Greensburg

On 31 December 1821, the Indiana General Assembly created a new county from lands that were part of the unorganized Delaware County. The county would be made official on 4 March 1822. That county would be named after United States Naval Commodore Stephen Decatur. Also in 1822, Thomas Hendricks founded a town near the center of the county. He named it after his wife’s home town in Pennsylvania: Greensburgh. It would become the county seat of Decatur County in July of the same year.

Greensburgh (spelling of the town’s name until 1894) would become a central point with transportation facilities that would connect it with the rest of the nation. The first big one, however, was a state road. The Michigan Road was built through the town, connecting Madison on the Ohio River to Shelbyville and Indianapolis on its way to Lake Michigan.

Several more state roads were built to the town around the same time. Roads were built to Columbus, Vernon, Rushville and Batesville. State roads at the time were paid for by the state, then turned over to the county for maintenance. This would give Greensburg connections to most of the state.

In 1853, the Lawrenceburg and Upper Mississippi Railroad was built through the town. The stretch from Indianapolis to Lawrenceburg, 90 miles of track, opened in 1853. At the end of that year, the company would change its name to the Indianapolis & Cincinnati Railroad. 14 years later, in 1867, the I&C was consolidated with the Lafayette & Indianapolis to create the Indianapolis, Cincinnati & Lafayette Railway.

It would be early in the 20th Century when the next transportation system connected to Greensburg. The Indianapolis, Shelbyville & Southeastern Traction Company would terminate in the city. This company would last until 1931.

The Auto Trail era brought three trails to the city: the Terre Haute, Columbus Cincinnati Highway; the Michigan Road; and the Tip Top Trail. The first two roads are self-explanatory. The Tip Top Trail would leave Greensburg toward Rushville and New Castle. More information on this highway is available in the post “Tip Top Trail.”

When the original batch of numbered state roads started appearing in 1919, Greensburg was included on two of the new state roads. One was SR 6, which was the Michigan Road through the area. The other was SR 36, which connected Greensburg to the National Road near Dunreith. By 1923, the THC&C Highway was added to the state road system from Greensburg to Lawrenceburg as SR 53.

With the Great Renumbering, Greensburg found itself on SR 3, SR 29, and SR 46. SR 3 started at Greensburg and worked its way north along the SR 36 corridor. Later, SR 3 would be extended southward toward Vernon. SR 29 would become US 421 in 1951. In the early 1960’s, another facility was added to the city, or at least close to it, when Interstate 74 was built.

1952: Another New US Highway

Between 1951 and 1952, there were a lot of highways that were added to the US Highway system by the AASHO, or American Association of State Highway Officials. The main reason for this was, quite honestly, “tourist roads.” That was the purpose of expanding US 421, mentioned in my last post, from Tennessee to Michigan City. Another addition was US 231, which crosses the state from Owensboro, Kentucky, to Lake County, Indiana.

At the time, the two major US Highways that crossed Indiana, US 31 and US 41, were very busy doing what they do best – moving travelers north and south. Both highways start in northern Michigan, with US 41 beginning in the Upper Peninsula, US 31 starting at Mackinaw City. At the other end, US 31 ends in southern Alabama, US 41 end at Miami. Both highways were essentially “tourist roads.”

Since US 41 connected Chicago and Miami, it was the US highway replacement for the Dixie Highway. And as such, was very busy. AASHO decided that it would be a good idea to create another south bound highway to funnel off traffic from the two major roads crossing Indiana. That road would be US 231.

The Lizton Daily Citizen of 17 September 1952 mentions that the new route markers for the newest US highway in Indiana were in stock and to be replaced over the next month or so. It was also mentioned that the state road numbers that were assigned to route that would become US 231 would still be there after the marking of the US route. “The newly-designated U. S. 231 will travel from Chicago, Ill. to Panama City, Fla. It is to be called a ‘tourist’ highway and is designed to relieve overloaded U. S. 41 of some of its traffic.”

US 231 started life in 1926 with the creation of the US Highway system. At the start, it began at US 90 near Marianna, Florida. Its northern end was at Montgomery, Alabama. The first expansion of the road had it ending in Panama City, Florida.

US 231 crossed into Indiana from Owensboro, Kentucky, on what was then SR 75 (now it is SR 161), then east on SR 66 to Rockport. From there, it would follow SR 45 to near Scotland, SR 157 to Bloomfield, west on SR 54 to SR 57, then north on SR 57 to its junction at SR 67.

From the junction of SR 57 and 67, the new highway would follow SR 67 into Spencer, where it would be joined with SR 43. From here, it would follow (replace) SR 43 north from Spencer to Lafayette.

Now, here is where the description of the highway in the newspaper and the actual route differ. According to the route published in the newspaper, the route would follow SR 43 all the way to Michigan City, ending there. Well, it was already mentioned that it would end in Chicago (which, by the way, it never did), not Michigan City. Also, again, as mentioned in my last blog entry, US 421 took SR 43 into Michigan City.

At Lafayette, US 231 would multiplex with US 52 to Montmorenci, where it would turn north on SR 53. Now, for those of you keeping score with the US highways in the Hoosier state, this is where, from 1934 to 1938, there was another US highway that had been removed for being too much of a duplicate. That highway, US 152, used the US 52 route from Indianapolis to Montmorenci, where it replaced SR 53 (which it was in 1933) all the way to Crown Point. In 1938, with the decommissioning of US 152, the road reverted to SR 53 again.

And in 1952, that designation was once again removed for the placement of US highway markers. This time, US 231. But, the state road number wasn’t removed immediately this time. And US 231 rolled its way along SR 53 until it entered Crown Point. From there, it connected to US 41, the road it was supposed to help relieve traffic, near St. John using what was then SR 8.

For the most part, with the major exception of two places, the US 231 route is the same as it was back then. There may have been some slight moving of the road, especially near Scotland for Interstate 69, but the minor revisions are few and far between. The major relocations are definitely major. A complete reroute in the Lafayette area, which has US 231 bypassing both Lafayette and West Lafayette. It has, in recent years, taken to carrying US 52 around the west side of the area, replacing the much celebrated US 52 bypass along Sagamore Parkway. I will be covering that bypass at a later date. Let’s just say that there was a lot of newspaper coverage of that at the time.

The other major change in the route is near the Ohio River. A new bridge spanning the river was opened in 2002. The new bridge, called the William H. Natcher, is located north of Rockport. The original US 231 route, which followed SR 66 to due north of Owensboro, Kentucky, is now SR 161 between SR 66 and the Ohio River. It should also be noted here that at Patronville, SR 75 (US 231 now SR 161) had a junction with SR 45…the route that the new US highway would follow from northeast of Rockport to Scotland. Now that junction is just with Old State Road 45.

Due to its route across the state, at 297 miles long, US 231 is the longest continuous road in the entire Hoosier State. That may seem wrong, but consider that Rockport is actually south of Evansville…and the route through the state is nowhere near straight.

1951: US 421 – A Third “Michigan Road” Route

In 1950, a series of new United States highways were voted upon by the organization that controlled such things at the time, the American Association of State Highway Officials, or AASHO. That organization is not one of the Federal government, but one that is actually the states (and Washington DC and Puerto Rico) getting together to set standards and keep track of interstate and US highway numbers. (There is a lot more to it, but I want to get to the point!)

