SR 49 Bypass at Valparaiso

November 1947. The mayoral elections in Valparaiso have just finished, electing Elden Kuehl. This now first term mayor decides that traffic through Valparaiso needs curbing. He recommends that the Indiana State Highway Commission build a bypass of SR 49 around the city. State Senator John Van Ness goes so far as to initiate a feasibility study for the road. And there it sat.

Porter County has always had plenty of roads crossing it to the east and west. Into the Auto Trails age, this included the Lincoln Highway, which entered Valparaiso from the west, leaving via the northeast. But north-south routes were lacking. Valparaiso itself had SR 49 that went right through downtown.

Mayor Kuehl thought there might be a groundbreaking for the new SR 49 by 1950. As it turned out, in the 1950s committees were formed to try to create a route for a bypass. Some plans included using SR 149 to the west of town. But most of the attention was placed on an eastern bypass of Valparaiso. In 1960, then Mayor Don Will said the plans for the eastern bypass were on the drawing board with the state. He announced that before the Valparaiso Lions Club. Later that year, an official from the ISHC told the same Lions Club that “a 49 bypass was not that day’s answer for moving people through the city.” (Source: The Times, Munster, Indiana, 20 July 2003)

The project was still in limbo into the 1970’s when what would become the Northern Indiana Regional Planning Commission stated that they were trying to keep the bypass alive. A bypass of Chesterton had been built in relation to I-94 construction. In 1975, Governor Otis Bowen tried to put locals at ease by saying that the bypass was still a high priority, but that the Federal government places a rather large roadblock in the way. The Governor said that there were now 236 steps from start to completion required according to government officials in Washington, DC. Some didn’t see this as honest, since an eight year completion date in 1975 was the same period that the bypass completion was going to take since 1963.

The Times, Munster, Indiana, photo, 20 July 2003. Groundbreaking for the SR 49 bypass of Valparaiso.

That eight years was an accurate statement. On 10 June 1983, a groundbreaking was held to commence construction on the new SR 49 bypass east of Valparaiso. At the groundbreaking was the then Mayor of Valparaiso…Elden Kuehl, the man that started discussions on the project in the first place way back in 1947. It would be exactly six years later, on 2 June 1989, that the grand opening was held.

A reconstruction project on the road in 2001 turned into a two year project when it was discovered that the soil along the route was inferior when it came to road construction. Previously, craks were starting to form in the concrete as the sub-base of the road was being destroyed by the weight of vehicles using the highway. In 2001, the just poured road had to be ripped up and replaced due to the inferior sub-base. A one year, $12 million project turned into a two year, $18 million project.

State Highway Department Construction Plans for 1963-1965

On 14 November 1961, the Indiana State Highway Department announced its plans for the construction projects for the two year period between 1 July 1963 and 30 June 1965. The two year project between 1961 and 1963 was planned to cost $268.3 million. The 1963-1965 plans would cost slightly less, at $235.2 million. The projected construction would build 408.06 miles of roads across the state.

Of that 408 miles, almost 154 miles of that would be for the interstate highway system. Put on the books to be built in that time was most of Interstate 69 in Indiana. Nearly 103 miles of that road, from Pendleton to the Indiana Toll Road, were to be placed under contract and built starting in July 1963. It would focus on two sections: Pendleton to southwest of Fort Wayne; and US 6 to the Toll Road.

Another interstate project, accounting for 17.7 miles of road, included Interstate 74 from Lizton to Crawfordsville. This was a continuation of the interstate from its then end at Lizton, which would be opened in the fall of 1961 from I-465’s west leg to Lizton.

Another interstate project included in the plan was that of Interstate 65 in Lake County from the county line to the toll road. This project included 22.7 miles of new interstate highway.

David Cohen, State Highway Commission chairman, stated that the construction of connections with I-65 and I-69 would help the “financially-ailing toll road.” In addition to the new interstate connections, the Toll Road Commission would be helped by their own lobbying. The Highway Commission had been put under pressure to slow construction on the Tri-State Highway, a toll free alternative to the turnpike. No projects involving the Tri-State were listed in the 1963-1965 plans.

Marion County would have its share of projects in the Construction Program. Interstate 465 would be the biggest recipient. Construction of the highway from Raymond Street to 56th Street was the largest part of the plan. Also, if the design and location of the east and north legs (from 56th Street to I-65 near Whitestown) was approved by federal officials, preliminary engineering and right of way acquisition would be conducted as part of this program.

