1963: Indianapolis Traffic Changes That Weren’t

With the coming of the interstate system, changes were bound to occur in the areas of the state that were going to be affected. The changes in downtown Indianapolis were massive. However, the changes that DIDN’T happen were even more so. The plans were spelled out in the Indianapolis Star of 10 November 1963 on page one. The plan, put out by the Metropolitan Planning Commission, detailed major changes in the one way street pattern that makes up central Indianapolis.

When the original interstate plan was laid out by the Indiana State Highway Commission in 1962 or 1963, the state and local officials had agreed on a “west leg” of connecting roads creating basically a circle around downtown. The northbound part of that west leg would have been along Missouri Street until it migrated west to become West Street between Maryland and Georgia Streets. The southbound would have started at Interstate 65 along California Street until it migrated east, again between Maryland and Georgia Streets, to become West Street south to Interstate 70. This west leg “should be built as a limited-access, grade level roadway.”

It is important to note here that, at the time, West Street was, in different places, SR 37, SR 67, US 36, US 52 and US 421. It should also be stated that part of the reason for the migration of the west leg between Maryland and Georgia Streets was the fact that there was still a railroad track (the old Lafayette & Indianapolis mainline) running along Missouri Street north of Georgia Street.

Interstate 65 would then travel east from that west leg along the 12th Street corridor to a point where it met Interstates 69 and 70 near Tenth Street and Massachusetts Avenue. A combination of I-65 and I-70 would then travel south along the Pine Street corridor, where I-70 would then turn west just south of Ray Street, and I-65 would continue south near Morris Street and Virginia Avenue. Anyone with even a glancing knowledge of the interstates downtown will notice that this was pretty much followed…with the exception of Interstate 69, which was cancelled inside I-465. Even the west leg was almost built as planned. The use of California Street would not happen, and West Street became two way south of Maryland Street.

But that is just the beginning of the planned changes in the downtown area. The following list, sometimes contradictory, was announced as the Metropolitan Planning Commission’s desired outcome.

“1. Making Senate Avenue one-way north to couple with Capitol Avenue (remaining one-way south) to form a Westside local traffic system.” At the time, Capitol Avenue was paired with Illinois Street, as it is today, in a one-way pair. Senate Avenue was a continuous street from Merrill Street north to Fall Creek.

“2. Making Alabama Street one-way south to couple with Delaware Street (remaining one-way north) to form an Eastside traffic tandem.” Eventually, Alabama Street would become one-way south.

“3. Using Illinois Street (one-way north) and Pennsylvania Street (one-way south) as feeders for the north leg of the downtown interstate highway loop.” A quick look at the interchange ramps from I-65 north of downtown will show that this plan was taken into consideration. Northbound I-65 is accessed from Illinois Street. The southbound entrance was moved east one block to Delaware Street.

“4. Retaining Meridian Street as a two-way traffic artery, offering flexibility to expanding one-way system for the key north-south routes.”

“5. Use of Ohio and Market streets as two-way feeders for the east leg of the downtown interstate loop and Ohio and West Washington Streets as two-way feeders for the west leg.” One of the only access points to I-65 South/I-70 West east of downtown was originally the Market Street “rocket ramp,” a very high ramp over three stories tall that ended in a 90 degree angle to connect to the Collector/Distributer ramp allowing access to the interstate. This was removed when a new onramp was built from Washington Street. North I-65/East I-70 is accessed along Pine Street starting at Ohio Street. The onramps to the interstate starts at Pine and Michigan Streets. Leaving I-65 North/I-70 East was allowed at only one point, that being Market Street. That, too, was moved to Washington Street with the completion of that interchange.

“6. Reversing the present one-way pattern on Maryland and Georgia Streets, making Maryland one-way west and Georgia one-way east as a bypass for the ‘core’ area.”

“7. Use of Illinois and Pennsylvania streets as two-way feeders for the south leg. Illionis (sic) and Pennsylvania one-way systems would end at Maryland Street under the revised plan.” Delaware Street, at that point, was already two way from Georgia Street south. This was due to the fact that Delaware Street was US 31 in both directions south of that point. Georgia Street, eastbound, from Capitol Avenue to Delaware Street was US 31 South.

According to the quoted article, “the planners said that the new system is ‘not any better’ than previous proposals but they noted that downtown businessmen were reluctant to alter a system already working well.” Other proposals included “palastic-covered moving sidewalks, blocking all but emergency traffic from the 16-square-block core area around Monument Circle, installation of a shuttle bus system to carry shoppers into the central area and other ideas were all scuttled for a more realistic plan for downtown.”

Oh, to think what might have been. It was hoped that Interstates 65/69/70 would be completed by 1972. As it turned out, Interstates 65/70 was completed in 1976. Included below is the map that was included in the quoted Indianapolis Star article.

Indianapolis Star, 10 November 1963, pp 18. Map of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Commission’s plan for traffic changes to accommodate the coming of the interstate system to downtown Indianapolis.

2 thoughts on “1963: Indianapolis Traffic Changes That Weren’t

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