Whenever a highway is added or removed to the interstate or US highway system, it has to have approval of AASHTO (the successor to AASHO, with the words “and Transportation” added in 1973). When US 33 was removed from Indiana and Michigan, while the two states agreed, it had to be approved by AASHTO. The same for US 460 when it was truncated at Frankfort, Kentucky, leaving the rest of Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri without that highway that was basically replaced by Interstate 64.

So, in 1950, some new US highway was added to the system. These highways were “daughters” to other routes. For instance, US 136 would be the first branch off of US 36, with 136 starting in Indianapolis, and US 36 originally starting there. But today, I want to look at another road that came through Indianapolis for a time…US 421.

When the Indiana State Highway Commission was created (the second time) in 1919, the first state road added to the highway system after the first five Main Market roads was the Michigan Road Auto Trail, slightly different from the Historic Michigan Road, from Madison, through Versailles, Greensburg, and Shelbyville to Indianapolis. The original State Road 6 continued north from Indianapolis via the Lafayette Road, but that is not part of this profile.

On the northern end, original SR 15 connected Michigan City to Logansport via Laporte, Knox and Winamac. In 1923, with the first Renumbering, the Historic Michigan Road from Logansport to Indianapolis was added as an extension of OSR 15. This created a route that connected the same destinations without going the same direction. The Historic Michigan Road connected Logansport to Michigan City via Rochester, Plymouth and South Bend. The new original State Road 15 used a direct course between the two.

Meanwhile, the original State Road 6 from 1920 would come into this story by connecting Frankfort to Monticello through Rossville and Delphi. With the renumbering of 1923, that route would be given the number 44, the original number of what would become the rerouted Lincoln Highway (and US 30).

With the Great Renumbering of 1 October 1926, entire route of the old Michigan Road Auto Trail from Logansport to Madison was given the number 29, as was the original State Road 15 from Logansport to Michigan City. The old state road 6/44 that connected Frankfort and Monticello was given the number 39.

To other roads that would become part of this story were shown as authorized additions to the state highway system. First was the road that connected the Michigan Road near Boylestown to Frankfort was to be added as State Road 28, which at the time connected US 31 west of Tipton to SR 9 north of Alexandria. The other was to be added as SR 43 north from Reynolds along the new US 24 due north to Michigan City.

Meanwhile, the original Michigan Road route from Logansport to Rochester was an authorized addition to the state highway system as SR 25. The rest of the route, from Rochester to Michigan City had been part of the system since 1923, most having been part of the system since 1917. Original State Road 1 (later US 31) from Rochester to South Bend was an original Main Market Road, as was Original State Road 2 from South Bend to Rolling Prairie. The section from Rolling Prairie to Michigan City would be added as OSR 25, and the section from Rolling Prairie to South Bend would be given the number 25 as well, since the number 2 was moved to what would later become US 30.

So now that we have the history of the route nailed down, let’s get to the topic of this post.

On 25 January 1951, it was announced that road markers had arrived from the renumbering of several state highways to a new number: US 421. At the time, US 421, a daughter of US 21 that connected Cleveland, Ohio, to Hunting Island, South Carolina, ended at Bristol, Tennessee. The road itself had been truncated to Bristol, as it had previously connected to the Cumberland Gap in Virginia. And once again, it would cross Virginia, on its way to Lexington and Milton, Kentucky, to cross the Ohio River into Madison, Indiana.

Once in Indiana, it would follow the Michigan Road Auto Trail route (again, not entirely the Historic Michigan Road) to just south of Boylestown. This would take the new US highway through Versailles, Greensburg, Shelbyville and Indianapolis. This was the route of SR 29.

At the point south of Boylestown, US 421 turned west for seven miles to enter Frankfort along SR 28. At Frankfort, the new highway would turn north along SR 39 to US 24. West along US 24 to SR 43, then north along SR 43 to Michigan Road.

On 13 March 1951, the new US 421 was officially marked along the route mentioned above. All official press releases for the marking of the route made sure to point out that the old route numbers would be used along the new route until 1 July 1951 to avoid confusion. Thus from Boylestown to Madison, the road would have two numbers: US 421 and SR 29. At least for a while. It would seem that the only two road numbers that would removed would be SR 29, located as above, and SR 43 from US 24 to Michigan City. SR 28 is still, to this day, labelled as such along the US 421 route. And SR 39 is multiplexed with US 421 from Frankfort to Monticello.

From Indianapolis, this new US highway would create the third route with a Michigan City end. And all three followed the Historic Michigan Road out of the city. At Boylestown, US 421 separated from the historic road to follow the route above. At Logansport, SR 29 left the historic route by travelling northwest across the old swamp land that caused the road to turn toward Rochester in the first place. Meanwhile, the original road continued along its old path, connecting to Rochester as SR 25, then to South Bend as US 31, and on to Michigan City as US 20.

The SR 29 route would be changed, as well, to a US Highway from Logansport to Michigan City…when it would become part of the US 35 route. By 1935, the number US 35 was multiplexed with SR 29 from Burlington (west of Kokomo) to Michigan City. In 1942, the section from Burlington to Logansport would go back to being just SR 29, as US 35 was rerouted along the new SR 17 connecting Kokomo to Logansport directly. The SR 29 designation would be truncated to Logansport, thus removed from the US 35 route, sometime in either late 1957 to 1958. The Indiana Official State Highway Map of 1959 shows no multiplex of US 35 and SR 29.

Over the 170 years of its existence, the Michigan Road has been an important route. The city of Michigan City was created to be a point of destination for the road. As technology improved, this important route would be replaced and shortened. Today, the US Routes of 20, 35 and 421 are the ends of the different routes connecting Indianapolis (more or less) directly to Lake Michigan at Michigan City.

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.

Indianapolis and the Original ISHC State Road System

I have posted much about the creation of the Indiana State Highway Commission. As of the posting of this article, the age of the Commission is either 103 or 101 years old. The original ISHC was established in 1917…but met with a lot of problems. It was finally nailed down in 1919 and made permanent.

This also creates a dating problem when it comes to the state highways. The first five state highways, then known as Main Market Roads, were established in 1917 with the original ISHC. Two of those original Main Market Highways connected to Indianapolis. The original National Road had been given the number Main Market Road 3. The Range Line Road, connecting Indianapolis to Peru, and through further connections, to South Bend, was given the Main Market Road 1 label.

When it was finally established, the ISHC changed the name of the Main Market Road to State Road, in keeping with other states surrounding Indiana. The markers used along the roads, painted onto utility poles like the old Auto Trail markers were, resembled the image to the left…the state shape with the words “STATE ROAD” and the route number. In this case, as of 1920, State Road 2 was the original route of the Lincoln Highway through northern Indiana.

The state highway system was designed to, eventually, connect every county seat and town of over 5,000 population, to each other. Indianapolis, as the state capital and the largest city in the state, would have connections aiming in every direction. Most of those roads marked with the original numbers would still be state roads into the 1970s and early 1980s, before the Indiana Department of Highways started removing state roads inside the Interstate 465 loop…and INDOT finishing the job on 1 July 1999. These road were removed for state statutory limitation reasons, and I have discussed that in a previous blog entry. So I won’t do it here.

The original state road numbers that came to Indiana varied greatly, as did their directions. There were no set rules when it came to state road numbers. They were assigned as they came…and stayed that way until the first renumbering of 1923, or the Great Renumbering of 1926.

