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.

Lafayette Rail Relocation

Cover photo courtesy of Justin L. Grayson, as was the idea for the post.

When the railroads started coming to towns across the United States, it was a sign of prestige to have a railroad company build a line through the middle of a city street. While the towns thought it was something to be proud of, crossing the tracks was almost impossible. Lafayette was a town of rail crossings…and street running. As I have written about before, Lafayette was the home of several railroad lines. But toward the middle of the 1990’s, this was going to change…with the help of a lot of federal, state and local tax money.

1941 USGS Topo Map of downtown Lafayette, IN.

The actual beginning of discussions about relocating railroad tracks through the city of Lafayette occurred in 1926, when the city first proposed such relocations. Between 1963 and 1973, a series of engineering studies were commissioned by city officials to look at the possibility.

The idea of moving the railroad tracks through Lafayette started moving forward in 1974, when a study was conducted by the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). It was announced by Mayor James Riehle, on 11 July 1975, that a project director was named for the relocation. That director would be Herbert Thomas, vice-president of transportation at Kaiser Engineers, Inc. His local resident manager would be James Ellis.

It was also announced that day that the first two phases of the project would be completed in about ten months from that time. Phase one included the above mentioned SRI study. Phase two would consist primarily of engineering. The final two phases, design and construction, were not put on any schedule as of July 1975.

Mr. Thomas said “relocation plans here are not the biggest he has seen in the country, but said ‘the Lafayette project would be a major one for any city,'” as reported in the Lafayette Journal and Courier of 12 July 1975. He also referred to the “railroad-motor vehicle situation in Lafayette ‘a serious problem,’ noting that on a previous visit he was stopped by a train while hurrying to reach Weir Cook Airport.”

According to the Journal and Courier, “one important aspect of the Kaiser work will be to determine if the negative impact on the Monon Avenue area can be lessened.” Thomas said that “the alignment developed so far can only be reguarded (sic) as preliminary.”

One year later, in July 1976, Kaiser Engineering was set to begin look at the various alternatives to the new railroad location. Project Manager Ken Knevel said that the company would concentrate its work on the riverfront corridor since it received the most support locally. “Everything we’re doing now is just in response to individuals’ comments. The riverfront has been indicated as the preferred corridor.” (Source: Lafayette Journal and Courier, 24 July 1976.) Paul Stitt of the Norfolk & Western and Jack Smith of the Louisville & Nashville both agreed that the riverfront corridor would be best for both their companies’ operations. Conrail’s representative, John Partridge, said “otehr alternative corridors – bypassing the city and using the current N&W and L&N lines – is less satisfactory than the riverfront.”

The Louisville and Nashville, by way of their purchase of the Monon, was running trains through the middle of Fifth Street at the time. However, they did own a stub line that started just north of Main Street (and the Main Street bridge across the Tippecanoe River) traveling northeast to connect to the the street running route, and railroad yards, northeast of Fifth Street. Connecting this stub to the Nickel Plate and Wabash two blocks south along the riverfront would not be that much of a stretch.

Funding was going to be a constant problem, especially from the mid-1970’s to 1980. Washington had become very tight fisted when it came to money. The mayor of Lafayette had gone to Washington DC in March 1977 to ensure that funding would be available for the project through 1980. There were no guarantees.

There were as many as 19 railroad relocation projects in some sort of process in the late 1970’s. Lafayette had gained national attention because it involved consolidating three railroad companies into one line through the city.

Between 1976 and 1978, two neighborhoods were the focus of studies for the relocation plan. Those neighborhoods, the Wabash and the Monon, were going to be directly affected by the moving of the tracks.

The first construction phase finally started in October 1984, when Congress appropriated $7 million. Less than a year later, in September 1985, five homes were torn down to prepare to place Wabash Avenue 23 feet below the relocated train tracks. Things started looking bad again in 1987 when a pending Presidential Veto threatened $20 million in funding over five years for the project…and the insistence from Federal officials that state and local governments pony up 20% of the cost. Something in which INDOT said they weren’t really keen on participating. That veto was overridden by the House and Senate.

