The Beginning, and End, of SR 534

As the Indiana State Highway Commission’s inventory of state roads was growing, the thought of putting a bypass around the city of Indianapolis hit the planning sheets. The original plan started appearing on official highway maps in 1932. But little would be done for almost a decade. In 1941, the start of a bypass road was contracted…and built. But there was more to it than just a section along the east side from Fort Harrison to Nora.

Yes, that’s right. From Fort Harrison to Nora. The original road that was started in 1941 followed 56th Street from Fort Harrison out to a new construction road along what was, and still is, the Shadeland corridor. At the time, it was Shadeland Road. But that corridor only ran from 10th Street to 56th Street, creating a dead end road north of 56th Street into the Woolen Gardens. A complete history of the road is available as “SR 100: How did it come to be?

The Indianapolis News, 24 July 1941
Legal notice for contract to build SR 534 from
56th Street to Castleton.

Things started happening on the bypass route in 1941, when the first contracts were let. As is typical of the ISHC at the time, the road was contracted separately from the bridges. The first contracts for the road were let in July 1941. The legal notices were published for the contract, as shown on the left. The bids were to be in the hands of the ISHC by 5 August 1941 at 10 AM Central Standard Time (the time zone Indianapolis was in at the time). The plan was for a reinforced concrete road surface north from 56th Street to the old state road that turned west along what is now 82nd Street.

The bridge over Fall Creek was let out for contract in September 1941, with the description “structure on State Road 534” details as a five span arch bridge “over Fall Creek, 2.7 Mi. North of Lawrence.” Those spans were to be, in order: one at 40 feet; three at 80 feet, and one at 40 feet. The bridge was to be of reinforced concrete arch design. Bids were to be at the ISHC by 10 AM CST on 7 October 1941.

The next leg of the road was published for contract in December 1941, with a due date of 16 December 1941. It was to include 4.578 miles of reinforced concrete from Nora to Castleton. (For the route prior to SR 534 construction, check out 82nd and 86th Street Before SR 534 (SR 100).) This would complete the first opened section of SR 534 in Indiana.

Then World War II started.

The Indianapolis News, of 21 December 1942, opined that the ISHC was in a holding pattern when it came to the building of the bypass road. The road was not mentioned by number, but the route was discussed. “One link, approaching Ft. Benjamin Harrison by way of Allisonville and Castleton, has been completed and is in use. The belt highway, discussed for years, will extend south, intersection Roads 40, 52 and 29, until it reaches the Thompson Road, where it will continue west, intersecting Roads 31, 37 and 67.” With the Shadeland Road corridor only extending as far as 10th Street, this would require the acquisition of right-of-way and building of four miles of new road from 10th Street to Troy Avenue/Southeastern Avenue/SR 29. South from here, the road was already in place as the Five Points Road.

“At Valley Mills it will turn north, crossing roads 40, 36 and 34, eventually intersecting Road 52, where it will join the northern east-and-west link that has been built.” This would put the road along the High School Road corridor on the west side. This would also include a state road that connected US 40 to the Indianapolis Municipal Airport. That state road was designated SR 100 when it was commissioned.

“The practical value of such a construction program has long been recognized, both for ordinary traffic and for commercial vehicles that will be enabled to by-pass Indianapolis without contributing to traffic congestion be traversing the downtown streets.”

The article concluded as follows: “A belt line around Indianapolis has been considered ever since the old days of the “Dandy Trail” when gravel roads were marked and motorists wore linen dusters. The successor to that trail is one of the numerous tasks that are being held in abeyance until the war is won.”

The designation of SR 534 would be applied to the east leg from Washington Street north to 82nd Street, then along the 82nd/86th Street corridor to SR 29, Michigan Road. In the summer of 1949, the following was published in the Indianapolis News: “Some of our highways are known by name as well as number. Thus the route called State Road 534 could be more easily found if you called it Shadeland Drive. This road, leading north from Road 40, east of Indianapolis, intersects with Roads 31, 431, 37, 52 and 29 and is part of what, some day, will be a belt line around the city. But what we started out to say is that on the new Indiana highway maps it is 534 no longer. The new number is 100.”

And with that, the ISHC removed one of the “daughters” of State Road 34, stretching the SR 100 designation from a short section of High School Road to the entire bypass. Or, at least, the sections that would be completed before it was entirely replaced by Interstate 465.

