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.

US 31 In Johnson and Marion Counties

When the state highway system was finally created with the State Highway Commission law of 1919, it was immediately apparent that there were some shortcomings in the designated system. A lot of these shortcomings came from the fact that the state road system was pasted to the top of an already county road system in place at the time. Even then, some of these roads were as old, or older, as the state itself. Towns were built along these old routes, crowding in on the road. When the state needed to expand the system, the towns were already in the way.

A typical example of this is what became US 31 out of Indianapolis, both north and south. I covered the US 31 route north of Indianapolis on 20 March 2019. While doing some research on something else, I found articles concerning the route of US 31 south of Indianapolis. Especially the section from Greenwood to Franklin.

For those that don’t know, the original route of Main Market Highway 1/OSR 1/US 31 followed the old Madison State Road, a route that started at South and Meridian Streets in Indianapolis south through Southport, Greenwood, Franklin, Edinburgh, and Columbus. At Columbus, the original road turned southeast through Vernon to Madison. What became US 31 south of Columbus was another road connecting to Louisville.

The first problem (south of Indianapolis) with the route came to the town of Greenwood. Greenwood was incorporated as a town long after both the Madison State Road and the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad came through northern Johnson County. (Incorporation – 1864) With the traffic coming through Greenwood, the area around what is now Main Street and Madison Avenue, and along Main Street to the railroad, became very clustered with buildings. (Contrary to popular opinion, the center of Greenwood isn’t either on Main Street, or Madison Avenue. It’s actually at the corner of Meridian Street [the Greenwood version] and Broadway Street.)

The situation came to a head in 1931 when the state wanted to pave and expand US 31 south of Indianapolis. Even through the town of Southport, which was only skirted by the old Madison State Road, expansion would not have been that big a deal. Even through what is now northern Greenwood, there was room for expansion. But the central intersection of the town became a thorn in the side of the ISHC. Adding insult to injury, there was parking allowed on both sides of the highway through central Greenwood. The Edinburgh Courier of 20 March 1931 states “when asked about prohibiting parking in Greenwood on the highway route, members of the Greenwood town board stated that such an order had been adopted some time ago but that the merchants had complained, forcing the withdrawal of the order.”

At the time of the article, there was a discussion to build a new US 31 around the town. The article states “the new roadway to leave the present route south of Greenwood and to pass through several real estate developments north of Greenwood before rejoining the present pavement.” It also states that “when a similar plea for the widening of Road 31 route was made, a movement was proposed at Greenwood to widen Madison Avenue, over which Road 31 traffic passes, by the moving back of buildings or the razing of a part of the buildings to make possible the widening of the street.” So, basically, in 1931 there were two options: bypass or tear down.

As it turned out, neither option would be acted upon at the time. The ISHC found another plan to help reduce traffic from Indianapolis to Franklin. The idea was to have traffic travel the old Three Notch Road, which would become SR 35, to Old Bargersville, then along a newly acquired state road from Old Bargersville to Franklin. That new road would become SR 144. As it turned out, this proposed “solution” was part of the ISHC plan of 1931.

The pending paving of US 31, as discussed above, would leave in place the current conditions of US 31 from Indianapolis to the corner of Main and Jefferson Streets in Franklin. The route of US 31 through Franklin would not be completely addressed until 1947.

As it turned out, the widening of US 31 at Greenwood would happen with the starting of construction on a bypass of Southport and Greenwood in 1941, a decade after the article quoted above. Part of the irony of that is the fact that part of the congestion of the right-of-way of the old road was the “Greenwood” interurban line from Indianapolis to Columbus. In 1941, the last interurban out of Indianapolis, on this line, had a head on crash in Edinburgh, ending the railroad company. By the opening of the bypass in 1942, the interurban was being ripped out.

The old Madison State Road through Perry Township, Marion County, and Pleasant Township, Johnson County, would be redesignated SR 431, just like the northern section of old US 31 through Broad Ripple and Carmel. It would stay that way until 1986, when the state gave it back to Indianapolis and Greenwood (after a major widening project in Indianapolis, mind you).

US 31 in Hamilton and Marion Counties

When the original State Highway Commission law was passed in March 1917, one of the original “Main Market Highways” was the Range Line Road north of Indianapolis. This was designated Highway 1. The Range Line Road was, and still is, built basically due north and south through most of Hamilton County, and followed the old Westfield Pike through northern Marion County to Broad Ripple.

The old road followed what is now Meridian Street north to the old Central Canal, where it turned to follow the canal to near its connection at White River. The old road is called “Westfield Boulevard” through this section.

What this Google Map doesn’t show is how tight the road actually gets through this section. One of the purposes of the state road system was to make truck routes throughout the state. The system is designed so that all trucks, with some marked exceptions, be allowed to use the designated routes without hassles. The section at Broad Ripple was a little questionable with the width of the road in spots.

From Broad Ripple, the old road followed basically a straight line, the Range Line, to just south of Kokomo. Through when entering the old section of Carmel, the road name became Range Line Road, a tribute to the old Auto Trail name. North of Carmel, it was called Westfield Road until it reached Westfield, where it became Union Street.

This route, on 1 October 1926, became part of US 31. The limitations of the route had been apparent from the beginning. They really became a problem with more trucks on the road. It wasn’t long until the State Highway Commission decided to bypass the section from Broad Ripple to Carmel.

In 1929, plans were announced to build a new US 31 from the Central Canal to just north of downtown Carmel. There were some that didn’t like the idea. The citizens of Carmel didn’t like the idea of being removed from the state highway. They recommended connecting the new road from the canal north along what is now Meridian Street to the old road near Nora.

History shows us that the town of Carmel didn’t get their way. Sort of. And, well, bypass wasn’t exactly true either.

For starters, the new US 31 Carmel bypass was built to connect to the old road just south of what is now 146th Street, pretty much like it is now. The difference is that the road now known as Old Meridian Street was the bypass, not the current section from basically between where 121st Street would be and 136th Street/Smokey Row Road. The current US 31 in that section is a bypass of the bypass.

It’s not hard to see where the original bypass and the new bypass start and end in this Google Map.

The second thing that happened did address the fact that Carmel would have been removed from the state highway system. The old road was changed from US 31 to SR 431. This really didn’t fix the problems with the old road. It wouldn’t be until the mid-1960s that the suggestion that Carmel had made was acted upon. Again, sort of. By that time, construction of I-465 was moving right along, and the route of SR 431 was moved to follow Keystone Avenue from SR 37 (Fall Creek Parkway) north to 86th Street, then west along 86th Street to Westfield Boulevard. A couple of years later, with the completion of both I-465 and Keystone Avenue to 146th Street, the original SR 1/US 31/Range Line Road was reverted to local control. (As an aside, it would be a little over 30 years later that SR 431 was completely removed from the state road system.)

But it wasn’t ALL bad with the moving of US 31. First, it made traffic flow better and safer (ahem…well). Second, the state built built a beautiful bridge over the White River on what is now just Meridian Street. (US 31 inside I-465 was decommissioned on 1 July 1999, making Meridian Street a city property.) Jim Grey, a fellow blogger and road geek, posted a great write up about it. He comes at it with both a road geek and a photographer view.

It can be seen here:
https://blog.jimgrey.net/2017/03/17/the-meridian-street-bridge-over-the-white-river/