At this point, the rest of I-465 (west and south legs) was opened, under construction, or in the 1961-1963 program. The plans for the east leg included 21 road and railroad grade separations and a bridge over Pendleton Pike (US 36/SR 67).

Three preliminary engineering projects involving the Marion County interstates were also included in the 1963-1965 program: I-65 north and west from 16th Street west of Methodist Hospital; I-69 from Pendleton to the north leg of I-465; and I-70 from I-465 west leg to West Street. Cohen mentioned no time table for the beginning of construction of the interstates in Indianapolis, but said that a section of I-65 from 38th Street north and west could be part of the 1965-1967 program.

There was a lot of other projects on the 1963-1965 program. SR 67 from Martinsville to Mooresville was to be expanded into a divided highway, and some of the kinks were to be eliminated. The new SR 37 from the south leg of I-465 to 38th Street, and divided highway treatment for 38th Street from Northwestern Avenue/Michigan Road to Capitol Avenue were also included. The SR 37 project was never completed.

A new SR 431 was also planned, starting at the north leg of SR 100 (86th Street) to US 31 at the north end of Carmel. This project would tie the new SR 431 to US 31 near the junction with the then current SR 431. At the time, SR 431 was Range Line Road/Westfield Blvd. The new SR 431 would become known as Keystone Avenue…now Keystone Parkway through Carmel.

Indianapolis News, 14 November 1961. This map shows the extent of the 1963-1965 State Highway Department Construction Program. Solid black lines show the 1963-1965 plans. Dotted lines show the 1961-1963 plan.

I-465 Construction, the PRR and Madison Avenue

Indianapolis served as a railroad capital for many years before the coming of the automobile. Since surface roads connected Indianapolis to many points in the state in many directions, it was logical that the coming of the automobile would lead to a concentration of automobile routes. But those were still subject to the locations of railroads. The interstate would change all that.

The purpose of the interstate was to create a high speed, limited interruption traffic flow. This, by definition, would require the new interstates to deal with going over or under those rail routes. Most of those intersections were accomplished with the interstate going over the railroads. And these overpasses are high, due to the clearances that were going to be required by the railroads at the time.

If one looks at a map of Interstate 465, one would notice that there is only one railroad bridge over the interstate. That bridge is the original Madison & Indianapolis, then Pennsylvania Railroad, on the southside. The reason for this really came down to the location of the interstate more than anything else.

When the interstate’s location was decided, it would follow closely to the original chosen location to SR 100 which it was replacing. That original location, in terms of Indianapolis modern street names, was Shadeland Avenue, 82nd/86th Street, High School Road, and Thompson Road. A quick glance at a map shows this.

On the southside, through the south central part of the county, this led to the interstate route traversing through the Lick Creek “valley.” The Pennsylvania Railroad already had a bridge over Lick Creek in the area. That same bridge also crossed the road leading into what was Longacre Park (being turned into a trailer park from September 1963), which had been in that location since 1926.

Louisville & Indiana (former Madison & Indianapolis/Panhandle/Pennsylvania Railroad) bridge over Lick Creek and Lick Creek Parkway into Longacre Mobile Home Park. This Google Maps image was sampled on 10 May 2020, from an image captured in June 2019. This image shows both the original bridge and the 1964 concrete expansion places on top to raise the level of the railroad.

The level of the railroad over that section of the coming interstate was right around 13 feet above ground level. This amount of clearance wasn’t enough for the State Highway Commission. This would require the Pennsylvania Railroad to raise the level of the railroad about three feet. This can be seen by the concrete extension over and above the old stone bridge over Lick Creek and Lick Creek Parkway just south of the interstate.

Google Map aerial photo of the Louisville & Indiana crossing of Interstate 465. Image was sampled 10 May 2020.

The Indianapolis Star of 27 March 1964, in a news story announcing road closures throughout the area, mentions that “Lawrence Street will be blocked for two weeks while the Pennsylvania Railroad elevated and repairs the tracks in connection with Interstate 465 construction.”

Also at work at the time was the Madison Avenue crossing of Interstate 465. Before the coming of the interstate, Madison Avenue had been a two lane state road, SR 431, south of Shelby Street. The main access to Longacre Park was actually north of Lick Creek, as shown in the following 1952 aerial photograph from MapIndy. The trailer park along Madison Avenue at Redfern Drive would come into direct play when I-465 started construction through the area.