Let’s look at the original state roads in Marion County, some of which actually did not reach Indianapolis itself.

State Road 1: As mentioned before, State Road 1 was originally called Main Market Highway 1. North of Indianapolis, it followed the Range Line Road, a local Auto Trail, through Carmel, Westfield, to Kokomo and points north. The route north followed Meridian Street north to Westfield Boulevard, then Westfield Boulevard on out to Carmel and beyond. In Carmel, the old road is still called Range Line Road, and serves as the main north-south drag through the town, as it does in Westfield.

South of Indianapolis, State Road 1, like its Main Market Highway predecessor, followed the old Madison State Road out of the city to Southport, Greenwood, Franklin and Columbus. The original SR 1 route is still able to be driven through the south side of Indianapolis, with the exception of the section replaced in the 1950s by the Madison Avenue Expressway. But Old Madison Avenue exists, if you can find your way back there.

While the entirety of original State Road 1 became US 31 with the Great Renumbering, bypasses in Marion County were put in place very early. The northern section, through Broad Ripple, and Carmel was replaced as early as 1930. The southern section, including the Southport/Greenwood bypass, was put in place in the 1940s.

State Road 3: As mentioned above, Main Market Highway/State Road 3 followed the National Road through Marion County. One exception to this is the section of the 1830s National Road that crossed the White River downtown. That section of the old road was removed in 1904 with the demolition of the National Road covered bridge and its replacement with a new, and short lived, Washington Street bridge. With a couple of exceptions other than that (the Bridgeport straightening of the early 1930s, and the new Eagle Creek bridge built in the late 1930s), the old road was followed very accurately until the mid-1980s with the creation of White River State Park. The successor to original SR 3, US 40, was moved to make room for the park. Both US 40 and US 31 lost their designations on 1 July 1999 with the removal of those two routes inside the I-465 loop.

State Road 6: This old state road was a through route when it came to Marion County. From the north, it followed the route of the original Indianapolis-Lafayette State Road from Lebanon. After passing through downtown Indianapolis, it left the county using the original Michigan Road on its way to Shelbyville and Greensburg. The original State Road 6 followed the Michigan Road Auto Trail, not the Historic Michigan Road, meaning it still went to Madison, but it went by way of Versailles, which the historic road did not. With the Great Renumbering, the northern SR 6 became US 52, while the southern SR 6 became SR 29 – later to be renumbered again to US 421.

State Road 22: This road, as it was originally laid out, only lasted from 1920 to 1923. Out of Indianapolis, it followed the old Mooresville State Road through southwestern Marion County. It was designated the original route from Indianapolis to Martinsville, as described in this blog entry. This road will be discussed again a few paragraphs from now.

State Road 39: Another 1830s state road that was taken into the Indiana State Highway Commission’s custody in 1919. This road followed the old Brookville State Road from the National Road out of the county through New Palestine to Rushville and Brookville. The original end of that road, both the 1830s original and the 1919 state highway, is discussed here. The road would become, in October 1926, the other section of US 52 through Indianapolis. It would also eventually become the first state highway removed inside the I-465 loop in Marion County. And even then, it would be rerouted in the late 1990s to go the other way around the county.

That covers the 1919 highways. More would come to Marion County before 1923.

State Road 12: Originally, this road, north of Martinsville, was the old State Road 22 mentioned above. When a new SR 22 was created, the SR 12 number was continued from Martinsville to Indianapolis along the old Vincennes and Mooresville State Roads. This road, in October 1926, would become part of the new State Road 67.

State Road 15: While the southern route of the Michigan Road was State Road 6, the northern part, heading off to Logansport, was added later and given the number State Road 15. The entire route of the historic Michigan Road would never become a state highway, but major sections did…although late in the creation of the state highway system. With the Great Renumbering, this road became SR 29, and in 1951, redesignated, like its southern half, US 421.

State Road 22: Here we go again. State Road 22 was given to the route between Indianapolis and Paoli. In 1919, that included the route along the west bank of the White River from Martinsville to Indianapolis along the Mooresville Road. This was changed by 1923 to keep SR 22 on the east side of White River, where it followed the old Paoli State Road, and the Bluff Road, through Waverly to the south edge of downtown Indianapolis at Meridian and South Streets. This was one of the routes of the Dixie Highway through Indianapolis, and would later become part of SR 37 in 1926.

State Road 31: In 1920, when this road was originally created, it turned south to connect to the National Road west of Plainfield. It had followed the Rockville Road from Montezuma to Danville, then turned southeasterly to meet State Road 3. By 1923, the road was moved from what would later become part of what is now SR 39 to continuing on the Rockville Road into Marion County. State Road 31 would meet the National Road outside the city limits of Indianapolis at what is now the intersection of Holt Road and Washington Street. It would become US 36 before it was extended along the new section of what is now Rockville Road to the intersection at Eagle Creek with Washington Street.

State Road 37: One of two state road numbers that still served Indianapolis after the road numbers were changed in October 1926 (the other being State Road 31). The original State Road 37 left Marion County in a northeasterly direction on its way to Pendleton, Anderson and Muncie. Inside the city limits, the street name was Massachusetts Avenue. When it reached the city limits, the name of the road changed to Pendleton Pike. This still occurs today, with the name change at the old city limits at 38th Street. In October 1926, the number of this road would change to State Road 67.

There were two other major state roads in Marion County, but they weren’t part of the state highway system until after the Great Renumbering. One was the Crawfordsville State Road, part of the original Dixie Highway, connecting Indianapolis to Crawfordsville via Speedway, Clermont, Brownsburg, and half a dozen other towns. It would be added to the state highway system by 1929 as State Road 34. The number would change later to US 136.

The other road was the original Fort Wayne State Road, also known as the Noblesville State Road, but even more commonly called the Allisonville Road. It would be added to the state highway system in 1932 as State Road 13. Less than a decade later, its number would be changed to the more familiar State Road 37.

Bridge at New Harmony

Along the Wabash River is the town of New Harmony. The town dates from 1814, founded by the Harmony Society under the leadership of George Rapp. The Harmony Society was a group of German Lutherans that had separated from the official church and immigrated to the United States. That group, by 1824, moved back to Pennsylvania. The town then was purchased by Welsh industrialist Robert Owen for the purpose of creating a utopian community. That plan failed, but the community did contribute to American society.

Fast forward around 100 years. On 1 May 1928, the United States Congress chartered a private company, the Big Wabash Bridge Company of Carmi, Illinois, to build and maintain a bridge crossing the Wabash River between Carmi and New Harmony. Built by the Nashville Bridge Company of Nashville, Tennessee, the bridge opened to much fanfare on 30 December 1930. The bridge, as originally designed, is just shy of 2,600 feet long, with a 20 foot wide roadway on 47 spans.

Shortly after opening, the Indiana State Highway Commission made the New Harmony Toll Bridge a part of SR 66. Within a decade of that opening, ownership concerns began occurring. A bill passed through the Indiana General Assembly in 1939 created what was to be called the Indiana Toll Bridge Commission (ITBC). The ITBC was immediately asked by the Harmony Way Bridge Company, the then current owners of the bridge, to purchase the structure. Opposition to the bill creating the ITBC was questioning the end purpose of the commission, as State Senator Roy Dentiston, Rochester, stated, the bill was introduced in “an attempt to pull the irons out of the fire for somebody.” (Source: Indianapolis Star, 12 August 1939)

The bill became law without the signature of then Governor M. Clifford Townsend. Once the ITBC was created, questions also crept up about the fact that the commission was meeting behind closed doors. Meetings were held with various people “in the event the commission should buy the New Harmony bridge.” “‘No commitments have been made to anybody,’ George C. Simler of Corydon, commission president, said.”

