Fort Wayne Bypass

If one looks at a map of Fort Wayne, the first thing you would notice is the interstates that flank the city. I-69 flanks Fort Wayne to the west, and I-469 to the east. Between the two, it forms a circle around Indiana’s second largest city. But the designation of I-469 was a late comer to the whole plan.

When the idea of a bypass of Fort Wayne was floated, the idea was create a bypass removing US 24 and US 27 from the downtown area. The location of the new bypass would route both of those US routes far outside the bounds of the city. Most of the new bypass would be built outside the distant city limits.

The bypass would be constructed starting at Lafayette Center Road southwest of the city at I-69. The first section of the route would be built from that point to connect to US 30 east of New Haven, a distance of 19 miles. The contracts were let for this project starting 12 June 1984.

1989 Indiana State Highway Official Map showing the Fort Wayne area. The first completed part of the bypass is US 24.

But it wasn’t an interstate project at the time. When it was assigned a number, it was given the designation SR 469. Contracts for the road, posted in 1987, all referred to the route as US 24. What is so important about the designation as SR 469 is the financing for the project. As a state road, the state would have to pay 25% of the total project costs. If it were an interstate, that share would only be 10%.

By late July 1989, the project would acquire an interstate designation. However, that designation would not come with the boost in financing from Washington that would normally be expected. Since the project started as a state project, it would be continued to be funded the same way. When the type of road switched from state to interstate, it was expected that the road would be completed by 1992. The section from Minnich Road to Lafayette Center was expected to open in October, 1989.

In September 1989, it was publicly announced that the Fort Wayne bypass was the important project when it came to state. An additional $9.6 million was allocated to Indiana from Washington, DC. Of that, three-quarters of the money would be applied to a single interchange at Fort Wayne – SR 469 and US 30.

Work came to a screeching halt on SR 469 in June 1991 when workers found a wooden lock from the Wabash & Erie Canal while excavating for the new US 24/SR 469 interchange. This was unique in several ways. One, there weren’t any locks from the canal that were believed to have been still intact. None were thought to have survived the removal of the canal. Two, the lock was pretty much in tact, even though it had been buried. Having been built in the 1840’s, it was quite a find. INDOT agreed to halt construction until a plan was put in place for preservation ideas. The choice was redesign the highway, or remove the locks. This particular lock was called the Gronauer Lock, measuring 15 feet wide and 100 feet long. It was one of the largest on the canal. And while the rest of the locks along the canal deteriorated, this one was saved by the fact that it was buried between 10 and 15 years after the canal was abandoned. The canal was only used for a few years after opening in 1853. Corruption, mismanagement and the railroads saw the end of the londest canal built in the United States.

For a project that started percolating in the minds of INDOT in 1984, and started being built in 1987, the Fort Wayne Bypass was finally opened completely to traffic on 23 October 1995. With the completion of the road, the designation SR 469 was removed, and all signs were replaced with the shield of Interstate 469.

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.

Railroad Abandonments in Indianapolis

At one time, Indiana was crisscrossed by many railroad companies. After quite a few consolidations, the number went from hundreds of railroads to tens of them. With a handful of cities in the state having been an important hub for one or more railroads, transportation became a very important industry, and big business, in Indiana.

And then, railroads weren’t important.

Locations all over the state were hit with abandonments of railroad routes. Even the first railroad in Indiana, the Madison & Indianapolis, found itself cut in half in 1976 when the temporary United States Railroad Administration (the government agency that would start paring down the railroad network that would become part of Conrail on 1 April 1976) abandoned the section from Columbus to North Vernon.

Due to the concentration of railroads in the Indianapolis metropolitan area, there were more miles of track removed there than any other place in the state. This is not to say that Indianapolis was hit hardest, far from it. There were towns all over the state that lost their railroad completely. Just in the nine county metro area, the following come to mind: Plainfield, Zionsville, Carmel, Mount Comfort, and Greenfield. To a certain extent, Castleton, Fishers and Noblesville can be included on that list. But many miles of railroad track were removed from the landscape of Indianapolis, usually the only remnants of which are (now) unexplained humps in roads that crossed them. And occasionally a bridge over or under nothing.

