Indianapolis’ Downtown Interstates – Original Idea, Part 2

Today, I want to share part two of the original plans for the interstates connecting downtown. It is important to keep in mind that Interstate 70 east from downtown was still being designed. Today, we look at the downtown innerloop from Washington Street south to the south split, and Interstate 70 from the south split to the proposed interchange at Ray Street near the Indianapolis Union Belt Railway and Harding Street.

The downtown innerloop plan, which continues today from last Friday’s post, actually changed very little. Pine Street was planned to be continuous from Fletcher Avenue north to Washington Street, where a loop ramp allowed northbound 65/eastbound 70 traffic to exit at what was, at the time, US 40. There were very few places where these two major highways – Interstate 70 and U.S. 40 – meet with no way to interchange traffic. With the changes in the plans of this highway downtown, the center of Indianapolis was one of those places.

Continuation south of Fletcher Avenue shows plans for an onramp to northbound 65/eastbound 70 from Virginia and an offramp the opposite directions to the same. Both of these, in one form or another, made it to the final construction.

An off-ramp from northbound 65/eastbound 70 also connected to Virginia Avenue. Morris and Prospect Streets would cross over the highway in a straight line, and the onramp to southbound 65 from Morris Street is in place on these pictures to the left.

The mass collection of ramps along I-70 west was actually designed from the beginning, although the final product is way different. A full interchange at Capitol Avenue, an east-on/west-off setup at Meridian Street and a west-on/east-off at East Street were the plans of the day in 1960. There is also a lot of moving around for Ray Street, just north of the interstate. The plans, apparently, included making sure that Ray Street was usable from Madison Avenue to almost White River, as shown in the next two photos.

What would ultimately become the off-ramp from southbound 65/westbound 70 to East Street is also shown on this map. But according to the original plans released by the Indiana State Highway Commission, that ramp actually was supposed to connect Pine Street to Buchanan Street north of the west leg of I-70. The current entrance to the Eli Lilly facility at East and Buchanan Streets would have been an onramp to Interstate 70.

These two photos are from the Indianapolis News of 13 January 1960.

What was planned, and what happened, really shows in this Indianapolis News photo from 15 January 1960 sown below. West Street does have an exit eastbound. And it has an onramp westbound. But Missouri Street isn’t involved in the entire interchange, making it a one way proposition. The same setup of ramps also appear at Kentucky Avenue. This means that the next place one could get off of Interstate 70 westbound, or on I-70 eastbound, as originally proposed, would have been at Ray Street. Yes…Ray Street. That would be the next paragraph.

What about a ramp at Ray Street east of the Belt Railroad, instead of west of the Belt at Harding Street? Well, that was the plan. But there were some other things at play when the plan was changed from the one shown in the Indianapolis News of 16 January 1960. (And shown below!) Part of what changed the plan here was the potential of the SR 37 highway running through the west side of Indianapolis along the Harding Street corridor. That was planned after these rough drafts were created for Interstate 70.

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