Indianapolis and Requested Changes to the Interstates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bicycling the Michigan Road

Toward the end of the 19th Century, and into the early 20th, a movement was underway in the United States called “the Good Roads Movement.” This movement led to a great many things that helped make the current transportation situation much better: state highway departments, Federal funding of roads, Auto Trails, hard surface roads, etc. But what is usually lost in the whole scheme of things is the fact that when the Good Roads movement started, motor vehicle transportation was not the primary concern. It started as a two pronged effort to improve the roads for two purposes: bicycles and mail delivery.

Most of the longer distance roads in the state had been given to toll road companies for maintenance. The idea was that the companies would take the money from tolls to keep the road in good condition. Unfortunately, most of the time these roads turned into a cash grab for the toll road owners. What started out as fairly good condition roads devolved into mud paths connecting distant points. Most of the toll roads turned into basically wider paths through the rural areas that were dusty in dry weather, and mud pits in wet. When bicycles started becoming more and more common, this was unacceptable. When the counties bought back the toll roads, money was tight and it didn’t get much better.

Throughout the mid-1890s, the Indianapolis News would publish articles of interest to bicyclists. Many of these articles covered routes for those riders to follow. Today’s subject is from the News of 18 April 1896, covering “Bicycle Route North,” or the old Michigan Road.

Keeping in mind that the Michigan Road was laid out in the 1830s, and designed for horse transport, the newspaper stated that “the Michigan road is rather in ill repute among cyclists, on account of the many bad hills which mark its pathway for several miles out of the city.” Due to these hills and valleys, the Michigan Road ended up with two reputations: 1) it was only recommended for expert hill climbers, and 2) the “Michigan road to the north is forgotten,” with cyclists using other roads to the north and “it is probably less used than any of the gravel roads leading out of the city.” The News commented that “wheelmen in this make a serious mistake, for there is no prettier trip leading out of Indianapolis than the one out over the Michigan road to Augusta, or even further.”

Indianapolis News, 18 April 1896, map showing routes to the north of Indianapolis.

The subject article goes on to describe the recommended route for cyclists to follow. This series of articles usually included the subject road out of the city, with another route back. This particular article starts by recommending that riders avoid the Michigan Road south of Fall Creek. They state that riders should start out of the city on Illinois Street, instead, “and it is only a run of four blocks across to the Michigan road.”

“Once beyond Fall Creek, the road becomes a hard, firm gravel road, which is in excellent condition.” The road, at the time, ran parallel to the street car tracks taking passengers to North Indianapolis. The first hill is just north of the suburb. “The first hill is not so bad. It is simply a forerunner of what is to come.”

After running along the west edge of Crown Hill Cemetery, a big hill to the north of the cemetery is encountered. A small valley, “before passing the Country Club lane,” gives a little respite before more hill climbing begins. There were two more hills, considered “bad,” before reaching the Central Canal. Between the canal and White River, the road narrows quite a bit. The bridge over the White River is said to be an old covered bridge with a deck, while being replaced that spring, was in bad condition. The News reports that until the deck is replaced “the rider going at a good rate of speed will think he has run foul of a bucking bronco before he gets through.”

After crossing the river proper, the river bottom of about 1/4 mile was crossed. This is where the International School is today. Then begins another big hill. The road in that section as in rough shape, that will “try the mettle of any rider indeed.” Once at the top of the hill, however, the view of the White River was very beautiful. At the top of the hill, a “dirt road turns west and then south running along the river for a short distance, then swinging out through Brooklyn Heights, and connecting with the Meyers gravel road.” This is now Cold Spring Road.

Two more short hills would be encountered before reaching Mount Pleasant (Mount Alliance Post Office) at what is now Grandview Avenue. From there, the old road is listed as being tree lined, and therefore, a great place to ride on a hot day with all the shade. Many crossroads are encountered before reaching Crooked Creek (at the current Kessler Boulevard). After Crooked Creek, the old road then starts across farm fields, losing what is considered, by the newspaper, all of its beauty. The road at Crooked Creek leads to Crow’s Nest, if the rider so chooses to follow that road.

1.5 miles north of Crooked Creek is the town of Augusta. The town was the namesake of the toll company that had owned the road prior to Marion County buying it back. Just before Augusta is the New Augusta turnpike, which is now 71st Street west, and Westlane Road east. Going west, the road goes to, get this, New Augusta, which started as “Augusta Station” on the Lafayette & Indianapolis Railroad. It is stated that going into Augusta, however, is recommended “as there is an excellent well in front of one of the stores. There is also a blacksmith shop, who says he knows something about a bicycle.”

From there, “the ride north over the Michigan road can be continued for many a mile if desired. The road is in excellent condition in this county, but is reported to be badly cut up in Hamilton county.”

The article then goes into side journeys from the Michigan Road. Those are beyond the scope of this entry. But I will be covering more of these articles in the future, and covering the side journeys listed in separate blog posts.