Michigan Road at White River

Indiana tends to be an enigma. The people, generally, tend to look at maintaining the status quo when it comes to government and institutions. Yet, somehow, the motto of “progress, progress, progress” rings when it comes to places and roads of historic value. There has been a lot of history torn out around Indiana in the name of progress. And this is very evident when it comes to the paths and trails that served Indiana, but are best left either bypassed or destroyed by the march of progress.

Indianapolis News, 30 August 1919

This subject started while looking for an article about the Michigan Road…and it being accepted into the state highway system. I will have to get back to that subject at some point. Anyway, I found an article in the Indianapolis News talking about the Michigan Road Bridge over White River (the one near Butler University) with the headline “Michigan Road Bridge Over White River, Numbered Among The Doomed, Will Give Way To A Modern Structure As Its Contemporaries Did.”

The bridge in question had been there so long that locals didn’t know what the County Commissioners were talking about when they called it the Northwestern Avenue bridge. It had always been (and still is today) the Michigan Road bridge, calling back to the time when the road was the primary north-south route from Indianapolis to South Bend. “The pioneers forget that Indianapolis is a growing city, and that the one far distant Michigan road bridge is now at the edge of town.”

The News goes on to talk about the interesting and romantic history of the old bridge. First, the talk of the cycling path for the days that riding a bicycle was all the rage. The cycling path in question ran along the southern/eastern bank of the Central Canal at the southern end of the Michigan Road bridge. A toll house on the cycle path (apparently, the path was a toll road for bicycles) was located at the Michigan Road bridge. “Wheelmen,” as bicyclists were called at the time, would detour to the cycle path to ride toward downtown. The cycle path would later cross Northwestern Avenue later, near 16th Street.

The White River sits between two rather large hills along the Michigan Road. When the age of the automobile came, climbing out of the White River valley was quite the chore. Of course, these hills were a challenge to the bicycles before the cars…and the horses before the bicycles. By 1919, the treacherous hills on both sides of the valley had been reduced in grade. In the early days of automobiles, the two hills were used for engine testing in hill climbs. Announcements months in advance would tell of the coming time to test your motors climbing the Michigan Road hills.

Closeup of the above image from the Indianapolis News showing just the Northwestern Avenue (Michigan Road) bridge over White River.

The bridge that was in place in 1919 was a replacement for an original wooden covered bridge at the site. “It has been gone for many years, having failed to stand up under heavy and constantly increasing strain of travel over the Michigan road.” The first image in this article also shows the Northwestern Avenue bridge over Fall Creek, or at least the one that had been replaced prior to publication of the 30 August 1919 article.

Despite the amount of traffic carried by the Michigan Road, it would take several more years before this section would once again become a state road. The replacement of the bridge over White River was taken on by Marion County, not the state.

Planning I-465…and Arguments

When the planning for Interstate 465 was underway, to say that it was a bit contentious can be, at times, an understatement. This was especially true on the east and north sides of the loop. Most arguments made against the plan of the interstate were legal in nature. One actually turned violent.

The first discussion that I found involved arguments of the legal kind involving the northern leg of 465. An injunction was sought to stop further public discussions concerning the building of the road. The court proceedings were in May 1961. Arthur H. Gemmer, attorney, represented some 40 people against the interstate, and its construction near 96th Street. The argument was that the State Highway Commission broke a 1945 state statute by not consulting county and city officials as to the location of the road.

The remonstrators wanted to halt hearings on the proposed route until the Bureau of Public Roads could rule on the appeal they filed about the location. The court hearing was simply for an injunction to stop the hearings, because the court in question did not have jurisdiction over the road proposals. The remonstrators hoped, in the end, that the interstate would be pushed further north into Hamilton County, as opposed to the 96th Street corridor as originally designed (and later built).

Two months later, on 13 July 1961, the same remonstrators were involved in an actual violent argument at North Central High School at an I-465 planning meeting. The meeting was already advertised as not going to be turned into a legal battleground. That didn’t stop an attorney to attempt introducing legal briefs into the meeting.

The leader of the meeting, Oral S. Craig of the State Highway Department, told the attorney to be seated, and a number of the 400 people at the meeting started shouting angrily.

Especially contentious was the area around Spring Mill Road and the proposed highway. One man, a Stanley Valinet, contended that plans for a $2.5 million shopping center at the corner of Spring Mill Road and 96th Street had been approved two years prior. Part of that land would be part of the plan for a cloverleaf interchange at US 31 and I-465. The state argued that the “construction” of the shopping center only started after publication of the proposed routes, and that the entire construction to that point involved several sections of concrete block foundation.

At that meeting, it was pointed out that “Line E,” or the proposed preferred alternative, involved removing 66 homes from Shadeland Avenue to Boone County. The “Line D” proposal would have taken out 83 homes in the same distance.

Indianapolis News, 6 July 1960, showing the chosen preferred route of Interstate 465 on the north side, and two of the abandoned choices. (Also note the “Proposed Ind. 100” running north and south west of Zionsville Road.)

The last discussion about the proposed I-465 involved the east side location of the road. The Warren Civic Association made an appointment to meet with state highway officials on 13 September 1961. The meeting was to try to convince those officials to move the proposed route of I-465 three miles to the east. State and Federal officials had already approved the location of the road, but construction would be in a holding pattern until the location of the northern leg of the highway was settled.

Part of the issue were 14 homes that were built in the proposed path of the interstate…after the plans for the route were announced. Each of those homes cost approximately $30,000. “The state of Indiana is going to pay through the nose,” stated Lloyd C. Fleetwood, Warren Civic Association Vice President.

Moving the route three miles to the east would eliminate the need to tear down a residential area, as there was no such thing further east. Such a location would have put the interstate at or near Cumberland. But officials at both the state and federal levels had already, repeatedly, ruled against the proposal. It didn’t stop them from trying, however.

There were more “discussions” concerning the locations and designs of I-465. Especially contentious was the 21st Street grade crossing on the west side of Marion County. The north leg would be the hardest part to get built, as from proposal decision to completion took almost a decade.

Vincennes: The Lincoln Memorial Bridge

Few people in American history hold a place as high as Abraham Lincoln. The Kentucky native that became the 16th President of the United States, also spent time living in Indiana before moving on to Illinois, where he would become famous throughout the nation. It was decided that a bridge, supposedly marking the spot where Lincoln crossed into Illinois, would be built to connect Indiana and Illinois. It became the Lincoln Memorial Bridge.

The George Rogers Clark Memorial was soon to be constructed in Vincennes. As part of that memorial, a celebration on 3 September 1933 to dedicate a new bridge at Vincennes connecting Indiana and Illinois were scheduled. The date chosen for the dedication of the bridge was the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Paris, bringing an end to the War for Independence and the creation of the United States of America as a separate country.

The Abraham Lincoln (George Rogers Clark) Memorial Bridge as shown in the Indianapolis News of 28 April 1934.

The bridge, when it was built, would carry US 50 across the Wabash from Vincennes, Indiana, to Lawrence County, Illinois. It would become a major link in that road for several decades. It would be a replacement of a bridge that spanned the Wabash from Main Street in Vincennes for many years.

The high approaches on the Indiana side were due to requirements by the War Department. The Munster, Indiana, Times of 17 July 1931 states that “rigid war department requirements forced the engineers to give the 1,850-foot bridge a clearance of 50 feet above the normal water level on the theory that some time navigation might be resumed in the Wabash.”