The plan to buy the bridge went through in 1940. The ITBC agreed to buy the bridge, built for $640,000, for $945,000, with a surplus fund of $105,000 for emergencies. Governor Townsend had already blocked an effort, in 1939, to purchase the bridge for $1.3 million. The ITBC was in the process of not only buying the bridge at New Harmony, but building a toll bridge at Mauckport. Bonds for the purchase were sold, dated 1 October 1940 with a maturation date of 1 October 1960. But, the ITBC pointed out, that tolls collected from the bridge would not only retire the bonds in eight to ten years, but that the bridge would be made free to use around the same time. Operation costs were estimated to be $15,000 to $16,000 a year including painting, maintenance, and insurance.

The fallout from both the creation of the ITBC and the pending purchase of the Harmony Way Bridge was massive. Lawsuits were filed in the matter. The Indiana General Assembly heard a bill repealing the creation of the commission. The biggest complaint was the purchase price of the bridge. A. S. Thomas, representing the Indiana Farm Bureau, “said engineers have estimated that the bridge could now be built for approximately $475,000.” (Source: Indianapolis Star, 29 January 1941) “We consider the purchase price not based on good judgment. I am not trying to keep anyone in southern or western Indiana from having a bridge, but we are interested in the people who use that bridge,” Thomas added. Attorney for the ITBC, Lew O’Bannon (grandfather of future Governor Frank O’Bannon), explained that “at the present rate of income from the bridge it would be paid for in approximately 10 years and then converted into a free bridge.”

In the end, the state did not purchase the New Harmony bridge. Later in 1941, the United States Congress created a joint Illinois-Indiana agency called the White County Bridge Commission (WCBC) to purchase the structure for $895,000. This would be the organization that still owns the bridge to this day.

Tolling facilities had been on the eastern end of the bridge until replaced, in 1951, with the toll house that still exists on the Illinois side of the river.

In 1957, the Army Corps of Engineers warned that the structure was in danger of being destroyed or cut off by the Wabash River. (Source: Terre Haute Tribune, 31 May 1957) Testimony occurred before the House Public Works Appropriation Subcommittee asking for $405,000 for the shoring up of the west bank of the Wabash. The river had been developing a series of new bends. These threatened the stability of the bridge. The new channel being created by nature could have cut the bridge off from Illinois completely. Louis C. Rabaut, Democrat Representitive from Michigan, pointed out that during the Wabash Flood of 1943, the New Harmony bridge was the only crossing of the Wabash that remained open.

In 1961, the operations of the White County Bridge Commission came under Congressional scrutiny. Senator Robert S. Kerr, Democrat of Oklahoma, Chairman of the Senate Public Works Committee, announced that “his committee now wants to learn all about the manner in which the bridge at New Harmony, Ind., is operated. He said full investigation and hearings will be held.” (Source: Indianapolis Star, 22 September 1961) The whole ordeal was started by Representative Winfield K. Denton of Indiana, who had been trying to end the White County Commission for the previous six years. The effort was to free the bridge of tolls. Denton had put in a “secret amendment” into a bridge auditing bill to allow the Secretary of Commerce to name a new commission for the bridge, after wiping out the then current one. Denton stated that the facility had collected $4 million in tolls since the creation of the commission, but was still a toll bridge. The General Accounting Office had issued a scathing report in 1955 about the commission, prompting the entire scenario. After these hearings, the commission was left in place.

Funding became a serious issue, coming to a head in 2001, when the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs granted the WCBC a total of $120,000 for upgrades to the facility. The plan was to close the bridge at the end of 2001. At this point, the facility was in such poor condition that neither state wanted to take over operations and maintenance. It was, according to the Indianapolis Star of 12 December 2001, estimated that $2.2 million to $3.6 million would be required to bring the bridge up to Federal standards. It was also estimated that it would cost $25 million to replace.

According to the same article, the bridge had dropped its tolling earlier in 2001. This didn’t last very long. Daily average crossings, in 1999, numbered 2,660 vehicles. In October 2001 it was announced that the bridge would be closed by the end of that year. That ended up not happening. Officials of New Harmony were pleased with that news, as “closing the bridge would double the driving distance between the two towns (Carmi and New Harmony) from seven to 14 miles. That could be dangerous for emergency vehicles or people trying to reach a hospital.”

September 2007 did see the closing of the facility…but not permanently. Damage to one of the concrete piers warranted the closing for emergency repairs. At this time, the WCBC was operating on an annual budget of $460,000, not enough to keep the bridge in good condition. Again, the commission asked the departments of transportation of both Illinois and Indiana to take over the bridge. And again, this was shot down due to the cost of bringing the bridge up to federal standards. The bridge would reopen in April 2008.

In September 2011, it was made public that the bridge was in need of $8.4 million in repairs to bring it out of “structurally deficient” status. (Source: Seymour Tribune, 30 September 2011) This status was also applied at the time to the Sherman Minton Bridge carrying Interstate 64 over the Ohio River near Louisville. The difference between to two structures was that the Sherman Minton Bridge was a state owned facility. It also carried much more traffic. The end of the bridge’s useful life came to an end in May 2012 when it was announced that it would be closed at noon on 29 May 2012. This was announced by the WCBC on 21 May 2012. Unfortunately, that 29 May date was pushed up to immediately, as in 21 May 2012.

Today, the bridge still stands. It has been cut off from both ends, abandoned in place. Indiana SR 66 and Illinois SR 14 are still maintained up to a point near the approaches to the old structure. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, having received that honor in 2007.

Lafayette

Situated near the head of navigable waters on the Wabash River, the town of Lafayette was founded in 1825. At that location, it became an important transportation hub in north central Indiana. As the county seat of Tippecanoe County, it became the confluence of several early state roads and railroads, and a place on the Wabash and Erie Canal. Today, it still maintains that position, albeit with a bit of moving things around for efficiency.

A little history. Tippecanoe County was created from parts of the unorganized Wabash County (which at the time encompassed almost all territory in the state west of the second principal meridian) on 20 January 1826, effective 1 March 1826. Part of this territory had already been, jurisdictionally, part of Parke County. Part of the county’s territory wasn’t ceded to the state until October 1826. Lafayette, platted in May 1825, was made the county seat at the same time. Tippecanoe County is among the very few counties that have not had any territorial changes since its time of creation, with the exception of some unorganized territory jurisdiction until those areas were incorporated into counties of their own.

Other than river travel along the Wabash, the first transportation facilities built into the town were state roads from assorted places in Indiana. These included the Crawfordsville Road (now roughly US 231), the Noblesville Road (roughly SR 38) and the Indianapolis Road (roughly US 52). The original junction of the last two was on the SR 38 side of what is now Tippecanoe Mall. This can be seen in the Google Map image below by the property lines that remain.

Google Map image of the area of the original area of the junction of the Noblesville-Lafayette and Indianapolis-Lafayette state roads. The property lines diagonally from left of center bottom to the northwest show the location of the original Indianapolis road. Image snipped 14 September 2019.

