House Bill 253 of 1937

The Indiana State Highway Commission, created in 1917, had a very specific mandate when created. It was made even more specific with the law of 1919 formally cementing the ISHC. That mandate was simple: connect to each county seat and every town in Indiana with a population over 5000. The important word there is “connect.” By law, state roads start and end at town corporation limits. The route would go through the city or town, with state signage, but the maintenance belonged to the city or town. This was changed with the introduction of House Bill 253 of 1937 on 17 February 1937.

The primary focus of H. B. 253 was three fold. The first purpose was to increase the total mileage maintained by the ISHC to 12 thousand miles by 1 July 1939, with 500 miles to be added in both 1937 and 1938. It also specifies that no county road be added to the state highway system that has a daily traffic count of less than 200.

Noblesville Ledger, 5 Apr 1919, pp 6. From the article “Outline of the New Laws Dealing with Highways in Hoosier State.”

The second focus was what was described in the opening paragraph. The ISHC, as originally created, was not allowed to maintain any street inside the corporate limits of a city or town. The specific language, from 1919, states “if any state highway connects at the corporate limits of any city or town with an unimproved street, the state highway commission may improve the street as a part of a state highway. After a street is thus improved it shall be maintained and repaired by the city or town.”

Noblesville Ledger, 5 Apr 1919, pp 6. From the article “Outline of the New Laws Dealing with Highways in Hoosier State.”

There was an additional clause made to the bill creating the ISHC. Known as House Enrolled Act No. 352, it amended the highway law of 1905, providing: “no street in any incorporated city or town shall be improved under the provisions of this act without the consent of said town or the common council or (sic) such city, by resolution duly adopted.”* It does on to state “after any street shall have been improved hereunder, the trustees of such town or the common council of such city shall have control of the same.”

Tipton Daily Tribune, 18 February 1937, pp 5. From the article “New Bills,” listing all actions before the Indiana General Assembly started on 17 February 1937.

To the left is the notice of H. B. 253 as published in the Tipton Daily Tribune the day after the house bill was introduced. As was typical of most legislation at the time, the words “except in Indianapolis” were included in this bill. In this case, I have been unable to determine what made Indianapolis special and why it was left out of this state maintenance bill. When I do, I will post a short update.

Around the same time, there was another law passed about the distribution of gas tax money, fixing “the basis on which all motor vehicle fees and gas tax shall be allocated among the state and counties, cities and towns for the construction and repair of highways and streets.”

Bremen Enquirer, 22 April 1937, pp 1.

The third part of this bill, that was added later and made part of law, allowed for the lighting of state highways. A trial section was, as shown on page 1 of the Bremen Enquirer of 22 April 1937, on US 20 west of Michigan City. More lighting projects along rural highways would be put in place over the years thanks to this law.

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