1952: Another New US Highway

Between 1951 and 1952, there were a lot of highways that were added to the US Highway system by the AASHO, or American Association of State Highway Officials. The main reason for this was, quite honestly, “tourist roads.” That was the purpose of expanding US 421, mentioned in my last post, from Tennessee to Michigan City. Another addition was US 231, which crosses the state from Owensboro, Kentucky, to Lake County, Indiana.

At the time, the two major US Highways that crossed Indiana, US 31 and US 41, were very busy doing what they do best – moving travelers north and south. Both highways start in northern Michigan, with US 41 beginning in the Upper Peninsula, US 31 starting at Mackinaw City. At the other end, US 31 ends in southern Alabama, US 41 end at Miami. Both highways were essentially “tourist roads.”

Since US 41 connected Chicago and Miami, it was the US highway replacement for the Dixie Highway. And as such, was very busy. AASHO decided that it would be a good idea to create another south bound highway to funnel off traffic from the two major roads crossing Indiana. That road would be US 231.

The Lizton Daily Citizen of 17 September 1952 mentions that the new route markers for the newest US highway in Indiana were in stock and to be replaced over the next month or so. It was also mentioned that the state road numbers that were assigned to route that would become US 231 would still be there after the marking of the US route. “The newly-designated U. S. 231 will travel from Chicago, Ill. to Panama City, Fla. It is to be called a ‘tourist’ highway and is designed to relieve overloaded U. S. 41 of some of its traffic.”

US 231 started life in 1926 with the creation of the US Highway system. At the start, it began at US 90 near Marianna, Florida. Its northern end was at Montgomery, Alabama. The first expansion of the road had it ending in Panama City, Florida.

US 231 crossed into Indiana from Owensboro, Kentucky, on what was then SR 75 (now it is SR 161), then east on SR 66 to Rockport. From there, it would follow SR 45 to near Scotland, SR 157 to Bloomfield, west on SR 54 to SR 57, then north on SR 57 to its junction at SR 67.

From the junction of SR 57 and 67, the new highway would follow SR 67 into Spencer, where it would be joined with SR 43. From here, it would follow (replace) SR 43 north from Spencer to Lafayette.

Now, here is where the description of the highway in the newspaper and the actual route differ. According to the route published in the newspaper, the route would follow SR 43 all the way to Michigan City, ending there. Well, it was already mentioned that it would end in Chicago (which, by the way, it never did), not Michigan City. Also, again, as mentioned in my last blog entry, US 421 took SR 43 into Michigan City.

At Lafayette, US 231 would multiplex with US 52 to Montmorenci, where it would turn north on SR 53. Now, for those of you keeping score with the US highways in the Hoosier state, this is where, from 1934 to 1938, there was another US highway that had been removed for being too much of a duplicate. That highway, US 152, used the US 52 route from Indianapolis to Montmorenci, where it replaced SR 53 (which it was in 1933) all the way to Crown Point. In 1938, with the decommissioning of US 152, the road reverted to SR 53 again.

And in 1952, that designation was once again removed for the placement of US highway markers. This time, US 231. But, the state road number wasn’t removed immediately this time. And US 231 rolled its way along SR 53 until it entered Crown Point. From there, it connected to US 41, the road it was supposed to help relieve traffic, near St. John using what was then SR 8.

For the most part, with the major exception of two places, the US 231 route is the same as it was back then. There may have been some slight moving of the road, especially near Scotland for Interstate 69, but the minor revisions are few and far between. The major relocations are definitely major. A complete reroute in the Lafayette area, which has US 231 bypassing both Lafayette and West Lafayette. It has, in recent years, taken to carrying US 52 around the west side of the area, replacing the much celebrated US 52 bypass along Sagamore Parkway. I will be covering that bypass at a later date. Let’s just say that there was a lot of newspaper coverage of that at the time.

The other major change in the route is near the Ohio River. A new bridge spanning the river was opened in 2002. The new bridge, called the William H. Natcher, is located north of Rockport. The original US 231 route, which followed SR 66 to due north of Owensboro, Kentucky, is now SR 161 between SR 66 and the Ohio River. It should also be noted here that at Patronville, SR 75 (US 231 now SR 161) had a junction with SR 45…the route that the new US highway would follow from northeast of Rockport to Scotland. Now that junction is just with Old State Road 45.