The next facility built that connected to Lafayette would be the Wabash and Erie Canal, finished to the town in the 1840s, although the canal would actually be across the river from the town (through what is now West Lafayette). This canal would allow traffic from Lake Erie, at Toledo, to connect to the Ohio River, via the Wabash and White Rivers, at Evansville. The Wabash and Erie would end up being the longest canal built in the United States, a total of 497 miles. The canal itself competed with another canal from Toledo, connecting to Cincinnati. It connected to Lafayette in 1843. It would be the premium transportation facility to the town for less than a decade. It would be superseded by the railroad, even though canal traffic would continue for decades.

Three years after the coming of the canal, on 19 January 1846, the state of Indiana incorporated the Lafayette & Indianapolis (L&I) Railroad company. This was the most successful attempt at creating a railroad to connect the two cities. The first was an addition to the Madison & Indianapolis to connect to the town. Later laws allowed for this addition to be either a railroad, or if more financially efficient, a road to connect Lafayette to the Hoosier capitol town. (Indianapolis was legally a town until October 1847.) The original plan was to connect Indianapolis, via Crawfordsville, to Lafayette.

The L&I finished construction, on a more direct route, in 1852. On 14 February 1867, the L&I merged with the Indianapolis & Cincinnati Railroad to form the Indianapolis, Cincinnati & Lafayette Railway. That, in turn, was reorganized on 10 July 1873 to become the Indianapolis, Cincinnati & Lafayette (IC&L) Railroad. This version of the IC&L would be sold at foreclosure on 2 February 1880, becoming part of the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis & Chicago (CISTL&C) Railway on 6 March 1880. This, in turn, would be consolidated into the new Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway, better known as the “Big Four,” on 1 Jul 1889. The Big Four would have strong connections with the New York Central system, although it was technically its own company, starting in 1906. By 1930, the Big Four was merged into the NYC, ending its separate existence.

Between 1846 and 1852, a new railroad would be built from the south, starting in Crawfordsville, to connect to Lafayette. While this sounds like the original plan for the Madison, Indianapolis & Lafayette mentioned above, it wasn’t that company that had anything to do with it. Incorporated on 19 January 1846, the Crawfordsville & Wabash Railroad was created to build north from the title town. The 28 miles to Lafayette were finished in 1852, just in time for the C&W to be sold to the New Albany & Salem Rail Road company. This would become part of the ultimate line idea to connect New Albany to Chicago and Michigan City. Seven years later, the company would change its name to better show off its size: Louisville, New Albany & Chicago. This company went from being a (legally) railroad (24 October 1859), to a railway (7 January 1873), to a consolidated railway (10 August 1881), all while keeping the same base name. The last consolidation would include the Chicago & Indianapolis Airline Railway (“airline” in this context means the fastest and most direct route allowed for a railroad). Another name change in the company formed the Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville Railway. It wouldn’t be until 1956 when the name changed to the nickname the line had for many years during the CI&L period: Monon. The line is now part of CSX, like the old New York Central line mentioned above.

The next railroad to reach Lafayette would become the Wabash Railroad. Like the Wabash and Erie Canal, the railroad would connect Lafayette to Toledo. To the west, the line continued toward Danville, Illinois, through Attica. The original company to build the line was the Wabash & Western Railway, incorporated in Indiana on 27 September 1858. After several consolidations, and bankruptcies, the line would come under the umbrella of the nearly 2000 mile Wabash system.

On 13 July 1869, the Lafayette, Muncie & Bloomington (LM&B) Railroad was incorporated in Indiana to connect the title cities (Bloomington being in Illinois). Construction on the line started shortly after the incorporation was passed into law. It would start at Bloomington, Illinois, headed toward Lafayette. From there, it would traverse the Indiana countryside through Frankfort to its terminus at Muncie. The line was completed, for a total of just shy of 36 miles, to Lafayette from the Illinois-Indiana state line in 1872. The other 85 miles, to Muncie, was completed in 1876. The LM&B would not last long as a separate entity after its completion, being purchased by the Lake Erie & Western (LE&W) on 28 April 1879. 1879 was the year that several lines were purchased to create the overall LE&W. The railroad itself would find itself controlled by the New York Central from 1900 to 1922, when it was sold to the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad, better known as the Nickel Plate.

These two railroads would become part of the Norfolk & Western (N&W) Railway on 16 October 1964, but in different ways. The Nickel Plate became part of the N&W flat out, via merger. Technically, the Nickel Plate ceased to exist that day. The Wabash, however, was leased by the N&W. As such, the Wabash maintained a more separate existence even through the N&W/Southern merger creating the Norfolk Southern (NS). The Wabash still existed, on paper at least, until the NS finally absorbed, in merger form, the Wabash in November 1991. Stock in the company would be traded until that time.

In 1902, a new form of transportation was aiming to come to the city. The Fort Wayne, Logansport & Lafayette Traction Company was trying to get the tow path from the (at that time) old Wabash and Erie Canal “from the west line of High street in Logansport westward to the county line” condemned for use as the right-of-way for the new interurban line. This was, as reported in the Indianapolis Journal of 27 August 1902, because the company claimed that the right-of-way was “necessary to construct its line in, through and between the cities of Fort Wayne, Huntington, Wabash, Peru, Logansport, Delphi and Lafayette.” The defendants in this action were the owners of property along that tow path. Another suit, involving the same company, sought the same action for the entire tow path, 39 miles, from Lafayette to Logansport. This would culminate in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (14 December 1902) headline “The Fort Wayne, and Lafayette Traction Company Can Have Tow Path if it Pays the Price.” The value of the land between Logansport and Lafayette was determined to be $38,750.80.

Another line entering Lafayette was built from Indianapolis. By 27 June 1903 (Indianapolis Journal), the Indianapolis & Northern Traction Company, building a line from Indianapolis along the Michigan Road, through Zionsville, Whitestown and Lebanon (roughly following the Big Four Lafayette Line), then through Frankfort to Lafayette was two miles away from the city. This line would become part of the Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern Traction Company, owners of a large number of the routes leaving Indianapolis. In 1930, this line was purchased by Midland Utilities, and consolidated into the Indiana Railroad (1930). After this purchase, the line wouldn’t last long before it was abandoned due to profitability issues.

With the (second) creation of the Indiana State Highway Commission in 1919, Lafayette would be connected to the state highway system using state roads 29 and 32. State road 29 started in Boswell, connecting Oxford, Otterbein, West Lafayette, Lafayette, and Russiaville, ending at the Range Line Road, then SR 1 (now US 31) south of Kokomo. State road 32 started in Lafayette, connecting to Bloomington via Crawfordsville, Greencastle, Cloverdale and Spencer. State road 29 west of Lafayette would become US 52 and SR 22 in 1926. East of Lafayette, the number would be changed from 29 to 26. State road 32 would become part of SR 43. This would change with the addition of US 231 to Indiana, removing the SR 43 designation in favor of the new US route number, in 1951.