At one point, the plan of the city of Vincennes, and Knox County, was to build a boulevard between the George Rogers Clark Memorial and the Wabash River for the rerouting of US 41 along the new route. I am not sure if it was part of the plan, but Culbertson Boulevard runs from Main Street north to Hart Street between the railroad and the river. The US 41 idea never materialized.

In 1936, the bridge, as well as US 50, would be closed for one day. Sunday, 14 June 1936, would see the closing of US 50 in both Indiana and Illinois as the George Rogers Clark Memorial was dedicated at Vincennes. For four and half hours, detours of over 40 miles were in place as festivities were held to celebrate the GRC Historic Park dedication. Chief among those that would be on site would be President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The Abraham Lincoln Memorial Bridge still stands today, almost 90 years after the concrete structure was built. Yes, US 50 has been rerouted around Vincennes. The bridge now serves as Indiana State Road 441. And, according to Google Maps, the same road number in Illinois, although on the ground, there are no such markers in place that I have ever seen.

1836-1838: Michigan Road in the Newspaper

Yesterday, I wrote an article about early state roads, and the Michigan Road. Today, I want to look at the Michigan Road…as it was related to the public in newspapers from 1836 to 1838. One of the most interesting things that I have found in this search is the fact that it was entirely possible that the Michigan Road, as we know it, might not have been built. It could have been a railroad route.

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 31 December 1836: Allocation of money involving the Michigan Road was the topic before the General Assembly in December 1836. $140,000 was appropriated “on a turnpike road commencing at Kirk’s on the Michigan road in Clinton county, thence through Frankfort to Delphi and Monticello in White county, and thence by best route to Michigan City.” Another $75,000 are allocated for the Michigan Road between Napoleon and Indianapolis. And yet another $175,000 is appropriated “in contructing a Macadamized road on the line of the Michigan road from Indianapolis to South Bend, thence to Laporte and thence to Michigan City The board are to ascertain whether a Macadamised road or rail road is the best and cheapest and to adopt the cheapest one.” Of this last allocation of funds, $25,000 was to be used to build a Michigan Road bridge in Marion County over the White River.

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 21 January 1937: Second reading of the Michigan Road bill is held. One representative, a Mr. Vandeveer, moved to indefinitely postpone the vote on the bill. That postponement failed, when only seven people voted for it. It was passed to the third reading. A survey of the road, with $2,000 allocated, was to be done in the summer of 1837. The bill was amended, requiring the third reading. In the amendment, the bill was changed to exclude the Board of Public Works to building either a M’Adam road or a railroad for the purpose of the Michigan Road. It was also mentioned that $300,000 was to be allocated for the building of the road. Two weeks later, that amount, and others already spent, would be the question of some members of the General Assembly.

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 04 February 1937: It was reported that the representative from Wayne County to the Indiana General Assembly, a Mr. Smith, was trying to make sense of the fact that the builders of the Michigan Road, already spending $22,000 more than allocated, wanted another $30,000. To this point, according to Mr. Smith, the money already allocated “has been squandered – sunk, sir, in the interminable swamps along the line without common discretion or common sense. What gentleman here will deny the fact, that one half the money expended on that road should have accomplished more than all that is done?”

On the very same page of the very same issue of the newspaper, a bill to “cause a survey and estimate to be made the ensuing summer, north of Indianapolis, through Logansport, South Bend and Laporte to Michigan City, with a view of ascertaining what kind of improvement is most practicable.” This survey would be done under the auspices of the Board of Internal Improvements.

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 1 July 1837: “Mr. Yandes, is authorized, in pursuance of law to cause a survey and estimate to be made, on the Michigan Road, through Logansport, South Bend and Laporte, to Michigan City – with a view of ascertaining the most practicable kind of improvement to be made.” Mr. Yandes “is further authorized, to expend so much of the Michigan road funds, as may remain (if any) after making the survey, in making temporary improvements on the Road, from Napoleon to Lake Michigan, so as to keep the road passible.”

Richmond Weekly Paladium, 16 December 1837: After the survey had been completed in the summer of 1837, the Michigan Road lands were to be disposed of. The report from Indianapolis stated that the proceeds of the sales of those lands came to $8781.70.

As mentioned in yesterday’s “Early State Roads” article, some state roads were funded to create a link to a single person’s property. In March, 1838, a bill before the general assembly was written to “locate a state road from Daniel Dales in White county, to intersect the Michigan road 8 miles north of Logansport.”

Early State Roads

An oft-heard claim when I am out an about is that the Michigan Road was Indiana’s first state road. While I will never deny the importance of that road (heck, my job is on the Michigan Road in Hamilton County, and I use the section in Shelby County quite a bit to visit the in-laws), it is not, by far, the first. It was the first to connect the state from north to south, but not the first in general.

The National Road, in its importance as well, was finished before the Michigan Road. And even then, the National Road was preceded by a less known road called the Centerville State Road. When the National Road came into being, any reference to the older state road became lost to history. I covered that road here: The Tail of Two Roads: National Road and Centerville State Road.

But the idea of state roads in early Indiana was completely different that it is today. Any look at newspapers of the late 1820’s through the late 1830’s would show a long list of state roads spanning the state in all kinds of directions for all kinds of purposes. A common criticism of the state road “program,” such as it was, in the early days is that the state would build a road to a specific person’s land, or ferry, or whatever. If it was politically expedient to build to Miller’s Ferry over the Smallerthana River, such a road was built. Or, more to the point, financed to be built.

There was no central authority when it came to state roads in that era. As a matter of fact, those early roads financed by the state were actually passed into law by the General Assembly. So the vast system of roads that were financed by state money, the very definition of a state road in the early days, had to have majority approval to be constructed. So the very notion of political favors became very important if Mr. Miller wanted to get some state money to connect his ferry over the Smallerthana to the towns of Widespot and Tensalloons on either side.

A lot of the early state roads, however, did serve the governments of the state and counties. Many roads were financed that would connect county seats to one another, or to Indianapolis (technically a county seat, as well). The above mentioned Centerville Road was built from Indianapolis to the then county seat of Wayne County…Centerville (or, as it was originally, Centreville). Richmond, at that time, was a just a town close to the Ohio State line on the Whitewater River.

As the state grew, the state roads that had originally been built to service the county seats no longer did so in some cases. In the article The National Road, and County Seats, I mentioned that when the National Road was surveyed, it connected three county seats of the eight counties it traversed: Wayne County (Centerville); Marion County (Indianapolis); and Vigo County (Terre Haute). Two would be added later. First would be Greenfield (Hancock County), platted specifically on the National Road. Next would be Brazil (Clay County), which would become the county seat after having been moved from Bowling Green.

As the state capital, Indianapolis had more than its share of state roads emanating from it. In a circle starting at the north, Indianapolis had the Westfield State Road, Fort Wayne State Road (Allisonville Road), Pendleton State Road, National Road (Washington Street), Brookville State Road, Michigan Road (Southeastern Avenue), Shelbyville State Road, Madison State Road, Leavenworth State Road (Meridian Street), Paoli State Road (Bluff Road), Mooresville State Road, National Road (again), Rockville State Road, Danville State Road (10th Street), Crawfordsville State Road, and the Lafayette State Road. That doesn’t include several that cross through Marion County without actually going to Indianapolis. The one that comes to mind is the Noblesville-Franklin State Road (Franklin Road), which would connect the two title towns via Fenton, Lanesville, Lawrence and Fisher’s Station.