1957 MapIndy aerial photograph of the Lick Creek area from Madison Avenue to Longacre Park.

Before the interstate construction would reach the area, a redesign of the Madison Avenue crossing of the area was already in process. The new bridge across the future interstate and Lick Creek would be two lanes in each direction. To accommodate this construction, a new, temporary, Madison Avenue would have to be built to bypass the area of the new bridge. Also, utility lines would also have to moved to the east.

1962 MapIndy aerial image of the area of Madison Avenue and Lick Creek.

The image to the left is the 1962 aerial photograph of the area from MapIndy. It shows the bypass Madison Avenue being built through the mobile home park at Redfern Drive mentioned above. The bypass would start south of the current Lick Creek Parkway, and reconnect to Madison Avenue right at the angled intersection of Shelby Street. The bypass route can be seen as the brighter road through the left center of the photo. (It hadn’t seen traffic yet, and as such was brand new concrete.)

Some people have wondered why Madison Avenue is the only (former) State Road that did not have an interchange with Interstate 465. Spacing is the only answer I could come up with. The Pennsylvania Railroad is one-quarter mile, or so, east of Madison Avenue. East Street, the US 31 bypass built in the early 1940’s, is one half mile west of Madison Avenue…not counting the ramp lengths. Shelby Street is one half mile east of East Street through its entire length through Marion County.

1962 MapIndy closeup aerial photo of the Madison Avenue bridge construction over future I-465 and Lick Creek.

The bypass Madison Avenue built in 1962 would become the frontage road in what was later the Madison Mobile Home Park. It is now called McConnell Way. A quick glance at utility lines through the area show that they weren’t been moved back to the side of Madison Avenue after construction was completed. The following aerial photograph, from 1972, shows the construction through the area completed.

1972 MapIndy aerial photograph of Madison Avenue and (then) Penn Central crossing of I-465 and Lick Creek.

For those interested, the cover photo for this post is the same area shown in all the other photos as would have been seen in 1937. That image is also from MapIndy. MapIndy is available online at: http://maps.indy.gov/MapIndy/index.html.

Lafayette Rail Relocation

Cover photo courtesy of Justin L. Grayson, as was the idea for the post.

When the railroads started coming to towns across the United States, it was a sign of prestige to have a railroad company build a line through the middle of a city street. While the towns thought it was something to be proud of, crossing the tracks was almost impossible. Lafayette was a town of rail crossings…and street running. As I have written about before, Lafayette was the home of several railroad lines. But toward the middle of the 1990’s, this was going to change…with the help of a lot of federal, state and local tax money.

1941 USGS Topo Map of downtown Lafayette, IN.

The actual beginning of discussions about relocating railroad tracks through the city of Lafayette occurred in 1926, when the city first proposed such relocations. Between 1963 and 1973, a series of engineering studies were commissioned by city officials to look at the possibility.

The idea of moving the railroad tracks through Lafayette started moving forward in 1974, when a study was conducted by the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). It was announced by Mayor James Riehle, on 11 July 1975, that a project director was named for the relocation. That director would be Herbert Thomas, vice-president of transportation at Kaiser Engineers, Inc. His local resident manager would be James Ellis.

It was also announced that day that the first two phases of the project would be completed in about ten months from that time. Phase one included the above mentioned SRI study. Phase two would consist primarily of engineering. The final two phases, design and construction, were not put on any schedule as of July 1975.

Mr. Thomas said “relocation plans here are not the biggest he has seen in the country, but said ‘the Lafayette project would be a major one for any city,'” as reported in the Lafayette Journal and Courier of 12 July 1975. He also referred to the “railroad-motor vehicle situation in Lafayette ‘a serious problem,’ noting that on a previous visit he was stopped by a train while hurrying to reach Weir Cook Airport.”

According to the Journal and Courier, “one important aspect of the Kaiser work will be to determine if the negative impact on the Monon Avenue area can be lessened.” Thomas said that “the alignment developed so far can only be reguarded (sic) as preliminary.”

One year later, in July 1976, Kaiser Engineering was set to begin look at the various alternatives to the new railroad location. Project Manager Ken Knevel said that the company would concentrate its work on the riverfront corridor since it received the most support locally. “Everything we’re doing now is just in response to individuals’ comments. The riverfront has been indicated as the preferred corridor.” (Source: Lafayette Journal and Courier, 24 July 1976.) Paul Stitt of the Norfolk & Western and Jack Smith of the Louisville & Nashville both agreed that the riverfront corridor would be best for both their companies’ operations. Conrail’s representative, John Partridge, said “otehr alternative corridors – bypassing the city and using the current N&W and L&N lines – is less satisfactory than the riverfront.”