With the Great Renumbering, more state roads were added to, or authorized to be added to, the city of Lafayette. US 52 would follow the old Indianapolis state road to that city. Northwest out of Lafayette, there were already plans in place to move the newly designated US 52. Northeast out of town, a new state road was authorized to be built to Delphi. This was to be designated SR 25. Also authorized was an extension to SR 43 north from the city, ultimately connecting to Michigan City. In the years to follow, Lafayette would also be connected to SR 25 to the southwest and SR 26 to the west. The number 43 would remain north of town, as the new US 231 would follow US 52 and then replace SR 53 north from Montmorenci. The last state road to head toward the city would be SR 38, which roughly followed the original state road from Noblesville.

Many changes in transportation facilities have occurred in Lafayette since the creation of all those mentioned above. US 52 and US 231 have been rerouted around the city. The railroads have consolidated routes for efficiency through downtown. Lafayette is served by both of the major railroad companies in the eastern United States: CSX and NS. Prior to 1999, it was actually served by all three. The third being Conrail. Lafayette still serves as the transportation hub in the area.

1967: Kokomo Plans a Second and Third Bypass

US 31 has always been a rather important road in Indiana. So much so that before it was US 31, it was SR 1. This importance is shown by the fact that the original US 31 has been bypassed in several places throughout the state…and some of those are bypasses of bypasses.

An example is in Carmel. When the “new” US 31 was built along what is Meridian Street north of the Central Canal, it was, for a long time, a two lane road through Carmel. When the state decided to expand it to a four lane divided highway, the section that is now Old Meridian Street was bypassed for its current alignment.

But Kokomo was a different story. The US 31 bypass of that town opened in 1951. This moved the US 31 route from the city streets through downtown to a new alignment then east of the city. But for several years after construction, the new US 31 would be an alternate route. (The Vidette-Messenger of Porter County reported that the ribbon cutting on the Kokomo bypass was held in December 1959.) It wouldn’t take long until Kokomo moved out to the east to crowd the new bypass, making traffic overbearing on the new road.

How long, you ask? How about less than a year. There were already news stories at the end of 1951 stating that the new bypass was a traffic problem. But the State Highway Department decided to stand pat for a little while longer: almost two decades, sort of.

In the Kokomo Morning Times of 18 October 1967, it was announced that a NEW US 31 bypass was being planned…possibly. State and Howard County officials were contemplating several projects to make traffic smoother through the area. These projects involved US 31, US 35 and SR 19. It would take until the mid-2010s for two of these projects to come into full fruition. The SR 19 plan, which included extending that road from its end at US 35 north towards and into Peru, still has not happened. It is likely never to happen at this point.

Map of the planned highway program in Howard County, as published in the Kokomo Morning Times of 18 October 1967.

The two US route projects were to go hand-in-hand. The plan was to build a new northern bypass of Kokomo for US 35. At the time, US 35 still entered downtown Kokomo, along Markland Avenue. The road then turned north on Washington Street until it followed Davis Road to the northwest out of the city. The 1967 plan called for US 35 to break from Davis Road roughly where it does today, bypassing Kokomo on the north and east to a point between the then current US 31 bypass and SR 19. Unlike the now almost decade old US 31, this new road would be a limited access route, allowing better traffic flow.

But the other part of the plan would be even more ambitious. US 31 would bypass Kokomo on the west, in an area between Howard CR 300W and CR 400W. It would start leave the then current US 31 south of SR 26, connecting back to its mother road near the Howard-Miami County Line. It would then cross the new US 35 bypass north of Kokomo. This would have the effect of creating a three-quarter loop around the city of Kokomo. This new facility, like US 35, would become a limited access alignment. This was, again, unlike the US 31 bypass completed in 1959.

The projects in this plan were, according to the newspaper, “projected for work by the year 1982.” The bypasses were to be taken into consideration with the “still planned for a near-future construction program will be completion of dual-laning between Kokomo and Peru of U.S. 31.”

The Morning Times also mentions that the “current” US 31 bypass wasn’t working as planned by the State Highway Department. “The present bypass was built to gear traffic away from the congestion of the city’s center. But, planners were not far-sighted enough to implement limited access as part of the present bypass.”

The newspaper also added an editorial comment to the end of the article. “It may be ten years until active efforts materialize to spark construction of the new bypass and an expansion of Ind. 19, but planners have committed themselves in 1967 as favoring these projects for the future.”

As it turned out, this project never came into being. SR 19 still ends at US 35. The newspaper claims that “the Ind. 19 to Peru stretch would accomplish three things at once. It would link Ind. 19’s broken portions, it would provide a north-south route around Kokomo and on the east side, and it would provide an adequate access route toward the Misissinewa Reservoir.”

The northern bypass of Kokomo would be accomplished with the completion of the current US 31 bypass of the city, some 40+ years after the plan mentioned above was created. US 35 now connects, and multiplexes, with US 31 east of Kokomo, following the new route to almost the end of the newly constructed bypass. The new bypass is also controlled access, or interstate standard. In the end, a bypass of Kokomo on the north, east, and south sides was completed. And, even though it added a couple of miles to the route, it would cut the travel time from Indianapolis to South Bend by up to 30 minutes.

The Indiana Toll Road(s)

Indiana, due to its location, has always been a vital cog in the transportation facilities of the United States. This is obvious when it comes to the Auto Trails age and the highways age. Indiana has been connected to the east coast, Florida, the Mississippi Delta, the Great Plains, and beyond, due to its location on the Auto Trail/US Highway system. But one road in the state shows a connection dependence like no other in Indiana: The Indiana Toll Road.

Any discussion of the “Indiana East-West Toll Road,” its official title, must start with a highway hundreds of miles to the east that opened on 01 October 1940: The Pennsylvania Turnpike. If there ever was a more telling transportation facility of the triumph of cars and trucks over railroads, the “Pike” (what locals call the Pennsylvania Turnpike) is it. Heck, the original section was built on an old railroad right-of-way! The Pennsylvania Turnpike would connect to the Ohio Turnpike in December 1954. The following October, the Ohio Turnpike was completed from the Indiana state line to the Pennsylvania state line. Next came Indiana.

The law creating the Toll Road Commission was passed in 1951, as “Chapter 281, Acts of 1951, page 848.” There was some question about the constitutionality of the law creating the commission. The Indiana Supreme Court settled the question with an unanimous decision handed down on 17 November 1952. The stated reason for the act was to allow Indiana to create a new type of high speed, safer highway: “emboying safety devices, including center division, ample shoulder widths, long-sight distances, multiple lanes in each direction, and grade separations at intersections with other highways and railroads.” (Source: Angola Herald [Angola, Indiana], 03 December 1952, pp 15) Also included in the law was the fact that the Governor must approve the location, with the Indiana State Highway Commission approving alignment and design. The act specifically stated that the Toll Road Commission (ITRC) was “authorized and empowered to construct, maintain, repair and operate toll road projects at such locations as shall be approved by the Governor.” This sounds like the ITRC was allowed to build more than one such road. Since this would happen before the creation of the interstate system in 1956, with basically the same design standards, this makes sense.

It was reported in the Munster, Indiana, Times of 23 October 1953 that the route for the toll road had been set, encompassing 156 miles across northern Indiana. The total cost of the project was expected to be $218 million. The details of the road were reported as “it will be dual lane, separated by grass strips, 156.06 miles long connecting the state lines (Ohio and Illinois) north of Angola and in northwest Hammond. It will be between the Michigan border and U.S. 20.” This route was not without controversies. Some of these included the closing of county roads along the route.