The next phase of construction after the override of that veto included a replacement for the Main Street bridge over the Wabash River, new approach ramps to the Harrison Bridge (now Old US 231) and a rail corridor between Ninth Street and Wabash Avenue to replace the Fifth Street street running tracks. A new $11 million North Ninth Street rail underpass was scheduled to being construction in late 1987.

Construction photo of the Lafayette Railroad Relocation, date unknown. Photo courtesy of Justin L. Grayson.

By 1994, the street running along Fifth Street had come to an end. According to the Journal and Courier of 22 July 1994, those were “crossings eliminated today.” Also according to the same newspaper graphic, phase 5 was to be completed in 1998-99 that would relocate the Norfolk Southern’s Wabash double-track corridor to the riverfront route, eliminating 24 crossings from Kossuth Street to Underwood Street.

Lafayette Courier & Journal, 2 August 2003,
announcing the end of the Railroad Relocation
Office in Lafayette.

The project’s offices would finally closed down on 1 August 2003. There were a lot of behind the scenes work that needed to be finished by the office, but the relocation was done. There was also one thing, historically, that was brought up when construction was occurring in 1993. While digging up the foundation of the old Big Four Station in Lafayette, some timbers from the Wabash & Erie Canal were found. The officials with the Railroad Relocation sent those timbers to Columbia, SC, for preservation. They were returned to Lafayette and given to the Tippecanoe County Historical Society for display.

The project would cost a grand total of $186 million in the end. It would not only affect rail transport through the area, but road transport changed as well. The old Main Street bridge in downtown Lafayette was changed to a pedestrian facility. Ultimately, all INDOT facilities in the city itself would be removed…leaving no state or US roads to downtown.

State Roads, 1831 (Part 2)

This is a continuation of yesterday’s entry: State Roads, 1831 (Part 1). Remember: The concept of “state road” was completely different that it is today. Today, a state road is a road that has become the responsibility of the state transportation authority (for instance, now INDOT). Then a state road was a road that was authorized by the state, paid for by the state, but built and maintained by the county through which the road passed. So, basically, the state using Federal land proceeds to pay for, what will be, county roads. Some of these routes DID cross the line between the two different types of state roads.

Section 7: The section first listed in this act, from Frankford (Frankfort) to Delphi roughly follows US 421. The route to connect to the road that was mentioned in Section 6 of the same chapter, this road could have basically used a (more or less) straight line that follows SR 18 from downtown Delphi to SR 43. Or, followed what is now US 421 from Delphi to Michigan City. I am leaning toward the former.

Sections 8, 9 and 10: These sections talk about the Commissioners: their oaths, duties, paperwork to be done, and payment for service. Other things discussed was the fact that although the state is paying to make the road, it is the county’s responsibility to open and maintain them. The minimum requirement for the road to be open is that it be no more than 40 feet wide.

The three percent fund is the money that the Federal Government gave the state after the sales of Federal land. The state was given three percent of the sale price.

Section 11: Of the several places mentioned in this section, one (Baltimore) disappeared when the Wabash & Erie Canal was built on the opposite bank of the Wabash River, and another (Legrange) is very hard to find out any information. There is one old brick house left of Baltimore. It is located on SR 263 at Warren CR 1025S. (Strangely, Google Maps has SR 263 labeled “Old State Highway 63” as the street name.) The road starts at the Warren County line as Warren CR 600W. The original road has disappeared between US 136 and the old location of Baltimore.

Section 12: This is one of those “special acts” that I mentioned in my Indiana Toll Road(s) post on 24 May 2019. The state road starts at one person’s farm? Really? Exactly where IS Walker’s Farm in Parke County? At least from Clinton to Newport, the road roughly resembles SR 63 (or, at least, old SR 63).

The Acts of 1830, available here, shows more state road laws put into place that year. I will be covering those at a later date.