Due to its route across the state, at 297 miles long, US 231 is the longest continuous road in the entire Hoosier State. That may seem wrong, but consider that Rockport is actually south of Evansville…and the route through the state is nowhere near straight.

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

Indianapolis Interstates, Planning and Replanning

EDITOR’S NOTE: This entry is for reporting of history, not to choose sides in the planning of the interstate system in downtown Indianapolis. It is merely my intention to report on what happened.

When the first vestiges of the interstate system was being laid down, the plan to connect downtown Indianapolis to the entire system came up immediately. As I covered in the post “Interstate Plans in Indianapolis,” it was already decided, and approved by local, state and federal officials, that the two “major” interstates (65 and 70) would come downtown, while the two “minor” interstates (69 and 74) would connect to the outer loop interstate (465). All that was left were the details.

And as they say, nothing is set in stone until it is set in concrete. Such is the case with the “Inner Loop,” that section of the downtown interstate which is shared by both I-65 and I-70. The rough route of Interstate 70 has basically been decided through the city. Exact details would come later. But Interstate 65 would be a sticking point in the whole plan. The plan approved by local, state and federal officials would be debated for several years.

It came to a head in summer of 1965, when politicians started becoming involved in the routing of I-65…and the building of the inner loop. And the concern that federal funds would run out before the plan was completed.

Indianapolis News, 20 September 1965. The routing of the interstate system through Marion County had already been approved by local, state and federal officials. But that didn’t stop some people from trying to change them.

Up until the point of the summer of 1965, nine years of planning had already gone into the creation of the interstate system in Marion County. Delay after delay, mainly caused by slight variations in the planning, were in the process of being overcome. The whole plan found itself against a hard “drop dead” date, or what was thought to be a hard cap on said date, of 1972. Part of the legislation financing the entire nation’s interstate system stated that the Federal government would continue to pay 90% of the cost until 1972. “The chance that Congress, about five years from now, will extend the 1972 deadline is a gamble state officials cannot and dare not take.” (Indianapolis News, 20 September 1965)

The latest oppositions (in summer of 1965) came from Congressman Andrew Jacobs and City Councilman Max Brydenthal. Their major hang up with the plans was simply that I-65 should turn north on the west side of the White River, and that the inner loop should be completely depressed from multiplex section (where 65 and 70 share the same pavement) west to White River.

The Interstate 65 reroute from West Street west to 38th Street would, according to the proponents, would accomplish five things: 1) the original plan would dead end 40 streets through the west side, and the new plan would require no closing of streets; 2) the new I-65 route could be combined with the already planned SR 37/Harding Street expressway plans for the west side, lowering the cost of building both roads; 3) more interchanges could be worked in, allowing better access, especially to what would become IUPUI and its assorted facilities; 4) historic landmarks would be preserved (mentioned were Taggart Riverside Park, Belmont Park, and Lake Sullivan); and 5) there would be no delay in construction.

From the other side, the proponents of the original plan responded with six points of their own: 1) the original plans were already in the hands of the State Highway Department’s land acquisition office; 2) Construction design plans were already 85% complete; 3) designs for a bridge north of the Naval Armory were nearly completed; 4) the state already spent, or was in process of spending, $2.4 million for right of way; 5) preliminary planning and design fees had already cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars; and 6) relocation would set the project back three years.

The other bone of contention was the inner loop…and the prospect of making it a below grade facility. As with the actual constructed facility, the depressed section of the interstate project would be from south of Washington Street to Morris/Prospect Street. The desired change would depress the entire center section, and both I-65 and I-70 from West Street to the combined corridor.

Part of the reasoning, used by those that wanted the highway depressed, was quite simply that an elevated expressway would add to the “blighting” of the area where that elevated was built. “In city after city, past experience demonstrated the blighting effect of elevated roadways (most of which are railroad) and we now have evidence that the depressed roadways actually enhance the value of property in their neighborhoods.”

Another bonus point in the depression of the interstate, say the proponents, is that Indianapolis would have a chance to install new sewers, bigger than the ones that were already in place. This included the possibility of the city/state buying snow melting machinery because the new sewers would be able to handle the increase in volume.

The people that had already done the planning pointed out that each section of the planned inner loop had to considered in sections, and not as a whole. Each section of the entire project had been studied and restudied. There was a study done for depressing the north leg of the project (I-65 from West Street to I-70). It had been discarded. The south leg would be partially depressed (at the east end) as would the east leg (at the south end).