And here the other major difference in early state roads and the modern variety comes screaming into the spotlight. When the state General Assembly approved a road, the financing was done by the state. The road wouldn’t belong to the state. As soon as construction was complete, the state would turn the road over to the county. If it was to be maintained, the county was responsible for it, not the state. The major reason that turnpikes and toll roads came into being at all was due to the fact that the counties had “state roads” going every which direction, sometimes for no appreciable reason, that the County Commissioners were responsible for keeping passable. Honestly, most counties failed in this. Hence, sell the road, let someone else take care of it, and the county gets an influx of cash they don’t have to spend on roads.

One last point. The words “state road construction” gives the impression that there were actually roads built. This was mostly not true. The state would spend the money to improve the road, not (usually) build a new facility. A quick glance at any map of Indiana, even todays, show a bunch of roads that start, run for a while, turn for no apparent reason, run some more, and just appear to end in the middle of nowhere. Two examples that come to mind from the Indianapolis area are the Shelbyville Road and the Mooresville Road.

The latter would become the route for SR 22 in 1917, and SR 67 in 1926. A look at the twists and turns in that road would give anyone a good idea why there has been a LOT of moving around of SR 67 over the past 100 years. The former leaves Marion County as Shelbyville Road, then just ends in eastern Johnson County. Or, at least as it is marked. I have been trying to trace the old state road from Indianapolis to Shelbyville. In Indianapolis, it starts as Shelby Street. In Shelbyville, it starts as Boggsville Road. In between, it gets really kind of fun.

But this was due to the fact that Indiana really only built, from scratch, one state road. Most were improvements county roads that were already in place. That one state road that Indiana had built brings us back to the start of this article: The Michigan Road. The state did build that one from scratch. In that case, I guess that DOES make the Michigan Road the first state road in Indiana. It all comes down to semantics. It doesn’t really matter in the end. With the creation of the Indiana State Highway Commission in 1917, the concept of the state road would change. And most of the Michigan Road would ultimately, once again, become a state road.

October 1979. The End of A Railroad Era

Looking back through the history of Indiana, and Indianapolis in particular, it is hard to have an opinion other than one simple premise: the railroad built the Hoosier State and its capital. Now hear me out. There were people coming into the state by the roads and rivers. I can’t deny that. But the numbers of people that were coming increased drastically when the railroads began their journeys across the state. Think about it, in the year 1847, when the first railroad entered Indianapolis, the state capital had officially become big enough to legally change from a town to a city.

But what comes around, goes around. Fast forward to 1 May 1971. The new government railroad company, Amtrak, started operations as the major passenger train company. Not all railroads gave up their passenger operations to Amtrak in the beginning. Some railroads wanted to give it a go, continuing their passenger service. That, however, did not last long.

The passenger service in the United States continued to stumble along as Amtrak tried to find its footing. Eight years later, the company decided to shed some of its dead weight.

Indianapolis, a city that at one point had 200+ trains daily stopping at Union Station, by 1971, had dropped to two: the James Whitcomb Riley and the National Limited. The National Limited, as it was called then, was actually the continuation of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Spirit of St. Louis, connecting New York to Kansas City. The original National Limited was actually a Baltimore & Ohio train connecting Washington, DC, to St. Louis. That train ceased operations on 30 April 1971, the day before the Amtrak takeover.

Another train that rumbled through the Hoosier landscape was the Floridian, carrying passengers from Chicago to Miami. It had two regular stops in Indiana during the 1970’s: Lafayette and Bloomington. Hence, Lafayette had the service of two regular trains through the 1970’s: James Whitcomb Riley and Floridian.

As I mentioned yesterday, the James Whitcomb Riley had its route changed due to track issues between Chicago and Louisville along the Penn Central. By 1974, the number of passenger trains serving Indianapolis had dropped to one: National Limited. And even that was questionable just a year prior.

A plan by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (the official name of Amtrak) was to eliminate their trains numbered 30, 31, 52 and 53 on 2 August 1973. In Amtrak parlance, trains 30 and 31 were the National Limited. Trains 52 and 53 were the Floridian. Opposition to this plan was found in the government officials all along the two rail routes. Mayor Richard Lugar of Indianapolis issued a statement on 12 July 1973 stating just that. The expectation was that Indiana Governor Otis Bowen would issue a statement along the same lines within days.

Protests to the pending removal of these railroad lines was due to be in Washington, DC, by 18 July 1973. Other protests came from the United Transportation Union, the union that represented Amtrak employees.

The railroad routes were saved. For the time being. 1974 saw, as mentioned above, the necessary, and supposedly temporary, rerouting of the James Whitcomb Riley. Richmond would be the benefactor in this arrangement, as now that city had more passenger service than did Indianapolis. (And, yes, I do not the irony in that passenger service to Richmond was provided by the same trains that had provided Indianapolis with it.) Now, instead of Indianapolis, the James Whitcomb Riley and the National Limited had stops in Richmond.

Fast forward to the summer of 1979. Amtrak is planning cuts again to both the National Limited and the Floridian. And, again, the protests started. It even led to a Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, to issue a temporary restraining order directing Amtrak to maintain the National Limited past the proposed 30 September 1979 end date to at least 12 October. That was shot down when Amtrak appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court would snuff out the restraining order, allowing the National Limited to leave Penn Station in New York at 1555, 30 September 1979.

When it stopped at Indianapolis, it would be the last train to use the grand old Union Station after 90 years of service to the city. The last train to serve the station would be the eastbound run of the National Limited, which, ironically, would be running late.

The Floridian last a bit longer. A judge in Wichita, Kansas, ordered Amtrak to keep three of its lines operating. These included the Lone Star, the North Coast Hiawatha, and the Floridian. All three of these trains served Chicago. The Lone Star went to Houston. North Coast Hiawatha served cities and towns between Chicago and Seattle. As mentioned above, the Floridian rumbled its way through Lafayette and Bloomington on its way to places warm and sunny.

The reprieve would not last long. The Floridian had been operating on a day-to-day basis since the original 30 September 1979 end date. That extension would last about two weeks.

There was talk, especially in Richmond, of restoring the National Limited. Talks of Penn Central/Conrail abandoning the old Panhandle main line connecting Richmond and Terre Haute via Indianapolis did not quell the talk. The National Limited could simply be rerouted toward the Bee Line out of Richmond, and still connect Indianapolis and Terre Haute on its way west. The Panhandle was abandoned in 1982 and 1984. And the National Limited never saw its revival.

And Indianapolis Union Station would be just short of its 100th anniversary (keeping in mind that before 1888, and the current station was built, it was known as Indianapolis Union Depot) before it would see another passenger locomotive grace its portals. And that was the return of the train that had been the James Whitcomb Riley.

The “James Whitcomb Riley” and the “Cardinal”

28 April 1941. The New York Central inaugurates a new passenger train to connect Chicago, Lafayette, Indianapolis and Cincinnati. That train was given the name “James Whitcomb Riley.” The equipment used on the new train had recently been completed at Beech Grove, the shop facilities of the New York Central. The railroad decided that the Hoosier poet was an appropriate name for a route that would use the latest in streamlined equipment.

The “press run” of the Riley was made on 23 April 1941. Leaving Chicago mid-morning, it arrived in Indianapolis at 1130. With the exception of slowing down at Shelbyville, Greensburg, and Batesville, the train didn’t stop between Indianapolis and Cincinnati. The return to Indianapolis was provided by the “Sycamore,” another modern Big Four route without the streamlining of the Riley. The Riley would start service five days later, leaving Cincinnati in the morning, and returning that evening.

