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The National Road In Ohio Seeks National Scenic Byway Status
Submitted by Keith Bennett, P.E., P.S.

The Ohio Historic Preservation Office along with communities located along the National Road, are pursuing National Scenic Byway designation for this historic roadway. Designating the National Road in Ohio as a scenic byway could lead to numerous benefits for counties and communities through which the road runs. These benefits could include a higher level of national recognition and opening the areas along the route to tourism, marketing and promotional opportunities.

The National Road is a significant part of the history of Ohio as well as the nation. It was the first Federally funded interstate highway. It was constructed across six states: Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. The National Road in Ohio is 220 miles in length and the longest stretch of the road in the six states. The road extends through ten counties in Ohio. Construction of the National Road began in Cumberland, Maryland in 1811 reaching Wheeling, West Virginia in 1818. Construction in Ohio began in 1825. The plan for the National Road to extend to the banks of the Mississippi was never fully realized.

Construction ended in Vandalia, Illinois in the mid 1830's due to shortages of funding. In 1927, the National Road was designated U.S. Route 40. During this period, alignments were straightened, hillsides were cut, some of the original S-bridges were replaced and several of the villages along the route were bypassed.

The construction of the National Road included several experiments in road paving techniques. The first section of graded gravel macadam pavement on a Federal project was installed. Several sections of early experimental concrete pavement still exist on abandoned sections of the National Road in Ohio. There are also over 70 miles of the road in Ohio that were paved with experimental brick. Twenty-two stone bridges still exist along the National Road in Ohio.

The National Scenic Byway program requires that a Corridor Management Plan be created. The plan addresses five specific areas. These include enhancement, development, marketing, interpretation and signing.

The Enhancement Plan outlines ways in which the intrinsic qualities of the National Road will be protected, preserved and conserved so that the byway remains an attractive destination.

The Development Plan initiates strategies for byway communities to enhance existing development, accommodate new development and attract prospective new businesses.

The Marketing Plan includes plans for marketing the National Road in Ohio and ways to coordinate the marketing of the byway with other National Road states.

The Interpretive Plan outlines ways to establish educational activities and facilities that communicate the history of the National Road in Ohio, and coordinate with other National Road states to provide a common interpretive approach.

The Sign Plan incorporates strategies for reducing the size and number of signs along the route and for developing a system of directional, informational and interpretive signs to enhance the visitors' experience.

The Ohio National Road Scenic Byway planning process is well underway. The Ohio Historic Preservation Office (OHPO) initiated groundwork in 1995 when they initiated a statewide steering committee of local and state interest groups. A comprehensive inventory of historic and archaeological resources along the National Road was then completed. This led to the designation of National Road as a State Scenic Byway by the Ohio Department of Transportation. At this point the development of the Corridor Management Plan was initiated.

A Scenic Byway Advisory Committee comprised of representatives of city and county government, regional transportation planning agencies, historical organizations, museums, chambers of commerce and tourism agencies was formed. This committee will help facilitate the decision-making process during the development of the Corridor Management Plan. The advisory group has been meeting on a quarterly basis since June 2000. The draft management plan was presented at a series of public meetings held across the state in April 2001. The plan is scheduled for submittal to the Federal Highway Administration in July with hopes of receiving approval by September 2001.

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