1930: South Bend becoming State Highway Hub

South Bend Tribune, 28 August 1930. The headline reads “City to Become Hub in State’s Road System.” At the time, South Bend was at the crossroads of two United States highways, US 20 and US 31. Before that, in the Auto Trail era, South Bend had been the location of the junction of the two Carl G. Fisher brainchildren: the Lincoln Highway and Dixie Highway. But, the two different eras didn’t entirely use the same roads.

Indiana State Highway Commission officials held a conference about future plans. South Bend became a center of state truck routes, with the addition of three more state routes through the city. They would be through routes added. It would be the following week before definite plans and inspection by state highway officials would occur.

The following conclusions were made by the conference that was attended by Governor Harry G. Leslie, members of the State Highway Commission, the Chamber of Commerce good roads committee and city and county officials:

“1 – Announcement that a 40-foot highway from South Bend to Michigan City will be constructed over the route of the old Lincoln Highway before the world’s fair in Chicago in 1933, thus affording South Bend two arteries of travel to Chicago.”

“2 – Continuance of state road No. 2 from Elkhart to South Bend, entering on Lincoln Way East, and continuing through LaPorte over what is known as state route No. 20.”

“3 – Rerouting of U. S. highway No. 112 from Elkhart to South Bend, entering South Bend on north side of river and Fillmore road, which will be opened by the city through to LaSalle avenue.”

“4 – Indication by state highway commission that U. S. No. 112 after leaving South Bend will be routed west over Lincoln Highway.”

“5 – Decision of commission temporarily to route state road No. 23, also known as the Edwardsburg highway, southwest from the city over the Liberty highway as the first link of a Detroit, Mich., to St. Louis, Mo., highway.”

“6 – Announcement that the state will take over the Liberty highway and attempt to force the New York Central railroad to cooperate in eliminating the gap in pavement near the abandoned Consumers gravel pit.”

“7 – Promise of state officials that adequate snow removal equipment would be in operation in St. Joseph county this winter.”

It is important to realize that when the state highway system was renumbered in 1926, the Lincoln Highway, connecting Fort Wayne to Dyer through Ligonier, Goshen, Elkhart, South Bend, LaPorte and Valparaiso, was only partly on the new highway lines. The portion from South Bend to Rolling Prairie, also part of the historic Michigan Road, was notably left off official highway maps. Both points one and two above discuss the possibility of adding this old highway back into state property rolls. U. S. 20, also called state road No. 20 in this article, left South Bend to the west via what is now Western Avenue in a straight line to Michigan City, unlike the old Michigan Road/Lincoln Highway. As mentioned in point two, the Western Avenue route would become also part of SR 2. It turned out that it would become only SR 2 eventually.

Points three and four mention US 112, a daughter highway of US 12. US 12 traveled straight across Michigan from Detroit to Benton Harbor, then south along Lake Michigan into Indiana to meet US 20 near Michigan City. US 112 linked, originally, downtown Detroit to Elkhart. US 112 was one of the original US highways created in the 1925/1926 plan. US 112 following the Lincoln Highway west of South Bend made sense. The article goes on to mention that “the Lincoln highway was dropped from the state highway system when highway No. 20 was constructed. The Lincoln highway has a 100-foot right-of-way.” US 112 would be removed from Indiana by 1937.

Point five expands SR 23, not an original state road, through South Bend to eventually SR 10 between Bass Lake and Culver. The northern part of this route was added to the state highway system in 1930. The Liberty Highway was added to the system in 1932. This extension of SR 23 would lead to two daughter routes being created: SR 123 that followed Mayflower Road between SR 23 and US 20 (Michigan Road/Lincoln Highway), and SR 223 that followed Crumstown Highway from SR 123/Mayflower Road to SR 23. The former existed until 1981. The latter until 1972.

The plans mentioned in this article were all put into place by the end of 1933. South Bend would become a hub in the state highway system. Today, even with the reroute of US 31 and US 20 around the city, and US 33 being decommissioned from Elkhart west and north, South Bend still maintains a hub status. This is in part because St. Joseph County requested that its sections of old state roads not be removed from the state system (this is why SR 933 only exists in the county, and SR 931 south from South Bend ends at the county line, as well).

3 thoughts on “1930: South Bend becoming State Highway Hub

  1. I have long wondered why St. Joe County insisted that INDOT continue to maintain those roads, or, more precisely, why INDOT didn’t tell them to get bent.

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    1. For what I can tell, state law states that INDOT can return roads back to the counties…but only if the county will take it back. Apparently, St. Joe County doesn’t want the responsibility of these roads. Not sure what it will take to give them back at this point. Something has to give at some point, I imagine.

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      1. I gather usually there’s some negotiation involved, e.g. INDOT will resurface the road and make needed repairs to the bridges, before relinquishing.

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