When someone looks at a map of Indiana, especially around the Louisville, Kentucky, area, that reader will notice that US 31 crosses the Ohio River from Jeffersonville. One comment would make this post really short: it has since 1930. But, as is often the case in Indiana transportation history, the answer isn’t quite that simple. Before it was all said and done, there would be three US 31s in Clark County at one time. The crossing to Kentucky from Indiana would move from New Albany to Jeffersonville. Several state roads would come and go, as would versions of US 31.
The story of US 31, by name, as with every other US highway in Indiana, starts on 01 October 1926. Since 1917, the route had been State Road 1. SR 1 would connect Michigan to Kentucky via South Bend, Plymouth, Rochester, Peru, Kokomo, Indianapolis, Franklin, Columbus, Seymour, Scottsburg and New Albany. With the creation of US 31 during the “Great Renumbering,” the selected route would cross into Kentucky along one of the first multi modal bridges to cross the Ohio River, the Kentucky & Indiana Bridge. The original K&I Bridge was opened in 1886 with both a railroad track and two wagon trails, allowing both railroad and horse traffic to cross from New Albany to Louisville.
By 1930, the state road landscape of the Jeffersonville/New Albany/Louisville (aka the Falls of the Ohio) area had changed quite a bit. US 31 was split into two routes in Indiana: US 31E and US 31W. While these were marked with suffixes in Indiana, Kentucky had, at least in 1930, labelled them just as US 31. US 31W maintained the route of the original SR 1/US 31. The new US 31E route crossed the Ohio River on the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge, marked on the Kentucky map to the left as the Municipal Toll Bridge. It is still used as US 31 to this day.
Also, by 1930, a new state road had been added to connect New Albany to Sellersburg: SR 33. The importance of this will be mentioned shortly.
It is also important to mention that there were TWO Indiana Official maps for 1930. The second one, snippet shown below, was dated 01 August 1930. The first 1930 map still had only one US 31, connecting to New Albany.
A quick glance at the first Indiana map to show US 31W and US 31E show that they split relatively close to the Ohio River. The route of US 31W on this map is, from west to east: Spring Street; Providence Way; and (what is now) Lewis and Clark Parkway. Most of what was US 31E on this map has been removed by the construction of Interstate 65.
1932 and 1933 were eventful years in terms of the two US 31s. First, in 1932, a reroute of US 31W was in the works. As is typical of ISHC maps, two US 31W routes were shown: the one put in place in 1930, and one that takes the place of the now disappeared SR 33. The original US 31W would be replaced, on the maps, in 1933 with a new state road: SR 231. SR 62 was extended along the western section of the old US 31W from the K&I Bridge connection to Clark Boulevard. SR 231 took over from that point to the junction with US 31E. The 1933 map also shows the return of SR 33, this time west of the original route (and shown on the 1932 as an authorized addition).
One of the strangest changes to the ISHC official maps is that of 1935. US 31 is listed, as before, in two different routes. But this time, the route of US 31W is labeled as US 31, with US 31E labeled as US 31B. This would only appear on the 1935 map, as in 1936, it would go back to being 31E and 31W.
As an aside, the new SR 33 would also disappear in 1938, replaced with the number 111. This was due to the coming of US 33 in 1937 to Indiana. For more information about why that number change had to occur, check out US Highways: They are actually State Roads.
1957, and the next change to the then “current and old” routes of US 31 was made. SR 231 was removed from the state highway system. Actually, the number 231 was removed. The road itself stayed property of the ISHC as SR 131.
The 1963 official map shows that US 31W and US 31E actually met on the Indiana side of the Ohio River. This was due to the construction of Interstate 65 over part of the old US 31E route. US 31E then used the original US 31W route to connect the two roads at the K&I Bridge. By 1964, the interchange at US 31E and I-65 in downtown Jeffersonville was complete, allowing the return of US 31E to the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge, and SR 131 to be reassigned to the temporary US 31E route.
The end of the dual Indiana US 31s would come in 1980. US 31W, more or less the original US 31 in the state, became SR 311. The crossing of the Ohio River on the K&I Bridge by non-train traffic had been ended by the railroad owners of the K&I Bridge. This was after an overweight dump truck had caused the road to drop approximately a foot. By this time, US 31 had been connected to the interstate system, allowing quick access along I-265 to I-64/US 150 and the Sherman Minton Bridge crossing of the Ohio River.
US 31E simply became US 31. This also caused the 31W/31E separation to occur in downtown Louisville. The last remnant of the original State Road 1/US 31 in that area of Indiana was removed in 2003, when SR 131 was decommissioned.