Westfield Boulevard Bridge Over White River

Indianapolis News photo, 2 October 1974

1891. A steel bridge was built to cross the White River north of Broad Ripple on what was then called the Indianapolis & Westfield Free Gravel Road. As was typical of the time, the bridge crossed the White River at a 90 degree angle, making for the approaches, especially the southern approach, were a little tight. The bridge would be used until the city of Indianapolis would have to tear it down in 1977.

The bridge built in 1891 was a replacement for a bridge that had served for many years at the location. The road had been originally built as the Westfield State Road in the 1830’s. Later, in the late 1840’s, the road would be sold to a toll road company for maintenance and to become a turnpike. This would last until the late 1880’s, when it was purchased back by Marion County for the free use of travelers. It would still be the Free Gravel Road when the new bridge was built.

The original road would cross the river as shown in the 1972 aerial photograph above. The sudden right turn approaching the bridge from the south would later create a bottle neck that the State wanted to take care of…or just bypass altogether.

In the mid-1910’s, the old Westfield State Road would acquire a new name: the Range Line Road, an Auto-Trail that would connect Indianapolis to Kokomo and Peru through Westfield. The Range Line Road gained its name because it followed the survey line that separated Range 3 East and Range 4 East in the survey that divided Indiana into one mile square sections.

Another name was given to the road in 1917 – Main Market Road 1. This was the predecessor to State Road 1, which this became in 1919. This brought the Westfield Road, and its two lane bridge over White River into the state highway system. But it wouldn’t be long until the Indiana State Highway Commission discovered the errors in the naming of this route as a major State Road. While in Indianapolis, and up to what is now 86th Street (later SR 534/100), the road was winding and narrow.

Part of being part of the state highway system is that state roads are, with very few exceptions, automatically truck routes. And running trucks through Broad Ripple, even today, could best be described as “fun,” at least sarcastically. The old state road followed Westfield Boulevard from Meridian Street until it turned north in Broad Ripple…making the turn at Winthrop Avenue and the Monon Railroad tracks interesting. It also gets tight while hugging the White River.

The state would bypass this section of US 31 by building a new road straight north along the Meridian Street corridor. This caused a lot of protesting from the people of Carmel, fearing that their main drag, Range Line Road, would be left to rot, and travelers would be guided around the town. While US 31 bypassed this section, it would be given a replacement state road number: SR 431.

Meanwhile, the White River bridge lumbered on. By 1931, SR 431 was now using the facility. It would stay that way until the building of I-465…which would cause the state to move SR 431 from Westfield Boulevard to Keystone Avenue. The state’s maintenance of the White River bridge would end in 1968.

It didn’t take long for the bridge to fall into disrepair. By 1974, it was recommended to the city that the road and bridge be closed completely to traffic. If not immediately, at most within the next two years. The city would lower the weight limit to five tons in 1974. But this did not solve the pending problems with the bridge. In addition, around the 7300 block of Westfield, was another bridge over what is known as the “overflow channel,” a small White River cutoff north of the main channel of the river. The bridge over the overflow channel was in as bad or worse shape than the truss bridge in the 6700 block of Westfield.

1972 MapIndy aerial photograph of the Westfield Boulevard bridge over the White River Overflow Channel in the 7300 block of Westfield Boulevard.

The main bridge would be closed in 1977 for the building of a replacement of the facility. Business owners of Broad Ripple, as early as 1974, had been arguing for either fixing or replacing the bridge in place. Their discussions concerned the fact that straightening the road would allow for high speed traffic to come in through “Broad Ripple’s back door.” Keeping the tight and winding approaches to the White River bridge would slow traffic down before entering the neighborhood. Both ideas were continuously shot down by the city of Indianapolis, the owners of the facility. The City went so far as to recommending that Westfield Boulevard be closed between Broad Ripple Avenue and 75th Street, thus removing the need to replace the bridge altogether.

As it turned out, the bridge would be replaced. Or, more to the point, bypassed. The next photo, a 1978 aerial taken from MapIndy, shows the new bridge and the old bridge it replaced. The old bridge would be completely removed from aerial photos the following year.

1978 MapIndy aerial photograph showing the replacement Westfield Boulevard bridge over White River, and the location of the old bridge.

The new bridge would open on 12 June 1978. But the road wouldn’t. In an example of just fantastic government planning, the Overflow Channel bridge would be closed in either August or September of 1978 for replacement. This would cause the new bridge to be used for only local traffic until the following year, 1979, when the new overflow channel bridge would be completed.

1993 aerial MapIndy photograph showing the Westfield Boulevard bridge over the White River Overflow Channel (7300 block of Westfield Boulevard). Also shown is the abandoned Monon Railroad, prior to the creation of the Monon Trail.