Groundbreaking at South Bend was celebrated 21 September 1954. The Ohio Turnpike had already turned into a successful venture. With the completion of the road, at least to South Bend, it was hoped it would be more so. And, yes. Yes it was. When the Indiana Toll Road opened in 1956, traffic in Ohio skyrocketed.

As mentioned above, the law creating the ITRC allowed for more than just the northern Indiana extension to the Ohio & Pennsylvania Turnpikes. The first such project was a “north-south toll road proposed to begin in the Calumet and end within five miles of Lizton in Hendricks County.” This project was, ultimately, surveyed by the ITRC. But the law creating this project had even more constitutional battles. Mainly, the requirement that the ITRC also improver both SR 100 and US 136 as freeway feeders to the new route. It was that specific requirement with which some legislators had problems. Before the 1851 Constitution, the General Assembly passed hundreds of these “special acts.” Those led to the constitutional rewrite.

The second proposed toll road would have connected Vincennes to Lawrenceburg across southern Indiana. Basically, a limited access replacement for US 50. There was a third proposal for a toll road, connecting Fort Wayne to the East-Wet Toll Road with a 45 mile highway. In the end, these roads were eliminated by the pending interstate system. The US 50 route would never be built as it was not considered for part of the interstates. The closest that came to being is I-64, but that actually was more an upgrade for US 60 for most of the route.

The Terre Haute Star of 28 October 1960 reports that, at the time, there were 85.8 miles of interstate highways in Indiana, with the 157 mile East-West Toll Road to “become a part of the interstate system, but it was built with bonds before the federal interstate program was started.” It should be noted that the toll road from Chicago to Philadelphia was originally designated some form of I-80. In Indiana, and most of Ohio, it was I-80. West of Youngstown, Ohio, it became I-80S. That designation would be replaced with the number I-76.

I have decided to end the discussion of the Toll Road with the building of the facility. Many changes have happened over the 60+ years since it was opened. It still seems fairly busy, at least that what it looks like when I visit South Bend. South Bend also has one of the longest interchange ramps I have ever seen on a limited access highway. The connector from the toll road to (now old) US 31 comes in at about one mile. I have no idea why…one would assume it has to do with the University of Notre Dame, which is right across SR 933 (Business 31) from the end of the ramp. I don’t know. If any of you are privy to such information, I would LOVE to know. You know…that whole curiosity thing.

As an aside, I find it ironic that the Indiana East-West Toll Road, with its counterparts in Ohio and Pennsylvania, would almost directly rival, and help end, the state named railroad based in Philadelphia. With the three state toll road, it was possible to compete directly with the Pennsylvania Railroad “Broadway Limited” that ran from Philadelphia (actually, New York City…but that’s not on the turnpikes) to Chicago. And I would bet do it both faster and cheaper. Just another nail in the coffin of the railroads in the United States, or at least the passenger railroads.

US 52 at Lebanon

If you ask people that know (or even care), the Interstate system came into being in 1956 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the plan to create a system of controlled access highways that would bare his name later in time. But what most people don’t realize is that the first part of what would become part of that system in Indiana predates that law by half a decade. Although not originally built to be a controlled access highway, the US 52 bypass of Lebanon started in 1948 would eventually be added to what is now I-65.

Lebanon would be the next relatively large town on what, in Marion County, was known as the Lafayette Road. The original road’s starting point in Indianapolis has been moved several times. In the Auto Trail era, the section from Lebanon to Indianapolis would be part of the Jackson Highway. It would become, in 1919, the first state road added after the original five 1917 Main Market highways, as OSR 6. The original state road north of Lebanon was not included in the state system until 1924.

With the Great Renumbering, the old Lafayette Road, in its entirety, would become US 52. Between 1934 and 1938, it would also carry the designation US 152. (US 152 didn’t last very long. There is still a small remnant of this highway as SR 152 in Hammond.) As an aside, originally US 52 north of Indianapolis ended at US 41 at Fowler. US 152, in its short lifespan, would be longer (at least north of Indianapolis) than its mother road, as it ended in Hammond.

The route changed very little around the Lebanon area. Entering from the south on Indianapolis Avenue, then following Main Street to then use Lafayette Avenue north out of town. As the (still) most direct route between Indianapolis and Chicago, this route would see way too much traffic for Lebanon to handle. With the State Highway Commission putting a lot of time and money into the expansion of US highways throughout the state (US 40 and US 31 come to mind immediately), the decision was made in 1947 to build a wider US 52 around Lebanon.

Construction would start in 1948. There was an article in the Indianapolis Star of 28 October 1948 concerning the auto accident death of a man that was employed by the construction company that was building the bypass at the time. The accident would involve three tractor-trailers, a dump truck and two passenger cars. The man killed was driving the dump truck.

1950 Indiana Official Highway Map showing the new bypass of Lebanon under construction.

The Indiana Official Highway Map of 1950 shows the Lebanon bypass under construction. The route taken would completely remove US 52 from the Lebanon corporate limits at the time. The bypass would be shown as complete on the 1951 map, although it still shows US 52 as part of the state highway system through Lebanon. It would be shown this way until 1953.

By 1960, this section of highway become I-65 and would join parts of I-74, I-80, I-90 and I-94 as the first officially completed additions to Indiana’s part of the future interstate system. This section of I-65 would be shown from the Hendricks-Marion County line to the end of the old US 52 bypass northwest of Lebanon.

1960 Indiana Official Highway Map showing the US 52 bypass and first sections of I-65 built.

The northern end of the original bypass would have an exit built to US 52 according to the 1961 map. This would be the location where I-65 would aim more north than the old road. I-65 would roughly parallel US 52 to north of Lafayette, listed as under construction starting in 1966.

There were no more real changes to the routing of US 52 around the Lebanon area since. This section of US 52 joins a small section of US 421 in Marion and Shelby Counties as the only US highways in Indiana that were to become directly part of the Interstate Highway system.


Indiana State Road Numbers

As someone that spends a LOT of time looking at maps, I notice that most states have no rhyme nor reason to the numbering of their state roads. Most states number them in the order they were created, or legislated. Indiana is, now, not one of those.

In the beginning, 100 years ago this year, Indiana started creating a State Market Highway system. At that time, there were only five state roads. OSR 1 ran, basically, down the center of Indiana north to south. OSR 2 was the Lincoln Highway. OSR 3 was the National Road (more or less). OSR 4 ran from JCT OSR 5 near Shoals to Lawrenceburg. OSR 5 connected Vincennes to New Albany.

Around 1924, talk was started about creating a “national” road system to take the confusion out of traveling in the age of Auto Trails and the myriad of names and directions. The system was ironed out over the next two years, coming to fruition on 01 Oct 1926.

And that is the day that Indiana did a wholesale slaughter of the state road numbering system.

Indiana decided to do the same thing with the numbering of state roads that the “national” system did: odd numbers travel north/south being numbered east to west, even numbers travel east/west being numbered north to south. For the most part, anyway.

There were exceptions. There always are exceptions. Yet, through some freak of numbering, the new United States highways, for the most part, just plugged right into the system. For example, US 31, US 36, US 40, and US 50 fit right into the Indiana system perfectly.

But the system was simplified, as well. In addition to the directions of the roads, and where the numbering started, Indiana also added the “mother/daughter” system. Main state roads were give one and two digit numbers, with three digit numbers being daughter routes to those. There were/are only two exceptions to the three digit daughter rule, but I will get to that later.