Fast forward to 1974. The owner of the James Whitcomb Riley has transferred from the New York Central to the Penn Central, the merger of the two rival northeastern railroads, the Pennsylvania and the New York Central. The Penn Central had fallen on the hard times such a mammoth merger was supposed to prevent. Created in 1968, the Penn Central fell into bankruptcy in 1971. And it was still suffering from that status is 1974. So much so that the James Whitcomb Riley passenger service, which had fallen into the hands of the government owned Amtrak, had to be rerouted, removing Lafayette from its list of stops.

25 September 1974, and the James Whitcomb Riley, long a staple on Penn Central tracks, had been moved to use Chesapeake & Ohio tracks via Richmond, Muncie, Marion and Peru. This was due to the tracks of the Penn Central being declared unsafe (see “1974: Penn Central Emergency Repairs Close Major RR Link“) This new routing took the train out of Indianapolis, which had been a major stop since it was created.

The “temporary” reroute of the train that carried passengers from Chicago to Washington, DC, was supposed to have existed for 12 days. That was announced on 4 August 1974. Even then, the service was to just travel through the cities along the C&O tracks, not stop. That would change six weeks later when stops along the “temporary” route would commence at Richmond, Muncie, Marion and Peru. During the shutdown of the Penn Central tracks, Amtrak took its passengers by bus to Cincinnati for those going eastbound. Westbound passengers, heading to Chicago, would take the bus the entire way.

28 August 1977. The announcement was made by Amtrak that the James Whitcomb Riley, by then a staple of the C&O tracks through Indiana, would lose its name on 30 October of the same year. At one point, after the takeover of passenger service by Amtrak, the train actually had two names – Riley and George Washington. The Washington name confused passengers, so the Riley name was restored to both trains. The train’s new name would be “Cardinal.”

Amtrak stated several reasons for the name change. First, the fact that outside Indiana, people weren’t as familiar with the poet, hence James Whitcomb Riley had very little meaning outside of the Hoosier state.

Second, Amtrak felt that the name was too long and hard to remember. And third, improvements in the schedule and equipment gave Amtrak officials the feeling a new name was in order.

As far as service to Lafayette and Indianapolis, Amtrak was, at the time, still in the midst of a lawsuit with the bankrupt, and almost non-existent, Penn Central to get help to rebuild the original route of the Riley. By 1977, there was little but a shell left of the old Penn Central. Most routes of the old company had been absorbed by the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) on 1 April 1976. Anything that still belonged to Penn Central were those lines that Conrail didn’t want. The old line that the Riley used between Indianapolis and Lafayette had been abandoned by the Penn Central officially in 1976, at least between Zionsville and Lebanon, Docket number USRA (574). The old Lafayette line never made it to Conrail, as that company decided to use the PRR’s Frankfort line to Lebanon.

Amtrak voted to cut the service of the Cardinal completely in 1981. But key members of Congress, including the chairmen of the Amtrak appropriations committee, were against the idea. Service along the route would be ended on 1 October 1981. However, in December of the same year, Congress approved special legislation to reinstate to Cardinal, starting on 8 January 1982. The change, however, is that the service would be three times a week, instead of daily as it had been before. The train would run Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Service was also expanded to include New York, via Washington DC.

The Cardinal would still be running the route through Richmond, Muncie, Marion and Peru into the 1980s. In 1984, Amtrak decided to change the schedule of the train, with most stops of the three times a week train being late night and very early morning. This completely flipped the schedule that was in place, having an early morning Chicago departure, and an arrival in the early evening.

Cardinal service would be restored to Indianapolis and Lafayette in May 1986 when the train took over the route of the Hoosier State, which had connected Indianapolis to Chicago via Lafayette. The schedule of the Cardinal was: eastbound on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays; with westbound travelers on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

1974: Penn Central Emergency Repairs Close Major RR Link

In the early 1970’s, the railroads in America, especially the northeastern part of the country, were in big trouble. The biggest of them all, the Penn Central (Pennsylvania New York Central Transportation Company) was fighting hard to survive…and losing. Things were made even worse a deteriorating roadbed caused a section of the important Chicago-Louisville railway link was closed by the Federal Railroad Administration. That link, south of Indianapolis on old Pennsylvania (Panhandle) rails, and north of it on New York Central (Big Four) and Pennsylvania (Panhandle) trackage, would be closed instantly, but opened over a span of several weeks. At least for freight.

As reported in the Anderson Herald of 3 August 1974, “two major sections of the main Penn Central line through Indiana, close abruptly because of deteriorated roadbed, should be reopened to freight traffic over the weekend.” Well, that’s almost right. The reopening was all up to the FRA, which has closed the track in the first place.

The lines in question included: 1) the Louisville subdivision (original Jeffersonville/Madison & Indianapolis) line connecting Indianapolis south to Louisville; and two) the (replacement) Big Four Lafayette line to Lebanon, then the Panhandle line from Lebanon to Logansport. The FRA determined that even the slowest speed limits, which had been in place on these lines, were too fast for safe travel.

The closure of these tracks also led to the almost complete stoppage of passenger traffic to the city of Indianapolis. Two of the three passenger trains, all run by Amtrak, used the lines in question to service the city. The Flordian, connecting Chicago to Louisville, and the James Whitcomb Riley, connecting Chicago to Cincinnati, were directly affected by the trackage issues. These two trains were being rerouted from the tracks they normally used, and rerouted around Indianapolis. Indianapolis passengers for both of these trains were being bused to the next available station to catch the train.

According to the Herald, 69 miles of rail, from Lebanon to Columbus, were planned, by the Penn Central, to reopen on 3 August, the day of the report. The following day, 4 August, another 21 miles from Columbus to Seymour would be available for traffic. Also to be reopened on 3 August were sections of the Chicago-Logansport line that were closed, but traffic was maintained by using double-tracked sections of the line.

Subject to FRA approval, the Penn Central planned to have the 52 mile Seymour-Louisville section opened to traffic on 9 August 1974. Another 45 miles of track, connecting Lebanon and Logansport, were hoped to be open on 16 August, two weeks from the time they were closed by government order. Two-thirds of the entire line of 315 miles was ripped out of service on 2 August, after the FRA issued such an order on 1 August 1974.

22 Indiana towns and cities found themselves in the economic lurch with the closing of the rails. Those 22 towns depended on industry supplied by the railroads to survive. The weekend repairs of the tracks put many local officials’ minds at ease. One of those towns depended on the railroad was Columbus…a city of 32,000.

Another town that would be decimated by the railroad was Edinburgh. At the time, the tiny town called itself the “Veneer Capital of the World,” with trains running in and out carrying the product that let the community survive. The town had already successfully fought the abandonment of the old Jeffersonville, Madison & Indianapolis line earlier in 1974 by the US Department of Transportation.

In the end, the rails would reopen to all traffic. For a while, anyway. The Line from Indianapolis to Lebanon, at least past Park 100, would be ultimately be abandoned. The line from Indianapolis to Louisville would be short-lined, going on to become the Louisville & Indiana…at least from milepost 4 just north of Hanna Avenue on the Indianapolis southside. The two passenger trains mentioned in the article, the Floridian and the James Whitcomb Riley, would disappear from the Hoosier landscape in the years to follow. The James Whitcomb Riley would become the “Cardinal,” the only train that still runs through the Hoosier Capital, on 30 October 1977. I will cover that in a later blog.

1968: State Asks For More Interstates

When the interstate system was started in the United States, most of the routes were set down quickly. Those approved by the federal government were added to the 90% federal funding list. Other that were added to the first batch were approved, but not officially funded. Indiana decided to try to get more interstates into the system. Their first request was made in 1968, 12 years after the interstate system became law. These are the roads that the ISHC wanted to add to the state at that time.