One change in the routing of I-65 had already been put in place. On the south side of Indianapolis, the interstate was originally planned to go through Garfield Park. Now, it goes east of that facility.

In the end, the drop dead date of October 1972 came and went without the completion of the expressways downtown. It would be 1976 until they were opened to traffic. The new SR 37 expressway was never built…and now SR 37 doesn’t even connect to downtown Indianapolis. The original routing and elevation, planned in the early 1960’s, was followed as approved.

US and Interstate Numbers and the “Crossroads of America”

Indiana has been considered the “Crossroads of America” for a very long time. This moniker was cemented for all time when, in 1926, the United States Highway system was established.

In the original US highway scheme of things, all major cross-country east-west routes end in “0.” This can be seen when looking at a map of the United States. Starting in the north with US 10, migrating to the south with US 90. Indiana, given its place in the country, ended up with more than its share of “0” highways. Look at it: Indiana has US 20, US 30, US 40 and US 50. A quick glance at northern Kentucky will show that US 60 is just outside the state.

The major north-south routes all ended in “1.” Indiana has both US 31 and US 41. The difference in the north-south major routes is that they were numbered from US 1 on the east coast to US 101 on the west coast. The next majors are further away in this plan, with US 21 being, originally, in eastern Ohio going south, and US 51 being through central Illinois.

Let’s focus on the major US routes as originally planned. The following snippets are from the Indianapolis News of 27 September 1926. The road descriptions would become active on 1 October 1926.

US 20 was originally designated from Newport, Oregon, to Boston, Massachusetts. The road through Indiana included the Dunes Highway, part of the Lincoln Highway, and part of the Michigan Road. Originally, it would not follow the older roads into South Bend. It would be designated along a straight east-west road from Rolling Prairie into South Bend. At South Bend, it would stay north of the St. Joseph River.

US 30 was designated from Astoria, Oregon, to Atlantic City, New Jersey. Through Indiana, it followed the what became the “new” Lincoln Highway, which was original SR 2. The original Lincoln Highway was SR 2, but was redesignated when the state decided to “straighten” the road between the two state lines.

US 31 was, once, a route that connected Mobile, Alabama, to north of St. Ignace, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula. In Indiana, it was original SR 1 its entire routing through the state.

US 40 started, originally, in San Francisco, California. The eastern end was in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Through Indiana, it followed the route of the old National Road (roughly), and the National Old Trails Road from Terre Haute to Richmond. At Richmond, the two old roads separated, with the National Road going to Springfield, Ohio, and the NOTR going to Eaton and Dayton before reconnecting at Springfield.

Connecting Miami, Florida, to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, through Chicago, US 41 took the place, in Indiana, of original SR 10 along the western tier of counties. Some of the original US 41 was moved over time and replaced with SR 63.

Originally, US 50 connected San Francisco, California, to Ocean City, Maryland. Through Indiana, it traverses the southern part of the state from Vincennes to Lawrenceburg. There have been many route changes throughout the years, some straightening and some bypasses.

The moniker “Crossroad of America” was further cemented with the creation of the “National System of Interstate and Defense Highways,” commonly known as the Interstate Highway system. It is also known by the name of its major champion as the “Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.” As originally planned, major east-west routes ended, just like the US highways, with a “0.” North-south major routes ended with a “5.”

Indiana ended up with interstate routes 70, 80 and 90. When the system was created, there was no I-50 or I-60. The closest thing to a “major” I-60 route would be I-64, which also traverses Indiana. When it came to north-south routes, Indiana only ended up with I-65. Part of this stems from the lack of suitable major routes through the state, and part stems from the usage of major numbers for shorter sections of highways (I-45 and I-85).

However, plans are in the works to make two more major interstates, without major numbers. The first is I-69, which will eventually connect the Mexican border in southern Texas to the Canadian Border at its current northern terminus at Port Huron, Michigan. (Technically, the section of I-69 from Lansing to Port Huron is labelled “East I-69.”) The other is I-74, which will eventually connect the Quad Cities area of Illinois/Iowa to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Currently, I-74 ends in Cincinnati. But there are sections in North Carolina, sections in progress in South Carolina, and signage pending in West Virginia. With all of the interstate highways in Indiana becoming, eventually, connected to the almost the entire country, the name “Crossroads of America” is not likely to be removed from the state for a long time to come.