One of the purposes of the “daughter” system was to create a way to insert state roads into the system without totally destroying the order of the system.

The one major exception to the whole system was SR 67. There were discussions about US 67 connecting to Cleveland, OH, across Indiana. The plan was to number it SR 67, and change it if and when the time came. It never did. US 67 ended up traveling, more or less, due north through west central Illinois.

The Indiana numbering system works well. If you know the history. If you look at a map today, there are several things that stand out like a sore thumb. And those are really due to the United States highways that came to Indiana after 1926.

Let’s get back to the two three digit exceptions to the daughter rule. First, and most obvious to map readers, is SR 135. Yes, it is a major state road. No, it is not a daughter route to US 35. It used to be SR 35, until US 35 came to Indiana.

The other exception was SR 100. Ask anyone who knows, and SR 100 was to be a loop around Indianapolis. Unfortunately, the history of the road isn’t that simple. While SR 100 legally lasted (at least from I-465 to US 4) until 1 Jul 1999, it was replaced long before that by the same I-465. As a matter of fact, most of the contracts for the building of I-465 were actually issued as SR 100 contracts.

Now, to daughter routes. Marion County has a daughter route that connects to the Women’s Prison (used to be the Indiana Girl’s School) on, guess what, Girls School Road. It is SR 134. Yet, there is no SR 34 in Indiana. There was. There isn’t now. SR 34 became US 136 in 1951. There also used to be a LOT more daughters of SR 34: SR 234 (through Carmel – not the two that still exist), SR 334 (Zionsville – decommissioned just a few years ago), SR 434 and SR 534 (the original designation of the major part of SR 100 – the part that most locals know).

In southeastern Indiana, there are two daughters of SR 29: SR 129 and SR 229. These exist because before 1951, US 421 was SR 29 from Madison to just south of Boyleston.

I am sure that there are more examples of such numbering inconsistencies. SR 21 mostly became US 35. US 231 used to be part of SR 43 and part of SR 45, among others. Even in northwestern Indiana, there are a lot of x27s that are orphaned because US 27 was replaced by I-69 north of Fort Wayne.

But two roads that I am asked about quite often are SR 38 and SR 47. Strangely, SR 47 ends at SR 38 at Sheridan.

Although SR 47 spends most of the way traveling east and west, it is labeled north and south. As you travel east toward Sheridan, you are on North 47. I have never been able to find a reason for this. Nothing. INDOT has decommissioned part of this route from JCT SR 38 to JCT US 31.

SR 38 is a different story. It DID follow the pattern when it was created. The original SR 38 connected New Castle to Richmond. (Although US 36 didn’t exist east of Indianapolis, this location of SR 38 is between 36 and 40.) The State Highway Commission would eventually add to SR 38, displacing most of the route when it comes to numbering. It would follow the old “Crawfordsville State Road” from New Castle to Noblesville (with the rest of this Crawfordsville Road becoming part of SR 32), and, roughly, the Lafayette Road (Lafayette-Noblesville State Road) for the rest of its journey across Indiana.

So, although there are exceptions, there is some method to the madness of Indiana state road numbering. And, with a little thought and knowledge, it does make Indiana a little easier to navigate.

US Highways: They are actually State Roads

I originally posted the following in the Indiana Transportation History group on 11 Jun 2014. It has been slightly edited to correct some “oopsies” in my original.

For those old enough to remember (and I, unfortunately, am not one of them) before the Interstate system came into being, and US routes were the cross-country method of auto transport, this post is for you.

Somewhere lost in the history of transportation is the true story behind the US Highway system. Believe it or not, the Federal Government was late to the “good roads” party, and really only joined it half-heartedly. Let me explain.

Near the end of the 19th Century, there was a craze sweeping the nation – bicycling. The problem was that most roads at the time were basically dirt paths through the country. Some were graveled, yes. Some were bricked, but mainly only in towns. Those that rode bicycles started clamoring for better roads to reliably and safely use their new-fangled transportation method.

The US Post Office was also involved in this movement, mainly because mail was that important. And delivering the mail in some rural locations was troublesome at best.

With the creation of the automobile boom in the early 20th century, the Good Roads Movement started including the drivers of the horseless carriage. Again, because most roads at the time were dusty at best, and practically impassible at worst.

Clubs started nationwide to encourage auto travel (the Hoosier Motor Club was one). Clubs were also started to encourage the creation of travel routes that were more than dirt roads to the next county seat.

These last clubs led to many named highways throughout the nation. For instance, Indianapolis was served by the (Andrew) Jackson Highway, Dixie Highway, Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway, National Old Trails Road, the Hoosier Highway, Michigan Road, the Range Line Road, the Hills & Lakes Trail, and the Hoosier Dixie.

The most famous of the Road Clubs was the Lincoln Highway Association, which crossed Indiana through the northern tier of counties. On its trip from New York to San Francisco, it passed through Fort Wayne, Ligonier (included because it was the SECOND Ligonier on the route – the other being in Pennsylvania!), Goshen, Elkhart, South Bend, La Porte, and Valparaiso. (As you can guess, it wasn’t exactly a straight line at first!)

In 1926, the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO), in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Public Roads finalized a national route system that became the US Highways. This was to combat the numerous named highways that led to some major confusion among the automobile traveling public. The system was discussed starting in 1924, with a preliminary list issued in late 1925.

Named highways painted markers on utility poles most of the time. It, apparently, was not unheard of to have numerous colored markers on one pole. And new named highways were popping up monthly. (They even kept appearing after the numbered highways started appearing.)

A misconception is that a US Highway is a Federal road. US Highways have a distinctive shield with a number. It can also have, legally, a State Road marker. That’s because US highways were really just state roads that shared the same number for its entire distance. So SR 40 in Indiana was also SR 40 in Illinois and Ohio, and so on. (INDOT has even posted SR 421 signage on SR 9 at the entrance ramps to I-74/US 421 in Shelbyville.)

While US highway numbers have come and gone across the state, most of them appeared in one of two phases – 1927 and 1951.

The original US Highways in Indiana were: 12, 20, 24, 27, 30, 31, 31E, 31W, 36, 40, 41, 50, 52, 112, and 150.

The second major phase included US 136, US 231, and US 421.

Between these two phases, the following roads were added:
– US 6 (1928)
– US 33 (1937)
– US 35 (1934) It required changing SR 35 to SR 135.
– US 36 – Yes, it is listed twice. US 36 originally ended at Indianapolis from the west. It was extended east in 1931.
– US 152 – Mostly followed US 52 (Lafayette Road) north from Indianapolis from 1934 to 1938. It never left the state, so it was downgraded to mostly state road 53 (which, strangely, was added BACK into the federal numbering system as US 231).
– US 224 (1933)
– US 460 (1947-1977)

These were added to the system in sections. For instance, US 6 came into Indiana from the east and ended up being routed along what, at the time, was Indiana State Road 6.

There have been many changes in the original US highways. Some have bypassed towns in many places (like US 31). Some have just been removed from the system (like the northern end of US 33). Some were replaced by the interstate system created in 1956 (like US 27 north of Fort Wayne).

The beginning of the end of the major importance of the US Highway system started in 1947, when AASHO deemed it “outmoded.” This led to the creation of the interstate system with a law signed by President Eisenhower in 1956.