First, and the most controversial, was the proposed extension of I-69 from downtown to Castleton. The six-lane, $48.6 million highway would start at the triple level interchange already being built at I-65 and I-70 northeast of downtown, and wind its way through the northeast side to connect to the I-69/I-465 interchange at Castleton. Interchanges were planned, if approved, at: 16th Street; 30th Street; 38th Street; 46th Street; 56th Street; and 71st Street.

This northeast expressway had already been turned down by Federal officials for several reasons, including cost and justification. (Keep in mind that at that time, the northeast suburbs were still mostly small and/or farm fields. There was no way to have known that they would have blown up the way they did. So, arguing about the fact that the northeast side got cheated in this is POINTLESS. As such, it was very unlikely that the highway would ever be approved by the feds. Also, even if they did approve it, the money to build it was not allocated for any of the expansions of the 1956 interstate system.)

The northeast highway, in addition to the wanted state expressway connecting I-465 at Harding Street on the southside to I-65 and 38th on the northside, were state wishes. The Harding Expressway, which would have been SR 37, was to have been half financed by the US Government, as it was not part of the interstate system. This also included an expressway across from the SR 37 route to I-65 along the 30th Street corridor.

Second. The state wanted to add I-63 to the system. This 92.1 mile highway would link I-64 near Elberfield in Warrick County to I-70 somewhere between Terre Haute and Brazil. This would roughly parallel the US 41 corridor. Estimated cost: $131.1 million.

Third. A spur from I-64, costing $39.6 million and running for 20.8 miles, that would bypass Evansville on the east and connect to the Pennyrile Parkway at Henderson, Kentucky.

And last, 10.1 miles of an Interstate 294 extension in Lake County. This would combine with the Tri-State Highway and the improvements then being made on SR 912 (Cline Avenue) to create loop route around a lot of the Chicago suburbs in Indiana. The estimated cost was $42.6 million. This extension would use the Tri-State eastward from Illinois, then turn northward on the new SR 912, and end near the Indiana Toll Road at 129th Street.

Another request from the state was that a new section of SR 100, connecting I-65 on the south to the north leg of I-465 in Boone County, be made a part of I-465. This is the section of the current I-465 that finished the loop and had interchanges at 71st Street and 86th Street.

As mentioned above, the northeast extension would have had a hard time getting approved. Add to that the local protests about such plans, getting it approved would have been very, very, hard. The I-63 plan also died on the vine. However, it would make a proposed comeback as an alternative to the building of a cross-state Interstate 69 southern extension. One may even consider the SR 641 bypass of Terre Haute part of this plan.

The I-64 spur east of Evansville would eventually be built…as I-164. However, that designation is gone, as it has become part of I-69. The SR 912 expressway was completed. But, unfortunately, between design flaws and questionable construction, its days are (some say temporarily) over.

Another thing that was mentioned in the newspaper reports about this project is that the state didn’t actually have the money to do any of these things. The Bureau of Public Roads flat out asked the State Highway Commission which of the already approved highways were going to be deferred to build these new projects. Since no more money was being allocated from the highway fund, the US government asked, rightly so, which do you want more: a highway to Castleton, or the completion of the cross-state routes that have already been approved?

Indianapolis and Requested Changes to the Interstates

The construction of the interstates in and around Indianapolis were always contentious. Whether it be a direct route to the northeast side, or the routing of Interstate 65 from downtown, controversy was never a stranger to the entire process. Things were desired, things were shot down. Today, I want to focus on some requests from the Metropolitan Plan Commission to the State Highway Commission when it came to the designs of both I-465 on the east side and I-65 on the south side. These requests were publicized in July 1968.

The reason that the Metropolitan Plan Commission ever was involved in the first place was a then new Federal regulation designating the group as the review agency for the entire region. The MPC was given review powers over any project that used Federal funds in any way.

The first project that they wanted to change involved I-465 from 56th Street to White River. The major recommendation for this project is that land be acquired between the interstate and Shadeland Avenue, then SR 100, for landscaping between the two. The MPC also made the request that SR 100 between Fort Benjamin Harrison and Castleton be widened, eventually.

Two other recommendations for I-465 were purchase of more right of way in the area of Allisonville Road and 82nd Street, and the removal of the planned 75th Street bridge. The first would allow improvements to the intersection of Allisonville and 82nd…something that is always needed, especially after improvements are made. The second would have eliminated any crossing of the interstate between 82nd Street, which at the time was SR 100, and 71st Street.

The major recommendations were made to the south side on Interstate 65, however. Those recommendations would lead to a very different scenario for those traveling I-65 between Thompson Road and Whiteland Road.

The first recommendation involved Stop 8 Road, now called Edgewood Avenue. The original plan involved Stop 8 Road crossing over the interstate, as it does to this day. The MPC recommended that plan be scrapped, and a full interchange be put in at Stop 8 Road. The building of the current overpass at Edgewood required the demolition of two homes, and the building of an access road to several others. As shown in the 1962 MapIndy aerial photograph below, it would have required much more ROW acquisition.

The second recommendation was to change the planned interchange at Southport Road to just a grade separation. That’s right. The busy intersection of Southport Road and Emerson Avenue would have not involved an interstate interchange as it does today. I am unsure why such a recommendation would have been made. Below is an aerial picture of the area in 1962.

Next, the Metropolitan Plan Commission recommended a change to the width of the Stop 11 bridge clearance, making it wider. This would allow a wider roadway under Stop 11 Road. They also recommended that it be considered for conversion to a full interchange at a later point.

The last two recommendations would allow for a wider roadway for the interstate, and room for expansion later. The two bridges that would be involved were the Emerson Avenue bridge and the County Line Road bridge. The ROW under these two structures, it was recommended, should be wider.

In the end, most of the recommendations involving interchanges were shot down in the end. Southport Road became the access point to I-65. You could still cross the interstates at Edgewood Avenue, Stop 11 Road, and 75th Street. The bridges at Emerson and County Line were made wider and higher for future expansion.

Cambridge City, 1870

Today, I want to look at another historic map available from the Indiana State Library Online. This map is, as the subject states, of Cambridge City in 1870. It is available here: http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15078coll8/id/2896/rec/31

Cambridge City…for the longest time it was essentially a cross roads town, but not with the number of mud paths to the city. There was a state road to the north of town…but I have been unable to find where it went. Today, that state road is Delaware Street. But the major contributors to the transportation success of Cambridge City would be the National Road and the White Water Canal.

Later, the town was crossed by three different railroad companies, which would, in the end become the New York Central (Big Four), the Nickle Plate and the Pennsylvania. Of which only one exists today.

Cambridge City today shows its history, although a majority of the traffic passes a couple of miles north along Interstate 70.

I plan on just letting the map do most of the talking for me today. I really hope you find it as interesting as I do.

Terre Haute, 1854

The mid-19th Century in Indiana was both a traveler’s nightmare and dream. At that time, the state was criss-crossed, or soon would be, with multiple railroads and several canals. And Terre Haute found itself at the crossroads of both. Today, I want to look at Terre Haute through the use of a map that is available at the Indiana State Library online. That maps is at the following link: http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15078coll8/id/1064/rec/7.

First, the National Road came to the town. The idea was that the National Road would be an improved highway, in good condition throughout the state. By the time of this map, it had already been sold to toll road companies. Those companies, in exchange for keeping the road in good condition, would be allowed to charge people to use it. The National Road would connect to Wabash Street in Terre Haute, but didn’t cross the Wabash River along that path. There was a Terre Haute Draw Bridge that crossed the river along the Ohio Street corridor.