Most of the trackage in Indianapolis that was abandoned originally belonged to companies that became part of the Penn Central in 1968. When Conrail was created in 1976, the only parts of the new company that were in Central Indiana were Penn Central lines. Other companies that became part of Conrail were mostly located in northern Indiana.

But one day before Conrail came into being, on 31 March 1976, the Penn Central officially abandoned the old Peoria & Eastern line on the east side of Indianapolis. The line, which connected Indianapolis to Shirley (originally to Springfield, Ohio, but the section from Shirley to Lynn, Indiana, had been abandoned in 1974), was removed from a point east of Post Road.

1982 saw a massive abandonment of what was once the Pennsylvania Railroad in the Indianapolis area. Conrail, the owner of the line at the time, officially abandoned the old Pennsylvania Mainline from Limedale to Bridgeport, and from Pine (the PRR junction with the Indianapolis Belt on the east side of the city) to Charlottesville.
This was after the section from Charlottesville to Cambridge City had been abandoned in 1976.

Two years later, the original Indianapolis & Vincennes line, connecting downtown Indianapolis to the Eagle Creek connector (a line the PRR built to connect two sections of the old Vandalia – the I&V and the TH&I – between Holt Road and Tibbs Avenue) was officially removed by Conrail. That line went across property which is now the Eli Lilly campus that has also taken over Kentucky Avenue from Morris Street to Harding Street. It was then known as the Kentucky Avenue Industrial. Two industrial tracks attached to the old I&V also were removed at the same time. Known as the Caven Industrial, it consisted of two tracks: Maywood Avenue to Petersburg Secondary (aka the old I&V/Vandalia/PRR, now Indiana Southern) (4.5 miles) and Allison Plant to Maywood Avenue (4.3 miles).

At the same time as the I&V abandonment, Conrail decided to remove what was left of the original Lafayette & Indianapolis line, which had become the North Stret Industrial. This track had been removed in three sections: one) 2.7 miles from Methodist Hospital to the Water Company; two) 1.4 miles between Acme Evans to 16th Street; and three) .88 miles of track that ran east of the Central Canal (that would include the track that ran through what is now the Indiana Government Complex). The Acme Evans spur tracks at West Street would not be removed until 1989. The last of the North Street Industrial, owned by CSX, is listed as “pending” on the official INDOT abandonment list. But this list hasn’t been updated since 2013. The abandonment section is listed as “Northwest Belt and North Street IT.”

Another New York Central track, the Louisiana Street Spur, which connected Union Station almost due east to the NYC Coach Yard at Shelby Street was also officially abandoned by Conrail in 1984. The bridge that was built in 1975/1976 over Interstates 65/70 just south of Bates Street is part of this route. The bridge was refurbished when the interstate was closed from major reconstruction. At that point, the railroad had been removed for almost two decades.

1987: CERA abandoned the Rolling Mill Industrial, which connected Indianapolis Union Station to the N. K. Hurst Company building on McCarty Street. CERA had obtained the line in 1982 from Conrail.

The CSX Decatur Sub, which it had acquired with the consolidation of the C&O and B&O, was removed in Indianapolis in several sections.
– 1989: 26.73 miles from Indianapolis MP 132.45 to Roachdale.
– 1992: Indianapolis from MP 129.2 to 132.45.
– 1996: From Moorefield Yard (MP 127.8) to Speedway (MP 129.2)
– 2002: Indianapolis (MP 127.8) to Speedway (MP 129.19).

All of these abandonments would occur as part of CSX. The entire route, from Decatur, Illinois, to Speedway, was on the chopping block by the B&O before it was taken into CSX proper.

The Monon line through Indianapolis was taken away in sections starting in 1974. First, in 1974, the Louisville & Nashville chopped the section between 10th and 17th Streets. Two years later, the L&N extended that to 22nd Street. Then, in 1984, CSX removed the rest of the line all the way to Frankfort.

