Straightening of SR 135 in Northern Washington County

Sometimes, the state moves very slowly when it comes to improving routes that, well, from first glance, should have been higher on the priority list. When SR 35 was created with the Great Renumbering of 1 October 1926, a lot of the route was pretty straight forward. That was until you got to just south of the Muscatatuck River in Washington County. Here, the road was the definitive hilly road.

Monroe Township, Washington County
1878

And the road had been that way for a long time. The 1878 map snippet shown to the left shows the Millport Ferry, which was in the location, roughly, of the current SR 135 bridge over the Muscatatuck River. From there, the “direct” route to the next post office, that being at Millport, winds its way through the hilly territory south of the river.

And this routing hadn’t changed. Until the Indiana State Highway Commission started designing a new road to replace the old one in 1954. Yes, nearly three decades after it became a state road, SR 135 (formerly SR 35) was getting some work to make it safer for travelers.

The bridge just west of the old bridge at the location of the old Millport Ferry was opened for bidding in September 1954. The design of the bridge was to be of seven spans, 28 foot of right of way for drivers, and 26 inch pedestrian walkways on each side. The bidding, opened on 21 September of that year, only included the bridge itself. Approaches to the bridge were to be let in another contract. It also didn’t include the tie in to the then current road north of the river.

The bridge that was being replaced had been contracted in 1883. The superstructure of that bridge, to be built completely of iron, was contracted to cost $23.00 a linear foot.

Work on the design of the new SR 135 section was completed in March 1954. According to the Seymour Tribune of 18 March 1954, “It is understood plans for the new highway are normally straight, with the new location scheduled to eliminate the present many curves on the highway, which now has about 40 turns, many of them sharp, in less than two miles.”

Construction on the new section of the road began on 6 June 1955, and according to the Jackson County Banner of 3 August 1955, was expected to “be completed about the first of next year.” The contract connecting the new SR 135 to the new Millport Bridge would be let later, as the bridge had not been completed by that time. Until that bridge was complete, the old bridge would be in use, and the new SR 135 would connect to the old SR 135 just south of the new bridge. The following Google Map snippet shows the old road, the connection to the new road, and the location of the old bridge.

The new section of road would open in mid-December 1955. The entire route was concrete, with the exception of the south approach to the new Millport bridge, which was graveled to allow traffic access to the new bridge. The gravel would be replaced with concrete the following summer. The old iron Millport bridge would be removed soon after the opening of the road.

Planning and Building I-65 in Southeast Jackson County

When the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 was made the law of the land, states throughout the United States started looking at how to cash in on the new superhighway plan. Rough routes had already been laid out. It was up to the states, more or less, to nail it down even more. While there were already sections of road that were going to be added to the new interstate system, I want to focus on one of the built from scratch sections that was planned. This section was so quick to be added to the highway system that it was announced in the Seymour Tribune on 14 February 1958. It would connect US 50 east of Seymour to Uniontown.

“Early Construction May Put New Road Near Here In Use Before Rest Of New Highway.” That was what the sub-headline read in the Tribune that day. Engineer for the Seymour District of the Indiana State Highway Commission, E. C. Willis, announced on that Valentines Day 1958 that the new superhighway, not mentioned by number in the article, was on the 1958 State construction plans.

According to the information put out by the ISHC, interchanges were to be built at US 50, just west of the then current US 31, and at SR 250, east of Uniontown. “This will permit the new stretch of the superhighway to be used between those two points before the remainder of the new limited access highway is completed.” The new highway would run roughly parallel to US 31, the major highway through the area.

“Survey parties of the state highway department still are working on staking the right of way for the proposed new road and one of them is now engaged between U. S. 50 and Kriete’s curve southeast of Seymour. Due to the deeply frozen condition of the ground from the recent continued near-zero temperatures, the survey party is encountering difficulties but is continuing its work with interruption for the extreme cold in order that the project can be rushed under this year’s schedule.”

The article goes on to state that right of way purchase at the Jeffersonville end of the new road had already begun.

Google Maps image of the area known as the Kriete Curve.

“The programming of the Uniontown-U.S. 50 stretch in the 1958 highway plans will permit the early construction of that section of the new road, which will include the utilization of the three sets of new dual-lane bridges south of the present Kriete curve, which have been under construction for some time and are about ready for use when a road is built to them.” I would assume from that statement that the state had already planned to move US 31 southeast of Seymour, and that bridges were already built pending completion of the road. With the creation of the interstate system, those bridges could be easily moved to the replacement highway, to be called Interstate 65. It is also safe to assume that the bridges in question crossed the Muscatatuck River, as shown in the Google Maps image.

The section of Interstate 65 in question was shown as under construction on the 1959 Indiana Official State Highway Map. It was shown as complete to a point north of SR 256 near Austin on the 1960 version of the same map. The same 1960 map shows completion of I-65 north from Jeffersonville to Underwood, with the section between Underwood and Austin under construction.

End of Year 1940: ISHC Projects and Contract Bidding

On 13 December 1940, it was announced that the Indiana State Highway Commission was about to open some bidding on projects, and that the bidding would be received by 31 December. These projects included four grade separations, eight bridges and thirty miles of paving and resurfacing.

Sherman Drive and Big Four, 1937
Sherman Drive and Big Four, 1962

One of the biggest projects on the bidding list involved a city street in Indianapolis. Sherman Drive, a major thoroughfare three miles east of the center of Indianapolis, crossed the Big Four Railroad northeast of the railroad’s major yards at Beech Grove. That yard is just over one mile southeast of the Sherman Drive. According to the press release from the ISHC, “among the grade separations to be built are a 13-span structure on Sherman Drive southeast of Indianapolis, to carry traffic over the CCC & St. Louis Railroad yard.” As shown in the picture to the left, this was an at grade crossing of multiple tracks. The picture at the right shows the same area of Sherman Drive in 1962.

Another bridge project opened for bidding at this time was grade separation on the Marion State Road 9 Bypass, crossing over the Chesapeake & Ohio and the Pennsylvania Railroads. That bridge was planned to be a seven span structure. Another bridge to be built in the Marion area was a 392-foot structure over the Mississinewa River on the same SR 9 bypass. The bridge was to have a 28 foot roadway and sidewalks.

Paving projects included in this round of bidding were: 1.291 miles of US 50 realignment in Washington, Daviess County; 4.938 of SR 1 paving from Leo north to Allen-Dekalb County Line in Allen County; and paving 2.391 miles of SR 9 bypass (Baldwin Avenue) from Second Street in Marion, Grant County.

Another SR 9 project in Grant (and Huntington) County included widening and resurfacing 21.30 miles of SR 9 from 1/2 mile north of Marion to Huntington. The road was to be widened to 22-foot wide. Also in Madison County would be the widening of three miles SR 9 from SR 67 north to the Anderson city limits.

The last road project would be the widening and resurfacing of US 31 from the north edge of Franklin to the south edge of Greenwood, through Whiteland and New Whiteland. This contract would include 9.1 miles of highway.

Guard rail projects were also part of the bidding. Those installations would be in Adams, Allen, Dekalb, Elkhart, Floyd, Franklin, Grant, Hamilton, Hancock, Henry, Huntington, Jackson, Jennings, Johnson, LaGrange, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Miami, Monroe, Morgan, Noble, Randolph, Steuben, Union, Wabash and Whitley Counties. These were on roads 3, 6, 9, 13, 15, 18, 20, 22, 24, 27, 29, 31, 37, 44, 50, 52, 67, 109, 128, 150, 209, 327, 427 and 434.