OSR 2/US 30 at Plymouth

When the Indiana state highway system was being expanded in 1920, one of the additions was what was, at the time, the Yellowstone Trail from Valparaiso to Fort Wayne. This Auto Trail snaked its way across the Hoosier landscape, nowhere near anything resembling a straight line. It was added to the system as SR 44, connecting at both ends with SR 2, or the Lincoln Highway. The original route had the road entering Plymouth from the west and the south. The Yellowstone Trail, and the state highway that came after, didn’t go straight through the Marshall County seat.

1923 Indiana Official State Highway Map showing SR 2 between Hamlet and Columbia City.

That was about to change. But first, a number change was in order. In 1923, the Indiana State Highway Commission started changing state road numbers. One of those that would change would be the Lincoln Highway…and SR 44. The SR 2 designation was moved from the Lincoln Highway to the Yellowstone Trail. This “straightened” the road between Valparaiso and Fort Wayne…SR 2 no longer ran through Goshen, Elkhart and South Bend. But the road still was a winding mess between Warsaw and Plymouth.

With the concept of federal aid funding sitting in the background, the state decided it wanted to fix the twists and turns of the original Yellowstone path. The first reference to this project that I found was in August 1925…but it wasn’t good news. The project was “abandoned” due to a $5 million shortfall in federal funding. Or, more to the point, a belief that the state was going to get $5 million from the federal government that hadn’t quite made it to Indianapolis. Two projects were actually put on hold with that shortfall…both of which were in northern Indiana. One was the SR 2 project. The other was the Dunes Highway along Lake Michigan.

The article that made it to most Indiana newspapers in mid-August 1925 lamented that the northern part of the state would be paying for the delays in funding. It also mentioned that most of the road was a hard surface (paved) road from Columbia City eastward to Fort Wayne. The section shown both in the map above and the one below show that the road is “gravel or stone (not treated)” between Warsaw and at least Hamlet…through Plymouth.

1926 Indiana Official State Highway Map showing the new US 30 (former SR 2) from Hamlet to Columbia City. This map also shows the pending reroute of the same road from Warsaw to Hamlet.

The new maps issued in late September and early October 1926, with the Great Renumbering, show the construction is at least still planned, as the circles on the map are listed as “proposed relocations.” The new US 30, which was SR 2, would be given a straighter route from Warsaw to Plymouth. And it would actually enter Plymouth from the east, not follow SR 1/US 31 south out of town like it did originally.

In relative terms, it wouldn’t take long for this new road to be completed. The South Bend Tribune of 20 November 1927 reported that construction was almost complete in a plan to avoid crossing the Pennsylvania Railroad for 75 miles, something the old Yellowstone Trail/SR 2/US 30 did quite a bit. As of the writing of the article, 16 miles to the west of Plymouth were completed. This connected US 30 to SR 29 (now US 35), a “recently improved asphaltic macadam” road.

As a side note, the section west from SR 29 to Hanna was also part of the project, but was in a serious holding pattern. The road was “a stretch of about 10 miles in which no concrete has been laid and cannot be laid this year because of two sink holes in the vicinity of the Kankakee river which have materially resisted grading and filling by the contractors.” That section of US 30 is still in use today…albeit a bit wider than it was at that time.

East from Plymouth, the road was open, according to the Tribune, to Bourbon, a span of 10 miles. Four bridges being constructed between Aetna Green and Warsaw were all that was standing in the way of opening the road on or about 1 December. The article mentions that the route actually enters Plymouth from the east along Pennsylvania Avenue. This is due to a bridge on what is now called Lincoln Highway over the Yellow River being built. Pennsylvania Avenue connects to Michigan Street (old US 31) just north of the old Pennsylvania Railroad Fort Wayne Line (and, for those that are landmark oriented…right at the Penguin Point restaurant).

And, in case you are wondering, the name Lincoln Highway would be officially applied to this road in 1928, one year after this construction. The places where the name “Yellowstone Trail” still exist as a road name were sections of the original path of that road…parts that weren’t improved as a part of the state highway system.

Dec 1917: Main Market Roads Officially Announced

When the law creating the Indiana State Highway Commission was passed in early 1917, the announcement was also made that there were would five main market highways, later known as state roads, designated by that commission. There was a general idea of which roads would be involved, bot nothing set in stone. That is, until December 1917.

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette of 12 December 1917 announced the selection of the new main market highways. ISHC officials traveled throughout the state deciding which roads would be part of the new, and yet controversial, system. “A former election of four of the five routes was tentative, and although the general directions of the four roads announced formerly have been adhered to in the official selection, many changes have been made.”

The plan was to create a system which was typical of Indiana’s general demeanor: serve as many people as possible with as little cost and intrusion as possible. Due to the shape of the state of Indiana, it was decided that there would be three roads crossing the state, west to east, from the Illinois state line to the Ohio state line. One north-south road would be designated through the middle of the state. This was the basis of the first four main market roads. A fifth road would connect the fourth road to the Illinois state line in the southern part of the state. The December 1917 system included roughly 800 miles of roads.

The main market highways were officially described as follows: “No. 1. The highway beginning at the Indiana and Michigan state line, thence southerly through South Bend, Plymouth, Rochester, Peru, Kokomo, Westfield, Carmel, Indianapolis, Franklin, Columbus, Seymour, Scottsburg, Sellersburg, New Albany and Jeffersonville.” In the Auto Trail era, there was no one highway this route followed. It seems that it was planned very early to have a split in the highway at the south end, with one branch going to New Albany, and one going to Jeffersonville. And although the route numbers have changed, that split has existed in one form or another since that time.

Main Market Road #2: “The highway passing through the northern part of the state, beginning, at the Illinois and Indiana state line, thence easterly through Dyer, Valparaiso, Laporte, South Bend, Goshen and Fort Wayne via the Lincoln Highway to the Ohio and Indiana state line.” Depending on how one reads that, it could be that the Lincoln Highway was only used from Fort Wayne to the Ohio state line. This is far from true. It was decided that the entire original route of the Lincoln Highway through the state would be used for Road #2.

Main Market Road #3: “The highway crossing the central part of the state, commonly called the old national road trail, beginning at the corner of the Illinois and Indiana state line, thence easterly through Terre Haute, Brazil, Putnamville, Plainfield, Indianapolis, Greenfield, Knightstown, Cambridge City and Richmond to the Ohio and Indiana state line.”

Main Market Road #4: “The road crossing the southern part of the state, beginning at Evansville, thence easterly through Boonville, Huntingburg, Jasper, West Baden, Paoli, Mitchell, Bedford, Seymour, North Vernon, Versailles, Dillsboro, Aurora and Lawrenceburg to the Ohio and Indiana state line.”

Main Market Road #5: “The road connecting Vincennes and Mitchell, via Wheatland, Washington, Loogootee and Shoals.” Basically, this road was designated to connect main market road 4 to Vincennes. Again, this is due to the shape of the state. A (more or less) straight line across Indiana from Cincinnati west would, as is shown by the route of the current US 50, connect to Vincennes, leaving people south of there without a main market road. Evansville was, and still is, one of the top five largest cities in the state, population wise. So ignoring that city would not have been possible.

The article ends with the following: “The total mileage of the roads represents less than one-half of the total 2,000 miles of ‘main market highways’ which the commission may designate under the new state highway commission law prior to 1921.” The law that passed in 1917 created a state highway system so that Indiana could benefit from federal money for good roads. It wasn’t until the law was redone in 1919, with all of the 1917 law’s Constitutional questions answered, that the Indiana State Highway System was officially made part of the landscape.

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.