Turnpikes

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In the early years of Ohio statehood, there were a limited number of roads linking various parts of the state. These routes included Zane's Trace, some old army roads, and the National Road. Although the State of Ohio and local governments recognized the need for more roads, the process of building and maintaining roads was very expensive. In an attempt to finance roads without raising taxes, the state legislature began granting charters to private turnpike companies. Turnpike companies sold shares of stock in order to raise the funds to build the road. Once the turnpike was completed, the company charged tolls to those who traveled the road in order to make a profit and repay its investors. As a result, turnpikes were also known as toll roads.

Turnpike companies had varying degrees of success in their business ventures. Some operated their roads for decades, managing to make money from the tolls. Many other companies were not financially successful. They often went bankrupt in a short time and turned over the roads to local governments. The Panic of 1819 was particularly hard on several financially unstable turnpike companies.

Despite the failure of many turnpike companies, the turnpikes themselves contributed significantly to Ohio's growth in the decades after statehood. As roads improved and increased in numbers trade and travel within the state also increased. In addition to turnpikes, canals and railroads contributed to Ohio’s economic development in the nineteenth century.


See Also