The second method of transport that would enter the town was the Wabash & Erie Canal. This canal was the longest such facility in the United States, connecting Fort Wayne to Evansville. It entered the city from the north, separating from the river near where Florida Street is, then finding itself next to the river again around Sycamore Street. At Eagle Street, the canal made a turn back to the north in a loop that would carry it back to a point along what would be Spruce Street, then Canal Street. This section is now part of the Indiana State University campus. It would turn south again just past Ninth Street, cross the National Road, then head off to the southeast as it continued its way to Evansville.

The Terre Haute & Richmond Railroad, planned to connect the two title cities through Indianapolis, came into town from the northeast, with the railroad itself ending in a station on the north side of National Road at what is now 10th Street. The railroad that would become the Vandalia connected to the TH&R near what is now 13th Street, making a looping turn to head out along the Tippecanoe Street corridor to cross the Wabash River.

The other railroad in town, the Evansville & Crawfordsville, had its station on the southside of the National Road, across the street from the TH&R station. This railroad continued north out of town, following the current rail corridor on its way toward Crawfordsville. It, too, followed the 10th Street corridor before turning west, following the same Tippecanoe Street corridor up to and crossing the Wabash.

The area between 9th and 10th Streets at the National Road would, ultimately, include all four of these transportation facilities. Today, only the path of the old E&C still exists, although part of the old TH&R is available for use as a rail trail. The old canal bed has been removed for many years.

SR 67 in Northeast Marion County

When the Great Renumbering occurred on 1 October 1926, the number 67 was assigned to the Pendleton Pike connecting Indianapolis to Pendleton, through Lawrence and Oaklandon. This would be part of the greater State Road 67 stretching from Vincennes to Muncie…and later to the Ohio State Line. But the route in Indianapolis, and northeast Marion County, would carry the road along Massachusetts Avenue to the city limits, where the name would change to Pendleton Pike.

One of the first changes would involve the adding of US 36 to the same path. Although US 36 is higher in priority, most of the businesses along the old route kept the “67” as part of their names if it included it. As a matter of fact, I find it hard to believe that even today, there are no businesses along that road that include the number “36,” at least as I can recall. But there is a Motel 6t7…with a US route shield shaped sign…as shown to the left.

Changes were being planned for the road in 1933, when it was decided that SR 67 (and as a result, US 36) would be three laned from Indianapolis to Anderson. This would result in a change in the historic path of the Pendleton Pike from northeast of the then town of Lawrence to just south of Pendleton. In Oaklandon, for instance, the old SR 67 followed the current path of Pendleton Pike to what is now Oaklandon Road (formerly Germantown Road, named after the village that is now currently under water in Geist Reservoir at the Marion-Hamilton County line). The road then went north on Germantown (Oaklandon) to Broadway, turning northeast on that street. The old connection between Broadway (old SR 67) and the current Pendleton Pike (US 36/SR 67) still can be seen northeast of Oaklandon.

In 1935, the State Highway Commission decided that the number of miles inside the City of Indianapolis that it had to maintain would best be served if the number was lower. At the time, most of the northern city limit was at 38th Street, the dividing line between the middle tier and northern tier of townships. Where the Pendleton Pike now ends, at 38th Street west of Shadeland, was where the city ended at that point in history.

A bridge contract was let to Edward F. Smith to build a five span, 217 foot long bridge over the Big Four Railroad along 38th Street west of the intersection with SR 67, which was Massachusetts Avenue/Pendleton Pike. The bridge, in 1935, cost $143,825.01. The Indianapolis News of 25 May 1935 states that “Thirty-eighth street, with this and other contemplated improvements, is to become State Road 67. Construction will start in a few days and is scheduled to be completed by November 15.” Plans to move SR 67 to the 38th Street corridor were mentioned in newspapers as far back as June 1933, when plans for a new Fall Creek bridge on 38th Street, near the State Fair Grounds, were in the works.

While construction was going on between Indianapolis and Anderson in 1935, the official detour route had changed in late June. The original detour involved taking US 40 to Greenfield, then north on SR 9 to Pendleton. The new official detour recommended using SR 13 (became SR 37, now Allisonville Road) to SR 32 in Noblesville, then SR 32 to Anderson. This was recommended over the SR 38 route to Pendleton since SR 32 was a hard surface road, and large section of the newly added SR 38 were still gravel.

By 1937, SR 67 would find itself skirting Indianapolis, at least on the north side, along 38th Street. The old SR 67, Massachusetts Avenue, would find itself labelled SR 367. The three lane project between Indianapolis and Anderson would be completed, and Oaklandon would find itself bypassed by one of the two transportation facilities that made it possible. Now, most of what is left of SR 67 on the northeast side of Marion County (Pendleton Pike from I-465 east) is at least five lanes wide…but quite a bit of it is seven.

Cincinnati, Wabash and Michigan Railway

Today, I want to look at a railroad that started in Northern Indiana, but would ultimately stretch as far as Rushville…or maybe Shelbyville…but I’ll get to that later.

The subject railroad started life as two different railroads. First was the Grand Rapids, Wabash & Cincinnati Railroad, created under the laws of Indiana on 29 September 1869. The plan was to build a railroad from Grand Rapids toward Indiana, likely at Goshen. This railroad never built any track.

The second railroad, which the GRW&C would merge with on 30 June 1870, was the Warsaw, Goshen and White Pigeon Railroad. The WG&WP would be authorized by the Indiana General Assembly on 11 February 1870. That railroad would build a 24 mile line in 1870 between Goshen and Warsaw.

The two railroads above would merge to become the Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan Railway on 30 June 1871. This would allow the already built line between Goshen and Warsaw to be extended to Anderson over the next five years. The line reached North Manchester, 19 miles from Warsaw, in 1871. The next year, 1872, 16 miles of rail were put in service from North Manchester to Wabash. The next year, Marion was reached with the construction of another 19 miles.

The line continued southward with a 10 mile connection to Fairmont in 1875 and the next 23 miles to Anderson in 1876.

Collectively, the line was commonly referred to as the “White Pigeon” road. The road itself would fall on hard times, as was typical of Indiana railroads of the era. Meanwhile, in Michigan, a new railroad was chartered. The Elkhart, Niles and Lake Michigan Railroad was created by the State of Michigan on 19 July 1880. This company would build a railroad from Niles, Michigan, to the Indiana State Line north of Granger, a total of 10 miles, in 1882.

This was the same that the new Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan Railway would build a line to connect to the EN&LM at the state line to Goshen. This added 20 miles of track to the CW&M.

Then, on 11 August 1882, the Elkhart, Niles & Lake Michigan merged into the Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan, taking the latter name. This, with the continued construction at the northern end of the railroad, left the CW&M with a track that stretched from Anderson, Indiana, to Benton Harbor, Michigan, by the end of 1882.

And then things got interesting.

In 1883, it was announced that the White Pigeon Road would be building a subsidiary road to connect Anderson to Rushville. This line would carry train traffic through Knightstown and Carthage to Rushville. At this point, other than the Panhandle route going east to west, Knightstown had no other rail connections. Also, at Rushville, through other connections, the CW&M could actually carry traffic to Cincinnati.

But the owners of the CW&M saw another prospect. As was typical at the time, railroads weren’t built, usually, in such direct lines. The old phrase “money talks” was very much alive and well in the late 19th Century. The owners of the CW&M saw a chance to make even more money, contributing to the construction of a railroad, if they pitted two towns against one another. They chose Shelbyville.

