Road Trips

The National Road in Ohio: Old alignments in Belmont County

Over Memorial Day weekend in 2011, my dog Gracie and I explored the National Road all the way across Ohio. That road is now US 40 in most places. I’m bringing the long trip report over from my old Roads site.

Just past Hendrysburg
Stub of old alignment west of Hendrysburg

Just west of St. Clairsville, US 40 passes under I-70 twice. Then a brief old alignment passes through unincorporated Lloydsville.

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

This area is rich in old alignments. Three more follow in rapid succession – one through little Morristown, and one on either side.

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

I had my other camera suction-cupped to the windshield, so I shot video of the old alignment east of Morristown. I was astonished to find that it was one lane wide. I figure it was just heavily overgrown.

I shot more video as I drove through Morristown. There are some seriously old buildings here.

I also drove the old alignment west of it, but didn’t stop for photographs. I was eagerly anticipating what I knew came next.

In my early 20s I made an epic road trip from my home in Terre Haute, to Detroit to visit one friend, and then to Mississauga, Ontario, to visit another. From there I drove to Niagara Falls and then across central New York, dropping down into New Jersey, where I visited two other friends in Edison. Then I headed home, mostly along I-70. I was bored of the Interstate by the time I crossed into Ohio, and when I saw an exit for US 40 at St. Clairsville, I took it.

I got stuck behind an older gentleman in a 1960s Plymouth driving 15 miles per hour below the speed limit. This was worse! I got out my big Rand McNally atlas (which seems downright quaint now) to figure out how to get back onto I-70. The map showed that US 40 merged onto I-70 ten or so miles ahead, just past Morristown. It even showed that the road widened to four lanes a few miles ahead of the merge.

The slowpoke turned off, and in relief I put my foot into the gas pedal. I reached an intersection where signs said to turn left to reach I-70, but I blew by it eager to drive the four-lane US 40 just ahead.

I had the four-lane highway to myself. A rusty guardrail divided the eastbound and westbound lanes. Then I passed a US 40 reassurance marker covered in black plastic, and then a big green sign also covered in black plastic. Was the road closed? Had I missed a detour? My concern turned to fright as I rounded a curve at 65 miles per hour and found myself staring right into a hillside. With no warning, the road ended right at its base! I slammed on the brakes and came to a stop just ten feet away from the end.

Rand McNally was wrong. US 40 didn’t merge onto I-70 here; rather, I-70 was built over US 40, at least 30 feet up.

I returned to the scene of my fright on this trip. Here’s the old highway at its dead end. I’m told that the road is pretty much always flooded here now. Also, the dividing guardrail was removed at some point.

Dead end

Here’s how the road curves in from the east.

Dead end

Here’s the view from the air. Simply put, I-70 was built here along the alignment of US 40 and the National Road.

© 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

US 40 follows I-70 for about the next 18 miles, to the town of Old Washington. But a remnant of old US 40 and the National Road appears just a mile later, as it emerges from underneath I-70. It’s marked as Co. Rd. 102 and Mt. Olivett Rd. on this map. Before I-70, as it headed west it cut directly across the exit at State Route 800 and followed Co. Rd. 108.

© 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

Here’s an eastbound photo of where the old road resumes. Notice how the seam down the middle goes straight even though the road was later made to curve away to connect to another county road.

Mt. Olivet Rd.

Turning around from there, it becomes apparent that the old westbound lanes were abandoned.

Mt. Olivet Rd.

The routing of I-70 from here west to Old Washington did a real number on the National Road, but other bits and pieces remain as state and county roads if you know where to look. They can be a little challenging to follow. Old US 40 follows State Route 800 here, but the National Road took an even older alignment directly through Hendrysburg.

© 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

There’s not much left of Hendrysburg. I understand there used to be an S bridge here, but it’s long gone. This shot shows where the National Road’s alignment through Hendrysburg ends and meets State Route 800.

Just past Hendrysburg

Not far past Hendrysburg, State Route 800 curves northward. But to stay on the National Road and old US 40, you need to turn left onto County Road 40A. I’m sure that in US 40’s heyday, this was a straight shot, and you turned right here to stay on 800.

© 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

This through-the-windshield shot shows what County Road 40A is like.

County Road 40A

There’s more to explore along this alignment left behind by I-70, but the rest of it is in Guernsey County.

Next: A bridge shaped like the letter S in Guernsey County.

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4 thoughts on “The National Road in Ohio: Old alignments in Belmont County

  1. Warren W Jenkins says:

    Love these old alignment finds; Karl Raitz had several pages on this area in his ‘Guide to the National Road’. I know I saw some of this from I-70 on my trek west to Owen County in 1994.
    Maryland started “modernizing” US40/NR in the late 1930s, with the bulk of new construction from 1945-1960. Four lanes were complete from Baltimore-Frederick by 1955, with 2-3 lanes west to Cumberland, Frostburg, and Keysers Ridge.
    I believe the last section of the pre-interstate 4-lane US40 to be supplanted by I-70 was the the section from just east of Frederick towards New Market in the late 1980s.

  2. Warren W Jenkins says:

    Jim, thanks for the look at your travels, you did hit some high points along US40/NR, but there is so much more out there. I.E. a half day could be spent on and around Sideling Hill. There is possibly still a couple galleries of my photo explorations on the American Roads Forum.

    I’ve been to Ocean City as a tourist the same amount of times as you – once. In Sept. 2010 with a female companion, we hit the same places, and found Assateague much more to our liking.
    Growing up, our family’s preference was to go to Eastern Massachusetts on vacations to visit my mother’s relatives, so I got to see a lot of Cape Cod, a charming place in itself…

    • Someday I want to come back and do the NR in MD/PA/WV again. I know there’s a lot more to see in MD, and I really barreled through PA. A lot of US 40 was closed on that trip so I didn’t see much of it anyway. I had little time and a lot of ground to cover on that trip.

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