If you ask people that know (or even care), the Interstate system came into being in 1956 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the plan to create a system of controlled access highways that would bare his name later in time. But what most people don’t realize is that the first part of what would become part of that system in Indiana predates that law by half a decade. Although not originally built to be a controlled access highway, the US 52 bypass of Lebanon started in 1948 would eventually be added to what is now I-65.
Lebanon would be the next relatively large town on what, in Marion County, was known as the Lafayette Road. The original road’s starting point in Indianapolis has been moved several times. In the Auto Trail era, the section from Lebanon to Indianapolis would be part of the Jackson Highway. It would become, in 1919, the first state road added after the original five 1917 Main Market highways, as OSR 6. The original state road north of Lebanon was not included in the state system until 1924.
With the Great Renumbering, the old Lafayette Road, in its entirety, would become US 52. Between 1934 and 1938, it would also carry the designation US 152. (US 152 didn’t last very long. There is still a small remnant of this highway as SR 152 in Hammond.) As an aside, originally US 52 north of Indianapolis ended at US 41 at Fowler. US 152, in its short lifespan, would be longer (at least north of Indianapolis) than its mother road, as it ended in Hammond.
The route changed very little around the Lebanon area. Entering from the south on Indianapolis Avenue, then following Main Street to then use Lafayette Avenue north out of town. As the (still) most direct route between Indianapolis and Chicago, this route would see way too much traffic for Lebanon to handle. With the State Highway Commission putting a lot of time and money into the expansion of US highways throughout the state (US 40 and US 31 come to mind immediately), the decision was made in 1947 to build a wider US 52 around Lebanon.
Construction would start in 1948. There was an article in the Indianapolis Star of 28 October 1948 concerning the auto accident death of a man that was employed by the construction company that was building the bypass at the time. The accident would involve three tractor-trailers, a dump truck and two passenger cars. The man killed was driving the dump truck.
The Indiana Official Highway Map of 1950 shows the Lebanon bypass under construction. The route taken would completely remove US 52 from the Lebanon corporate limits at the time. The bypass would be shown as complete on the 1951 map, although it still shows US 52 as part of the state highway system through Lebanon. It would be shown this way until 1953.
By 1960, this section of highway become I-65 and would join parts of I-74, I-80, I-90 and I-94 as the first officially completed additions to Indiana’s part of the future interstate system. This section of I-65 would be shown from the Hendricks-Marion County line to the end of the old US 52 bypass northwest of Lebanon.
The northern end of the original bypass would have an exit built to US 52 according to the 1961 map. This would be the location where I-65 would aim more north than the old road. I-65 would roughly parallel US 52 to north of Lafayette, listed as under construction starting in 1966.
There were no more real changes to the routing of US 52 around the Lebanon area since. This section of US 52 joins a small section of US 421 in Marion and Shelby Counties as the only US highways in Indiana that were to become directly part of the Interstate Highway system.