The Hancock Democrat of 20 August 1883 dedicated over two full columns to the prospect. The plan was to incorporate a railroad to be called the Anderson, Greenfield and Shelbyville Railroad. It would be owned by the CW&M. There were even talks that Rushville was taken completely out of the running for the extension.

And the residents of Rush County were less than enthused.

The Hancock Democrat was reporting both sides of the issue. It was, however, beneficial to the Democrat, and its readers, should the railroad come through Greenfield.

The line wasn’t completed until 1891…and it ended at Rushville. Here, the line connected to the Vernon, Greensburg & Rushville, a line that had been leased by the Big Four in October 1891. At the same time, the Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan would also be purchased by the Big Four.

But even that was not as tidy a proposition as one would assume. This was after the announcement in July 1890 that the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern (New York Central) had acquired the complete Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan. This was strange in that the LS&MS owned one-quarter of the CW&M stock. Another one quarter was owned by the Big Four. Most of the last half of the stock was owned by a railroad President named D. J. Mackey. He was the President of the Big Four. Mackey had purchased the stock from J. H. Wade, President of the CW&M, in 1889.

While the CW&M belonged to the Big Four, and was planned to be completely merged at the close of the fiscal year on 30 June 1892, it wasn’t until 16 June 1915 that the line actually became officially part of the Big Four. It had been called the Michigan Division of the latter railway, but on paper, it was still separate.

There are still vestiges of the old CW&M that exist to this day. The original line from Goshen to Anderson is still shown on maps. It is owned by the Norfolk Southern. Past Anderson, however, while the track still exists in some places, it has long been out of service. Knightstown used to be home to the Carthage, Knightstown & Shirley Railroad, connecting those three towns. It was used as an excursion railroad for many years, until it was closed by its owner, Tom Allison, in 2013.

Addition of SR 331 and SR 17

1932. The Indiana State Highway Commission was getting its complete state road system, a little at a time since 1919, into a cohesive whole. Part of that was moving county roads to state control. One such road was SR 331.

The adding of SR 331 into the state highway system was announced on 14 January 1932. The plan was for the state to take over Dogwood Road south from the Dragoon Trail southeast of Mishawaka. It would follow Dogwood, or Bourbon, Road south to what is now SR 25 northeast of Rochester. This would place the road traveling east of Bremen, then through Bourbon and Tippecanoe.

The addition of this segment of road into the state highway system was started by the Bourbon Chamber of Commerce in 1930. The Chamber had asked that the Bourbon Road be included as a state highway. While becoming a state highway, it didn’t mean much for the road in the beginning. It would mean, eventually, that the state would start paving it. When was anyone’s guess. SR 331 was moved, later, to include Bremen as part of its travels. This would move the highway from the Dogwood (Bourbon) Road that it still follows north from SR 25 to the west to follow the Bremen Highway north to Mishawaka.

Another road added at the time was the Plymouth-Logansport Road. This road would carry traffic between those cities via Culver. This section of road was actually a continuation of a road across northern Indiana that connected Goshen, in Elkhart County, to Plymouth in Marshall County. That trail is to this day, in places, called the Plymouth-Goshen Trail. Following this route, travelers made their way from Goshen, through Bremen, to Plymouth. The continuation, as mentioned before, connected Culver and Logansport.

The Bremen Chamber of Commerce had lobbied for the inclusion of the entire trail complex, from Goshen to Logansport. This would have created two state roads to Bremen, added to the already extent SR/US 6 that traveled through the town.

In the end, the Plymouth-Goshen Trail was not included in the state highway system.

With the addition of these two roads, and almost 1,000 miles of other roads in the state, the Indiana State Highway Commission had control of around 10,000 miles of road facilities in the state. Ultimately, that total would never grow above 12,000.

Indianapolis’ West Washington Street

It goes without saying that Washington Street in Indianapolis has always been an important facility. Since 1821, when the town of Indianapolis was platted, Washington Street has had a prominent role in the expansion of the city. When the National Road came to Indiana, it followed that same town path through the fledging Hoosier Capital. But today, I am going to fast forward into the 20th century to discuss how it became a major concrete ribbon through town, at least on the westside of Indianapolis.

No matter how important Washington Street was to the city, it had, at least outside of downtown, been not much more than what we would call two lanes wide for the first half of its life. With the coming of the automobile, these old narrow cow paths were going to have to be put on a path to make them usable by more people at a time. Way back in the middle 19th century there were discussions, heated at times, about the width of sidewalks on the street, since only the center was covered with gravel for traveling.

The Indiana State Highway Commission decided that the National Road would be part of the state highway system. This, one would think, would automatically include West Washington Street. It didn’t. It just so happened that Washington Street made a direct connection between SR 3 (US 40) both east and west of the city. But Washington Street was still a city street.

In 1937, there was some talk about the Board of Works and Sanitation of the City of Indianapolis widening West Washington Street from White River west to the city limits…at that time near Tibbs Avenue. That plan was in the works, but there was one project approved for the area: widening of Washington Street between Traub and Tremont Avenues, in front of George Washington High School.

The Indianapolis News of 16 January 1937 ran a full page story about the history and pending expansion of West Washington Street. That article mentioned that the widening of the street in front of Washington High School would allow for the creation of safety islands for students trying to cross the busy thoroughfare. West of the city limits, the old National Road, by that time US 40, was already four lanes wide. Through the city itself was a bottle neck.

But the plan never got off the ground. That same year, the General Assembly passed legislation that would remove Washington Street from city control and give it to the State Highway Commission. This would make any widening of the road a state project, no longer a city problem. While the city could ask for something to be done, the state would be the ones to do it. And the wheels of progress sometime work very slowly at the state level.

Fast forward a decade, or so. “The State Highway Commission will receive a recommendation for the rebuilding of 2.1 miles of West Washington Street between White River and Eagle Creek.” So states the Indianapolis News of 20 May 1948. Three months, at that time, had been spent on surveys to figure out exactly how to widening the old National Road.

The end point to the west is important to note here. Around 1937, a new bridge was built by the State Highway Commission to carry US 40 and US 36 across Eagle Creek. This new bridge would be built north of the old structure, and would also entail moving the intersection of Washington Street and Rockville Road (US 40 and US 36 respectively).

MapIndy aerial photograph of the intersection of Washington Street and Rockville Road, 1937.

The 1948 project would include widening West Washington Street to 60 feet wide. That included four 11 foot wide travel lanes, two in each direction, and two eight foot parking strips (one on each side). The then current road surface, consisting of brick and blacktop, would be completely removed and replaced with concrete. New sidewalks were also part of the project.

There was to be a one block gap in the project, however, due to a planning and construction question. The plans included an underpass, allowing Washington Street to go under the Indianapolis Belt Railway at Neal Street. State Engineer of Road Design, William H. Behrens, recommended that such an underpass be postponed until construction costs could come down. “He said he favors a gap of 1 block in the new construction at this point.”

A spokesman for the Indianapolis Railways stated that when the construction was underway, the company would remove its unused streetcar tracks from Washington Street from the car barns near White River (where the Indianapolis Zoo is now) to a point 100 feet west of Tibbs Avenue.

The News pointed out that “the State Highway Commission has charge of the project because Washington Street is part of Roads 40 and 36. It is also part of the old National Road.”

Indianapolis Star, 19 August 1951.

The next reference I have found to the expansion of West Washington Street, I will let speak for itself. It is the news story from the Indianapolis Star of 19 August 1951 shown above. Apparently, this was the second annual party to celebrate the completion of the 1948 project.