Most of the information for this entry came from the list of abandoned railroads maintained by the Indiana Department of Transportation. That list, apparently, has not been updated since 2013. It is available here.

The Hazelton Bridge

In the days of the Auto Trails, a second route adopted the name of “Dixie Highway,” this one being the “Dixie Bee Line.” In Indiana, much of this route followed what became State Road 10, and later US 41. In September 1921, work was started on a bridge over the White River north of the town of Hazelton, where the river forms the boundary between Knox and Gibson Counties. This bridge would replace the last ferry on the “Dixie Bee,” a ferry that had been in place for 40 years at the time of construction.

What makes this bridge special is its shear size. According to the Garret Clipper of 28 February 1924, “the bridge is said to be the largest on a state highway in the middle-west.” The massive size of this bridge is especially shown in its length. Including approaches, the bridge was nearly three miles long. The bridge consisted of a total of 29 spans: eight steel and 21 concrete.

Google Map image of the Hazelton Bridge. This image was snipped on 1 July 2019.

Built by the Stein Construction Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and costing $275,000, the bridge was 20 feet wide for its entire length, including approaches. It was rated to carry up to 20 ton (40,000 pound) vehicles. The bridge itself was 2002.5 feet in length, with approaches of 7448 feet (north) and 3800 feet (south). The bridge was “without draw,” or a non-moving bridge, that was 38.5 feet above the low water mark on the White River.

The steel spans had two different lengths: four were 198 feet; four were 84 feet.

The amount of construction material involved was massive: 1.5 million pounds of steel; 350,000 pounds of reinforcing steel in the concrete; 6,200 yards of concrete; and 13,000 linear feet of timber pilings. In addition, slightly more than 90,000 cubic yards of earth was used in building the northern approach.

The bridge had been longed for by residents of both Knox and Gibson Counties. As mentioned, the Hazleton Bridge replaced a ferry across the White River at this point. The problems with the ferry were typical when it came to Indiana weather. In the spring and fall, the amounts of rain received in the area caused the ferry to be put on hold for weeks at a time, suspending traffic flow at the same times. Again, according to the newspaper mentioned above, “traffic often was held in abeyance for weeks at a time.”

It was reported that this bridge “removes in Indiana the last obstacle on what is said to be the shortest motor route between Chicago, Florida and Gulf points.”

Google Map image of the Hazleton Bridge and southern approaches as of 1 July 2019.

All of the construction did have its problems later. The Indianapolis Star, of 15 January 1930, reports that “turbulent flood waters from White river threatened to destroy the three-mile fill leading to the Hazelton bridge on United States highway No. 41, late yesterday.” It was also stated that “the water was rising an inch an hour and highway officials expected the roadway to be covered before morning.” Members of the Indiana National Guard were sent to protect the Hazleton Bridge during this flooding incident due to reports of people wanting to blow up the bridge to alleviate the flooding problem.

The flooding in question affected not only US 41 at Hazleton, but points all along the White River south of Indianapolis. This especially affected areas around Newberry, Edwardsport, Spencer, Shoals, and Bedford. Highway officials were reporting that most state and county roads in these areas would not escape the flood waters.

The Hazelton bridge was in use from October 1923 until it was closed by officials of Knox and Gibson Counties on 03 April 1989. It had been in the state inventory until a bypass was built in 1961. Knox County officials wanted to close it for structural reasons in 1985, but work was done in 1986 to keep it open a little while longer. The weight limit on the bridge had been lowered in the 1970s to five tons for safety reasons. High water in April 1989, and parts of the bridge sinking six inches or more, helped make the decision to remove the bridge from use. According to the Vincennes Sun-Commercial of 6 April 1989, “the closing means an additional two miles for travelers coming to Vincennes from Hazelton.”

Vincennes Sun-Commercial, 06 April 1989

Now, as shown in the above Google Maps images, the bridge stands in a decaying condition, a testament to what had been one of the greatest bridge building projects in Indiana in the early days of the Indiana State Highway Commission.