Interstate 70 Tidbits

Indiana is the home to four major interstates. Two of those share a route across northern Indiana mainly due to geography. (Let’s face it, Lake Michigan is one of those things that is kind of hard to miss.) The other two connect Indianapolis to St. Louis, Chicago, Louisville, and Columbus, Ohio. Today, I want to focus on little newspaper items that I found concerning the main east-west route labelled as Interstate 70.

The plan in Indiana, as approved by the Federal Bureau of Public Roads, had I-70 being a parallel route to US 40. This would be the case through most of the eastern United States.

According to Indiana state law at the time, the Indiana State Highway Commission was required to publish annually its construction plans for the following two years. While most of the projects would be built, some were placeholders and pipe dreams that still, even to this day, never seemed to appear on any official maps. It should be noted that the plans run from 1 July to 1 July, and are subject to change along the way. And, any project after the ending 1 July (in this case 1965) would be on the following two year plan (in this case, 1965-1967).

In the post “State Highway Department Construction Plans for 1963-1965,” I mentioned I-69 and I-74. One interstate highway left off the original two year plan was I-70. The Jasper Herald of 14 November 1961 mentioned that “there was no Interstate 70 construction in the program.” State Highway Commission Chairman David Cohen mentioned that “the problem is, the route is not approved.” However, engineering work on the route would be conducted during that two year plan. 108 miles of I-70 in all the counties that it would be built would be part of the preliminary engineering projects for the 1963-1965 plan.

One of the projects that came to be with the building of I-70 was a replacement for SR 1. The Highway Commission decided to move SR 1 two miles to the east. At the time, SR 1 entered Cambridge City using Boyd Road and Center Street. It left Cambridge City on Dale Avenue at the west end of the town. The state’s new plan was to move SR 1 due north from Milton, removing the road from Boyd Road and Center Street.

The National Road Traveler (Cambridge City) of 10 June 1965 reported that the ISHC would open bids for paving of the newly constructed Interstate 70 from New Lisbon to its end, at the time, east of Cambridge City. The newspaper reported lamented that an oft used county road would be dead ended at the new interstate highway. Cambridge Road, which leaves Cambridge City as Lincoln Drive, would not have a bridge over the highway. This decision was made by the federal Bureau of Public Roads. What would become Old SR 1 and the New SR 1 would cross I-70. But Cambridge Road, being a mile between each, would not. “A bridge for East Cambridge Road would be the third span in the two-mile stretch between new and old Indiana 1 and would be a waste of funds.”

The Muncie Star Press reported on 28 April 1965 that a contract had been let to Rieth-Riley Construction Company for $2,920,987.69 to build the interstate from south of Mohawk east to 1/2 mile west of SR 209. This included three bridges: SR 13 northwest of Greenfield, SR 9 north of Greenfield, and Brandywine Creek northeast of Greenfield. The traffic disaster that would occur near the Hancock County seat was covered 20 April 2019 in an article “I-70 in Greenfield.”

The 1965-1967 two year plan, according to the Muncie Star Press of 18 October 1962, included a grand total of 21.4 miles of Interstate 70 construction. This only included sections in Henry County, and entering Wayne County. But it involved not only building the road, but also constructing 25 bridges in that section.

The 1971-1973 plan, as reported on 26 June 1971 in the Richmond Palladium-Item, included 5.8 miles of Interstate 70 in Marion County: Belmont Avenue to River Avenue (0.9 mile); south leg of the inner belt (1.5 miles); and from what is now called the North Split to Emerson Avenue (3.4 miles).

Indianapolis News, 15 July 1975.
Indianapolis News, 9 January 1975

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.