Toll roads in PA were first developed on the US Route 40, otherwise known as The National Road. Linked in history with George Washington and other notable statesmen this road helped to build America and the tolls helped to maintain it.
This important toll road in Pennsylvania played a significant part in the development, commercialisation and population of the United States of America. The road helped people to move across the developing nation in a fast and comfortable manner.
It is often said that the railroads helped to develop the United States and make it into the country it is today. Well, I believe that to be very true but I also learnt that the development of a National Road, US 40 which preceded the railroads (and the first of toll roads in PA) was a key factor in the rapid growth of the country.
On my first visit to Uniontown, Pennsylvania I couldn’t help but notice road signs telling me I was on a historic national road. Various signs told me I was on US 40 but as a visitor this didn’t mean anything to me. Little did I know that I was on the first of the toll roads in PA. However by the end of my visit this was all to change.
A local who lived near Uniontown was happy to up date me on the history of the area, which although it was booming in the past is now a fairly small size settlement. However the place is steeped in history and what we now know as Uniontown was founded on American Independence Day, 4th July 1776.
Located close to the Fort Necessity battlefield it is in an area known to George Washington and other significant historical figures. Driving around a place of such historical significance was always going to perk my interest.
It turns out that US Route 40 lays on or close to the original laying of the National Road from the 1800’s. The national route was commissioned in 1806 to effectively connect the Ohio River to the Atlantic Ocean. It was to run from Cumberland, Maryland across the Appalachian Mountains to Ohio. Taking 7 years to complete the road initially ran for 137 miles and was also known as the Cumberland Road.
The road was the first federally funded route which adds to the appeal of the road. However costs were high and funds had to be raised somehow. Eventually the road was handed over to the States to control rather than by the Federal Government. So to cover costs the States made this into the first toll road in the country. I would also say the most famous of all former toll roads in PA.
At first six toll houses were constructed in 1835 roughly 15 miles apart on the Pennsylvania stretch of the road. One of these toll houses, the Searight Tollhouse still stands today and is a museum just outside of Uniontown.
The old toll prices are on display outside. Charges were made for every score of sheep, hogs and cattle amongst other things. Thankfully tolls were stopped in 1905 so it was free for me to pass everyday, as I did for about a week.
The Searight Tollhouse is in a good condition and easy to spot on your drive. Naturally a Tollhouse was integral to implementing charges for toll roads in PA. It is now open on weekends from April to October yet sadly my visit was outside of this time.
I did however learn a lot about the historic toll roads in PA from the outside displays at the Searight Tollhouse and the fabulous exhibition at Fort Necessity.
Looking back I can only imagine the sights and sounds on the old National Road throughout the centuries. Some historic figures and people seeking a better life will have travelled on this most important trail. It is great to see landmarks like the Searight Tollhouse are preserved and even though it is no longer one of the toll roads in PA, the National Road will always feel significant to me.
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