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).

US and Interstate Numbers and the “Crossroads of America”

Indiana has been considered the “Crossroads of America” for a very long time. This moniker was cemented for all time when, in 1926, the United States Highway system was established.

In the original US highway scheme of things, all major cross-country east-west routes end in “0.” This can be seen when looking at a map of the United States. Starting in the north with US 10, migrating to the south with US 90. Indiana, given its place in the country, ended up with more than its share of “0” highways. Look at it: Indiana has US 20, US 30, US 40 and US 50. A quick glance at northern Kentucky will show that US 60 is just outside the state.

The major north-south routes all ended in “1.” Indiana has both US 31 and US 41. The difference in the north-south major routes is that they were numbered from US 1 on the east coast to US 101 on the west coast. The next majors are further away in this plan, with US 21 being, originally, in eastern Ohio going south, and US 51 being through central Illinois.

Let’s focus on the major US routes as originally planned. The following snippets are from the Indianapolis News of 27 September 1926. The road descriptions would become active on 1 October 1926.

US 20 was originally designated from Newport, Oregon, to Boston, Massachusetts. The road through Indiana included the Dunes Highway, part of the Lincoln Highway, and part of the Michigan Road. Originally, it would not follow the older roads into South Bend. It would be designated along a straight east-west road from Rolling Prairie into South Bend. At South Bend, it would stay north of the St. Joseph River.

US 30 was designated from Astoria, Oregon, to Atlantic City, New Jersey. Through Indiana, it followed the what became the “new” Lincoln Highway, which was original SR 2. The original Lincoln Highway was SR 2, but was redesignated when the state decided to “straighten” the road between the two state lines.

US 31 was, once, a route that connected Mobile, Alabama, to north of St. Ignace, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula. In Indiana, it was original SR 1 its entire routing through the state.

US 40 started, originally, in San Francisco, California. The eastern end was in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Through Indiana, it followed the route of the old National Road (roughly), and the National Old Trails Road from Terre Haute to Richmond. At Richmond, the two old roads separated, with the National Road going to Springfield, Ohio, and the NOTR going to Eaton and Dayton before reconnecting at Springfield.

Connecting Miami, Florida, to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, through Chicago, US 41 took the place, in Indiana, of original SR 10 along the western tier of counties. Some of the original US 41 was moved over time and replaced with SR 63.

Originally, US 50 connected San Francisco, California, to Ocean City, Maryland. Through Indiana, it traverses the southern part of the state from Vincennes to Lawrenceburg. There have been many route changes throughout the years, some straightening and some bypasses.

The moniker “Crossroad of America” was further cemented with the creation of the “National System of Interstate and Defense Highways,” commonly known as the Interstate Highway system. It is also known by the name of its major champion as the “Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.” As originally planned, major east-west routes ended, just like the US highways, with a “0.” North-south major routes ended with a “5.”

Indiana ended up with interstate routes 70, 80 and 90. When the system was created, there was no I-50 or I-60. The closest thing to a “major” I-60 route would be I-64, which also traverses Indiana. When it came to north-south routes, Indiana only ended up with I-65. Part of this stems from the lack of suitable major routes through the state, and part stems from the usage of major numbers for shorter sections of highways (I-45 and I-85).

However, plans are in the works to make two more major interstates, without major numbers. The first is I-69, which will eventually connect the Mexican border in southern Texas to the Canadian Border at its current northern terminus at Port Huron, Michigan. (Technically, the section of I-69 from Lansing to Port Huron is labelled “East I-69.”) The other is I-74, which will eventually connect the Quad Cities area of Illinois/Iowa to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Currently, I-74 ends in Cincinnati. But there are sections in North Carolina, sections in progress in South Carolina, and signage pending in West Virginia. With all of the interstate highways in Indiana becoming, eventually, connected to the almost the entire country, the name “Crossroads of America” is not likely to be removed from the state for a long time to come.