The Crawfordsville Pike, and Its Change in Marion County

Crawfordsville Road. In its history, it has been a state built county road, a toll road, an Auto Trail, a state road, a US Highway, and, ultimately, a connecting city street (in two towns). Most of the original route of the road in Marion County is still used for the (old) route from Indianapolis to Crawfordsville, which was the purpose. But there are three places where the road has changed in a major way. One close to downtown Indianapolis, one at White River, and one at Speedway.

When the Crawfordsville Road was established, it left Indianapolis along what is now Indiana Avenue. At the time, it was also the Lafayette Road. The road then followed Indiana Avenue to Fall Creek (where 10th Street is now). It then crossed Fall Creek in a straight line with Waterway Boulevard, not Indiana Avenue. Both the Crawfordsville and Lafayette Roads, on the same route, followed the north bank of White River to just north of where the 16th Street Bridge is now. The old bridge at what is now 16th Street, called the Emrichsville Bridge, started on the west bank of the river at the same place the 16th Street bridge does. The difference is that the Emrichsville Bridge crossed at a right angle to the river, making a shorter bridge that caused the road to be north of the present route.

The Crawfordsville and Lafayette Roads split at what is now Lafayette Road and 16th Street. Crawfordsville Road continued on what is now 16th Street to what is now Cunningham Road in Speedway. It then connected to what is currently Crawfordsville Road, and more-or-less followed that route through the rest of Marion County, with the small exception of the area at High School Road, I-465 and I-74. It was slightly rerouted there with the construction of I-74. Then, it was rerouted again, closer to the original path, when the I-74 entrance was removed. Also, the old road was just south of the current one west of I-465.

In 1914, the old Crawfordsville Road became part of the Dixie Highway. This would be part of the western leg, connecting Indianapolis to Chicago…but not directly. Indianapolis was the crossroads of both parts of the western leg. This would make the old road part of a highway that stretched all the way to Miami, Florida.

As is almost typical of the old “state roads” in Indiana, the old road had 1) been county responsibility beginning around the turn of the 20th century, and 2) been criss-crossed by a railroad that had been 20 years after the original construction of the road by the state. The railroad, in this case, was, starting in 1890, the Peoria & Eastern, a New York Central property (via the Big Four). In Marion County alone, the P&E, and the THI&E interurban route to Crawfordsville, crossed the old Crawfordsville Road twice in what is now Speedway.

When the State Highway Commission was (re)created in 1919 (it had been formed originally in 1917, but had legal questions that caused a new law to be passed in 1919), the Dixie Highway route was not brought into the new state road system. Even with the expansion of the system in 1923, the Crawfordsville Road would still not be state responsibility.

But 1923 was the year that the major reroute of the Speedway section would be proposed. The map below, as published in the Indianapolis News of 13 April 1923, shows the plan to move the route from 16th Street to a new build north of the Peoria & Eastern/THI&E Traction tracks. As mentioned, the new construction would “eliminate four dangerous railroad and interurban crossings and would straighten and shorten the road materially.”

In 1926, when the state road system was expanded and renumbered, the old road would be added to the new state road system, sort of. The official description, from the ISHC and published in the Indianapolis News of 28 September 1926, was listed as “State Road 34 – Indianapolis to the Illinois-Indiana state line at Beckwith, passing through Pittsboro, Lizton, Jamestown, New Ross, Crawfordsville, Waynetown, Hillsboro, Veedersburg and Covington. (From Crawfordsville west this now is known as State Road 33. Between Indianapolis and Crawfordsville the road has not yet been added to the state system but soon will be.)”

1941 aerial photograph, courtesy of MapIndy (City of Indianapolis website) of the Crawfordsville Road area in Speedway. The thicker white line from the lower right to the upper left is the post-1923 route. In the upper left just below that, is the old road, which ran just south of the new road. The old road then turns south-southeast to connect to what is now 16th Street.

Ultimately, when added to the state system, the new SR 34 would extend along 16th Street to Northwestern Avenue (now Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street) where it would end at US 36 and SR 29. This would be the other reroute of the old road to connect to downtown. In 1951, SR 34 would be changed to US 136, ending at what had become US 421 at the same time.

As mentioned above, another change to the US 136 route would come with the construction of I-74 in 1959/1960. The road would be bent slightly northwest to connect to the new interstate, with an intersection allowing drivers to turn left onto US 136. The US 136 designation would be removed from this intersection to Northwestern Avenue in 1975. The last change would be when the connection to I-74 was moved from a direct route to a new entrance directly from US 136 (and then US 136 being truncated again, being removed from the section between the new ramp and High School Road). The old road was curved in such a way to create a more “straight through” traffic pattern on Crawfordsville Road.

The original route would also be rerouted near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A new roundabout was put in place at Crawfordsville Road, 16th Street and Main Street. Georgetown Road was removed from this connection. To connect to the old road from this point requires a short trip south on Main Street back to 16th Street, which was made discontinuous with the building of that roundabout.

3 thoughts on “The Crawfordsville Pike, and Its Change in Marion County

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s