The Louisville and Nashville, by way of their purchase of the Monon, was running trains through the middle of Fifth Street at the time. However, they did own a stub line that started just north of Main Street (and the Main Street bridge across the Tippecanoe River) traveling northeast to connect to the the street running route, and railroad yards, northeast of Fifth Street. Connecting this stub to the Nickel Plate and Wabash two blocks south along the riverfront would not be that much of a stretch.

Funding was going to be a constant problem, especially from the mid-1970’s to 1980. Washington had become very tight fisted when it came to money. The mayor of Lafayette had gone to Washington DC in March 1977 to ensure that funding would be available for the project through 1980. There were no guarantees.

There were as many as 19 railroad relocation projects in some sort of process in the late 1970’s. Lafayette had gained national attention because it involved consolidating three railroad companies into one line through the city.

Between 1976 and 1978, two neighborhoods were the focus of studies for the relocation plan. Those neighborhoods, the Wabash and the Monon, were going to be directly affected by the moving of the tracks.

The first construction phase finally started in October 1984, when Congress appropriated $7 million. Less than a year later, in September 1985, five homes were torn down to prepare to place Wabash Avenue 23 feet below the relocated train tracks. Things started looking bad again in 1987 when a pending Presidential Veto threatened $20 million in funding over five years for the project…and the insistence from Federal officials that state and local governments pony up 20% of the cost. Something in which INDOT said they weren’t really keen on participating. That veto was overridden by the House and Senate.

The next phase of construction after the override of that veto included a replacement for the Main Street bridge over the Wabash River, new approach ramps to the Harrison Bridge (now Old US 231) and a rail corridor between Ninth Street and Wabash Avenue to replace the Fifth Street street running tracks. A new $11 million North Ninth Street rail underpass was scheduled to being construction in late 1987.

Construction photo of the Lafayette Railroad Relocation, date unknown. Photo courtesy of Justin L. Grayson.

By 1994, the street running along Fifth Street had come to an end. According to the Journal and Courier of 22 July 1994, those were “crossings eliminated today.” Also according to the same newspaper graphic, phase 5 was to be completed in 1998-99 that would relocate the Norfolk Southern’s Wabash double-track corridor to the riverfront route, eliminating 24 crossings from Kossuth Street to Underwood Street.

Lafayette Courier & Journal, 2 August 2003,
announcing the end of the Railroad Relocation
Office in Lafayette.

The project’s offices would finally closed down on 1 August 2003. There were a lot of behind the scenes work that needed to be finished by the office, but the relocation was done. There was also one thing, historically, that was brought up when construction was occurring in 1993. While digging up the foundation of the old Big Four Station in Lafayette, some timbers from the Wabash & Erie Canal were found. The officials with the Railroad Relocation sent those timbers to Columbia, SC, for preservation. They were returned to Lafayette and given to the Tippecanoe County Historical Society for display.

The project would cost a grand total of $186 million in the end. It would not only affect rail transport through the area, but road transport changed as well. The old Main Street bridge in downtown Lafayette was changed to a pedestrian facility. Ultimately, all INDOT facilities in the city itself would be removed…leaving no state or US roads to downtown.

The Lincoln Highway, The Michigan Road and Rolling Prairie

With the coming “dog bone” intersection completion at US 20 and SR 2 east of Rolling Prairie, I thought it would be a good idea to cover the multiple copies of both of these routes and the roads that were in place before the state highway system was created.

Rolling Prairie, Indiana, showing the multiple transportation facilities around the area. Original image courtesy of Google Maps, snipped 03 September 2019. Colored lines added using Microsoft Paint.

In the 1830s, the state of Indiana created a road that connected Michigan City (a new town created for the end of the road) to Madison on the Ohio River, via Indianapolis. This new road would be called the Michigan Road. One of the things that is constantly wondered about is why the road went through South Bend instead of directly to Michigan City. The reason for that was a very large swampy area known as the Kankakee River. The road was built to stay on dry land as much as possible, simply because it was easier than building across a swamp.

This caused the road to take a very strange detour to the north of a straight line between South Bend and Michigan City. The original path of that road is marked on the image above as the green line. (The orange spots on any of those lines show where the road can’t be followed because it has been moved over the years.) Later on, a road was added connecting South Bend to LaPorte. As was typical of the time with early “state roads,” it would use the then road that was in place until the new road would branch off to go to its new destination. This created the red line on the map above.

