The State Taketh, the State Giveth Back

To be honest, I have always had a “love/hate” opinion of the Indiana Department of Transportation. I realize that may be silly to admit. But true it is. Most of the “hate” side comes from silly little things like what I call “traffic constipation devices,” aka stop lights, and 45 mile detours because the only way between point A and point B when they close a road is to go 30 miles out of the way. That is due to the statutory limit of INDOT. And it started getting worse in 1975.

When the Indiana State Highway Commission was formed, it was tasked with connecting all of the county seats, and all towns over 5,000 population, to the state highway system. It started, really, in 1919. By the middle of the 1930s, the system was pretty much complete. Or at least, approved to be completed.

This was great. But it also created the problem that existed today. State roads ended up being few and far between. There are sections of no state roads at all in places in Indiana. As the state started building bypasses, replacements, and (later) limited access highways, the few and far between roads became even more so.

An article in the South Bend Tribune of 1 December 1975 discussed what the state decided to do next. Start giving the state roads back to the counties. According to the article, the ISHC planned to have their “relinquishments” done by 1990. And it planned on a bunch of them. According to the article, the plan was to get the state highway system down to the 12,000 mile limit that is currently state law. However, “a 1967 Indiana Legislative Advisory Commission recommendation was to reduce the state highway system to about 9,300 miles of interstate, principal, major and collector highways will all other roads in the state system to be placed under local control.”

At the time of this article, roads that had been returned to local authority included: SR 13 from Lapel to Greenfield; old US 31 in Fulton and Marshall Counties; old SR 37 in Lawrence County, Bedford, and Oolitic; one half mile of US 40 in Terre Haute; SR 68 in Warrick, Gibson and Posey Counties; SR 303 in Wells County; SR 132 in Madison County; and numerous other small sections of road. To return the section of SR 68 in Warrick County, the state agreed to repair three bridges before the turnover would occur.

There were three categories (the article states there are four, but only lists three) of roads to be returned to county and/or city control: 1) “routes that because of construction of other state routes in close proximity no longer are needed to provide major arterial traffic service.” 2) “Sections of highway within geographical areas or along traffic corridors where there is a ‘redundancy of state highways’.” 3) “Short lengths of local streets of county roads reconstructed as a part of a state highway project, such as frontage or local access routes which never were formally a part of the state highway system.”

The reason this article was in the South Bend Tribune is due to the real possibility (at the time, the actual fact today…well, sorta) of the state giving control of US 31 and SR 2 inside the new US 31 St. Joseph Parkway bypass back to South Bend. Ironically, even though this article was written 44 years ago, St. Joseph County is the one place in the state having a hard time accepting that the state wants to rid itself of these roads. SR 931 and SR 933 only exist because St. Joseph County refuses to accept the roads back. Period. SR 933 ONLY exists in St. Joseph County, ending at the Elkhart County line. SR 931 exists in two places, St. Joseph and Howard & Tipton Counties. And Howard and Tipton Counties are already working on getting their section back. Both sections of SR 931 exist because the new US 31 bypass built in both of these locations.

Marion County fell victim to the “relinquishment” plan very early and very often. First, US 52 was built to bypass Lebanon. Before long, the route was incorporated into, and replaced by, Interstate 65. As I-465 was built, US 52 followed it around to SR 100, then to Brookville Road. (There was no exit, originally, from I-465 north to US 52. It required exiting onto SR 100/Shadeland Avenue.) When the interstate was finally complete, US 52 would be permanently routed that direction. Or, at least until and entrance was built to I-465 north allowing the state to reroute the reoute to I-465 north and west along the northern part of the county.

Other sections soon fell into county control. Most of SR 100 wasn’t needed anymore as it was replaced by I-465. (As a matter of fact, the state contracts to build 465 were noted as either SR 100 or I-465. I-465 was contracted as an actual replacement.) The only section that remained of SR 100 was from I-465 on the east side to Washington Street. (As part of not only SR 100, but also as part of US 52.) US 36, SR 67, US 421 and US 136 were the third set. The first three would go around Marion County along I-465. US 136 would end at the entrance to I-74 on the west side. In 1986, SR 431 on the southside of Marion County (the original Madison State Road) was turned back over to Indianapolis after major expansion work. It was changed from two lanes to five from the US 31 split to Shelby Street. (This section of SR 431 was one of only two state roads that did not connect to the interstate directly in Marion County. The other was US 40 in downtown Indianapolis. Ironically, the US 40 connection would finally be made…after US 40 in that area ceased to exist.)

The last to lose state status in the area were US 40, US 31, SR 37, SR 135, SR 431 (north side) and SR 100. All of these happened roughly the same time (within a two year period). Both SR 431 and SR 100 no longer exist in any capacity. SR 100 was finally replaced with the construction of ramps directly from US 52 to I-465 mentioned earlier. US 31, SR 37 and US 40 go around I-465 with the rest of the roads in Marion County. SR 135 was shortened by two miles, connecting to US 31 via Thompson Road rather than Troy Avenue.

All of this leads to a state road system that covers the state, yet creates large gaps in coverage. Some say that this is in the name of fiscal responsibility. And to a certain extent, that is accurate. Until one considers how much road tax money the state gives the local governments. It’s quite a bit. And that total is growing as the state giveth back what they had originally taketh.

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