Straightening of SR 135 in Northern Washington County

Sometimes, the state moves very slowly when it comes to improving routes that, well, from first glance, should have been higher on the priority list. When SR 35 was created with the Great Renumbering of 1 October 1926, a lot of the route was pretty straight forward. That was until you got to just south of the Muscatatuck River in Washington County. Here, the road was the definitive hilly road.

Monroe Township, Washington County

And the road had been that way for a long time. The 1878 map snippet shown to the left shows the Millport Ferry, which was in the location, roughly, of the current SR 135 bridge over the Muscatatuck River. From there, the “direct” route to the next post office, that being at Millport, winds its way through the hilly territory south of the river.

And this routing hadn’t changed. Until the Indiana State Highway Commission started designing a new road to replace the old one in 1954. Yes, nearly three decades after it became a state road, SR 135 (formerly SR 35) was getting some work to make it safer for travelers.

The bridge just west of the old bridge at the location of the old Millport Ferry was opened for bidding in September 1954. The design of the bridge was to be of seven spans, 28 foot of right of way for drivers, and 26 inch pedestrian walkways on each side. The bidding, opened on 21 September of that year, only included the bridge itself. Approaches to the bridge were to be let in another contract. It also didn’t include the tie in to the then current road north of the river.

The bridge that was being replaced had been contracted in 1883. The superstructure of that bridge, to be built completely of iron, was contracted to cost $23.00 a linear foot.

Work on the design of the new SR 135 section was completed in March 1954. According to the Seymour Tribune of 18 March 1954, “It is understood plans for the new highway are normally straight, with the new location scheduled to eliminate the present many curves on the highway, which now has about 40 turns, many of them sharp, in less than two miles.”

Construction on the new section of the road began on 6 June 1955, and according to the Jackson County Banner of 3 August 1955, was expected to “be completed about the first of next year.” The contract connecting the new SR 135 to the new Millport Bridge would be let later, as the bridge had not been completed by that time. Until that bridge was complete, the old bridge would be in use, and the new SR 135 would connect to the old SR 135 just south of the new bridge. The following Google Map snippet shows the old road, the connection to the new road, and the location of the old bridge.

The new section of road would open in mid-December 1955. The entire route was concrete, with the exception of the south approach to the new Millport bridge, which was graveled to allow traffic access to the new bridge. The gravel would be replaced with concrete the following summer. The old iron Millport bridge would be removed soon after the opening of the road.

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.

Indianapolis’ Downtown Interstates – Original Idea

Today, I will be basically sharing three pictures…two of which are halves of one another. These pictures come from the Indianapolis News of 11 and 12 January 1960. They show the original ideas for the downtown connection between I-65 and I-70. The plans include those two highways – no more. As of January 1960, the only parts that had been designed to that point was I-65 west from the north split and the joint section from Washington Street north to the north split.

The original design had gone through many changes between 1960 and completion of construction in 1976. The original interchange between I-65 and I-70 would have been west of College Avenue, not east as it is now. On and off ramps at Massachusetts, Michigan, New York and Washington would have made for some interesting traffic patterns. The ramp patterns on the north I-65 leg would have been interesting, as well.

The design of Interstate 65, and its location, would start a cascade of legal and political moves that would delay completion of the highway until after the Federal money was supposed to stop being provided.

The picture of I-65’s north leg will be rotated to the right, with north to the top, due to the sheer size of the photo in the newspaper. This will allow for greater detail. I left the caption intact.

Indianapolis News, 12 January 1960
Indianapolis News, 12 January 1960

OSR 2/US 30 at Plymouth

When the Indiana state highway system was being expanded in 1920, one of the additions was what was, at the time, the Yellowstone Trail from Valparaiso to Fort Wayne. This Auto Trail snaked its way across the Hoosier landscape, nowhere near anything resembling a straight line. It was added to the system as SR 44, connecting at both ends with SR 2, or the Lincoln Highway. The original route had the road entering Plymouth from the west and the south. The Yellowstone Trail, and the state highway that came after, didn’t go straight through the Marshall County seat.

1923 Indiana Official State Highway Map showing SR 2 between Hamlet and Columbia City.

That was about to change. But first, a number change was in order. In 1923, the Indiana State Highway Commission started changing state road numbers. One of those that would change would be the Lincoln Highway…and SR 44. The SR 2 designation was moved from the Lincoln Highway to the Yellowstone Trail. This “straightened” the road between Valparaiso and Fort Wayne…SR 2 no longer ran through Goshen, Elkhart and South Bend. But the road still was a winding mess between Warsaw and Plymouth.

With the concept of federal aid funding sitting in the background, the state decided it wanted to fix the twists and turns of the original Yellowstone path. The first reference to this project that I found was in August 1925…but it wasn’t good news. The project was “abandoned” due to a $5 million shortfall in federal funding. Or, more to the point, a belief that the state was going to get $5 million from the federal government that hadn’t quite made it to Indianapolis. Two projects were actually put on hold with that shortfall…both of which were in northern Indiana. One was the SR 2 project. The other was the Dunes Highway along Lake Michigan.

The article that made it to most Indiana newspapers in mid-August 1925 lamented that the northern part of the state would be paying for the delays in funding. It also mentioned that most of the road was a hard surface (paved) road from Columbia City eastward to Fort Wayne. The section shown both in the map above and the one below show that the road is “gravel or stone (not treated)” between Warsaw and at least Hamlet…through Plymouth.

1926 Indiana Official State Highway Map showing the new US 30 (former SR 2) from Hamlet to Columbia City. This map also shows the pending reroute of the same road from Warsaw to Hamlet.

The new maps issued in late September and early October 1926, with the Great Renumbering, show the construction is at least still planned, as the circles on the map are listed as “proposed relocations.” The new US 30, which was SR 2, would be given a straighter route from Warsaw to Plymouth. And it would actually enter Plymouth from the east, not follow SR 1/US 31 south out of town like it did originally.

In relative terms, it wouldn’t take long for this new road to be completed. The South Bend Tribune of 20 November 1927 reported that construction was almost complete in a plan to avoid crossing the Pennsylvania Railroad for 75 miles, something the old Yellowstone Trail/SR 2/US 30 did quite a bit. As of the writing of the article, 16 miles to the west of Plymouth were completed. This connected US 30 to SR 29 (now US 35), a “recently improved asphaltic macadam” road.

As a side note, the section west from SR 29 to Hanna was also part of the project, but was in a serious holding pattern. The road was “a stretch of about 10 miles in which no concrete has been laid and cannot be laid this year because of two sink holes in the vicinity of the Kankakee river which have materially resisted grading and filling by the contractors.” That section of US 30 is still in use today…albeit a bit wider than it was at that time.

East from Plymouth, the road was open, according to the Tribune, to Bourbon, a span of 10 miles. Four bridges being constructed between Aetna Green and Warsaw were all that was standing in the way of opening the road on or about 1 December. The article mentions that the route actually enters Plymouth from the east along Pennsylvania Avenue. This is due to a bridge on what is now called Lincoln Highway over the Yellow River being built. Pennsylvania Avenue connects to Michigan Street (old US 31) just north of the old Pennsylvania Railroad Fort Wayne Line (and, for those that are landmark oriented…right at the Penguin Point restaurant).

And, in case you are wondering, the name Lincoln Highway would be officially applied to this road in 1928, one year after this construction. The places where the name “Yellowstone Trail” still exist as a road name were sections of the original path of that road…parts that weren’t improved as a part of the state highway system.