In the 1850s, with the coming of the railroads, a line was built from South Bend to Chicago roughly following the Michigan Road for the eastern portion. As is typical at the time, the railroad company basically built in the straightest, most level, line possible. And, being also typical, it didn’t matter to the railroad what they built through. This caused a very dangerous crossing northeast of Rolling Prairie of the old Michigan Road and the new railroad. The town of Rolling Prairie would be put in place to take advantage of both these routes.

1910 USPS map of rural mail delivery in LaPorte County in the area of Rolling Prairie. Image courtesy of the Indiana State Library, available here. (http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15078coll8/id/970/rec/4)

Fast forward to the 20th Century. The dangerous crossing of the (then) New York Central is still in place. Due to this crossing, even the post office planned their routes around it, as shown in the above map.

In the mid-1910s, with the beginning of the Auto Trail era, it was decided that the coming Lincoln Highway (original route) would traverse this area. The Lincoln entered Indiana on the west at Dyer, exiting on the east southeast of Fort Wayne. A close look at a map shows that there can be a (relatively) straight line between the two points. And, looking even closer, such a line exists as US 30. But it was decided that the road would be routed through Valparaiso, LaPorte, South Bend, Elkhart and Goshen, among other places. This brought the road along the old state road connecting LaPorte and South Bend, passing to the east of the railroad at Rolling Prairie.

With the creation of the original Indiana State Highway Commission in 1917, it was decided that the new “State Road 2” would follow this original Lincoln Highway route. Again, that would be the red line on the Google Map at the top of the page, then the green line leaving the image at the top right. In 1923, the old Michigan Road, completely, from South Bend to Michigan City, through Rolling Prairie, was changed to SR 25, with the Lincoln Highway’s original route becoming SR 42. (The SR 2 designation was moved to what would become the new route of the Lincoln Highway…aka what became US 30 in 1926.)

Things would change (again) in October 1924 (Source: South Bend Tribune, 03 October 1924), when it was announced that “the Indiana State Highway Commission has determined to relocate state road No. 25 on Division street extended and that maintenance has been withdrawn from state road No. 25 between South Bend and Rolling Prairie through New Carlisle and Bootjack and on state road No. 42 between New Carlisle and a point where Division street extended will connect with state road No. 42.” This was a fancy way of saying that the Lincoln Highway and Michigan Road was being from east of Rolling Prairie to South Bend was being returned to county responsibility. This is shown as the blue straight line from the east (current SR 2) that turns northwest at the original Lincoln Highway, connecting to Rolling Prairie’s Michigan Street (historic Michigan Road). According to the same article, this would shorten the distance between South Bend and either Rolling Prairie or LaPorte by 1.5 miles. The other thing at play with this removal from the state highway system is the pending desire to remove a dangerous grade crossing at New Carlisle. With the rerouting of SR 25 at this point, that makes that crossing a St. Joseph County problem, not one of the Indiana State Highway Commission.

It should be noted that the “straighter” SR 25 from South Bend to Michigan City was also determined, in part, by the desire of the Federal Government. That desire was “for the construction of what might be called a military road through this part of the country in as straight a line as possible.” The decision to use Division Street (now called Western Avenue, by the way) out of South Bend was made by an official of the Federal Government looking at the situation. One comment that made no sense is that “the decision was affected partly by a decision to keep as far away from the central business district of the city as possible.” In South Bend, that would be about 1/2 mile or so, really.

With the Great Renumbering of 01 October 1926, the replacement SR 25 would be recommissioned as US 20 through the area, with the old Lincoln Highway branching to the southwest becoming (once again) SR 2. Half a decade later, the original Lincoln Highway from east of Rolling Prairie to South Bend would be returned to the state highway system. In 1932, US 20 was rerouted to the old road. It was at this time that the US 20 and SR 2 routes would change at their intersection. US 20 would be moved again, from Rolling Prairie to the junction of SR 2, to the route shown on the map at the top as the yellow line, in 1940 or 1941. The old (blue line) route of US 20 through Rolling Prairie would become SR 220 in 1945. It would be that way until 1953.

1963-1964 Indiana Official State Highway Map showing the area of Rolling Prairie.

The final modification in this area would be the creation of the current intersection of US 20 and SR 2 in 1963. The map to the left is from the 1963-1964 ISHC official map. The following official map, of 1964, shows the completed, new, intersection of the two routes.

Let me say, personally, I have never understood why these routes were numbered the way they were. To me, it would have made far more sense to leave US 20 where it was, and make the old route SR 2. But that is not what happened. And now, with the construction of a “dog bone” interchange at that location, the road numbering makes even less sense.