 on the bypass where my parents would stop for meals or coffee when driving through.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Ward, thank you for chiming in. I had forgotten that I-70 just east of Vandalia follows the route of the US 40 bypass that had been built some time before. I’ve edited the post to reflect that.

      I once met a fellow who lives east of Marshall and grew up in that area. He remembered when the old brick/concrete road was still the highway and he called it a dangerous road. He said it was a huge relief when the new highway opened.

  4. Ward Fogelsanger Avatar
    Ward Fogelsanger

    I remember my parents saying what a relief it was to get to the slightly wider pavement east of Montrose before “new 40” was finished in Cumberland and Clark counties. I do believe the brick pavement farther east was also 18 ft wide. Where I measured it was 15 ft wide brick and 1.5 ft concrete strip to the outside completing the “curb “ holding the bricks. It was slightly wider going down the hill to a bridge just east of Clark Center ( parallel to the old old alignment with the stone bridge I have told you about). Clark and Cumberland counties were always the last to see improvements in Illinois. I 70 between Montrose and Marshall wasn’t competed til late ‘71 and was the last section opened between Baltimore and Denver…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s crazy to me that this was the last link in I-70 and it wasn’t complete until so late.

      1. Ward Fogelsanger Avatar
        Ward Fogelsanger

        Mainly demographics. You had US 40/National Rd crossing Illinois between big cities like St Louis and Indy and Terre Haute to the east but no big towns along US 40 in Illinois til you hit the E St Louis area. Another interesting tidbit around Clark County is have you ever heard of the book/ movie Some Came Running written by James Jones of From Here to Eternity Fame? It was about his hometown of Robinson and written at the Handy Writers Colony in Marshall… the mythical town of Parkman was located at the intersection of US 40 and Illinois Rte 1…

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I wonder why they shot the film in Madison, Indiana, then. Madison doesn’t resemble an Illinois small town in any way!

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