Cumberland RoadThe Cumberland Road, also called the Great National Pike and the National Road, was the first United States federal highway. Construction was authorized on March 29, 1806, and began in 1811 at Cumberland, Maryland. The final eastern terminus of the road was Vandalia, Illinois. The modern United States Highway 40 and Interstate 70 now follow much of the original route.
Due to the state of road technology at the time, and the barrier of the Appalachian Mountains, the Cumberland Road was of limited usefulness as a means of transporting cargo. Transport over water tended to be cheaper; the Erie Canal (completed in 1825) was a more attractive option for transporting goods between the Midwest and the eastern seaboard. One important function that the road did indeed serve was the transport of settlers.