With the opening of the Overflow Channel bridge, Westfield Boulevard was opened again for traffic from Broad Ripple to Nora…and hence north to the downtowns of Carmel and Westfield. While reaching downtown Westfield using the old road has become more difficult with the redesign of US 31 through Hamilton County, it still can be followed on maps – and for the most part in cars, as well.

Bicycling Marion County, 1900, Part 2

Today is part two of two of covering a map I found on the Indiana State Library website about bicycling in Marion County, and the routes that were available.

Bluff Road: The direct route to Martinsville, Bloomington and points south. It was named after the Bluffs of the White River at Waverly. It was one of the first trails to connect to the Hoosier Capitol, as a lot of settlers would start their journey into Marion County from Waverly.

Clifford Avenue Pike: The extension of 10th Street past the city limits. The bicycle route ended at what is now Arlington Avenue, which connected Clifford Avenue to National Road and Brookville Pike.

Flackville Pike: The town of Flackville was created near what is now 30th Street and Lafayette Road. The Pike leading to the town is an extension of Indianapolis’ 30th Street.

Madison Road: The Madison-Indianapolis State Road, which the later Madison & Indianapolis Railroad would closely follow. Today, Madison Road is now Madison Avenue.

Millers Pike: Today known as Millersville Road, since that is where the road ended. A connecting route back to the White River & Fall Creek Pike used what is now 56th Street.

Myers Pike: This road would, in later life, become Cold Spring Road, connecting the Lafayette Road to the Michigan Road on the west (north) side of the White River.

Pendleton Pike: The old (1830’s) state road to the Falls of Fall Creek, where the town of Pendleton was formed. The old road went through Oakland (now Oaklandon), instead of basically around it like it does now.

Rockville Pike: The original Indianapolis-Rockville State Road. Still called Rockville Road for most of its length today. The old road is hard to navigate at its original beginning, since it was removed when Holt Road was built north of Washington Street. Rockville Avenue is the old road.

Shelbyville Road: The original state road to the seat of Shelby County. Its importance dropped off after the building of the Michigan Road. Near the current intersection of Shelbyville Road and Stop 11 Road/Frye Road, a branch took riders to Acton. At Acton, a branch from the Michigan Road came from the north.

Spring Mills Pike: The original path of Spring Mill Road started at the city limits on Illinois Street, crossing the White River near where Kessler Boulevard does today. It then continued up what is now Spring Mill Road into Hamilton County.

Sugar Flats Pike: The continuation of Central Avenue outside the city limits up to the Central Canal towpath, then following what is now Westfield Boulevard through Nora and into Hamilton County. The bike path led, after leaving Marion County, to the downtown area of Carmel.

Three Notch Pike: What is now Meridian Street was, for around a century, known as the Three Notch Road. The bicycle route followed Meridian Street from the Bluff Road intersection down to the county line.

White River and Fall Creek Pike: Labeled on the map as the White River and Eagle Creek Pike, this old road turned bicycle route followed the continuation of Keystone Avenue past the city limits to its end at River Road. Keep in mind, what is now Keystone Avenue north of White River was built by the state as a replacement for SR 431, which used to use Westfield Boulevard.

1896: Bicycling to Noblesville

In April 1896, as part of the Indianapolis News series of articles concerning bicycle routes from Indianapolis, it is pointed out that “the trip to Noblesville seems to be a favorite ride for Indianapolis wheelmen this season.” The route is listed as being in fine condition, as long as you don’t completely follow the Allisonville Pike.

At the time, the Allisonville Pike was a rerouted version of the original Indianapolis-Fort Wayne state road, at least through most of the city itself. The original road used Central Avenue to Sutherland Avenue, winding its way to the old 39th Street bridge across Fall Creek to follow Fall Creek and Allisonville Road north through the county. The reroute went straight up Central Avenue to Maple Road (now 38th Street), then follows Fall Creek to connect at the 39th Street bridge with the original route.

The conditions of the road to Noblesville were kept in very good shape over the years. It was a very popular route. “There are some fairly stiff hills on the route, but they are all fit for coasting, an the riders can afford to do a little turn on foot after the exhilarating effect of a mile a minute a clip down a steep grade.”

The newspaper article mentions three methods of reaching what is, now, Allisonville Road. First, the paper points out that while the road is in excellent shape, the section of Central Avenue above Fall Creek is not. Which leads to the second point, which is the recommendation to use Meridian Street north to Maple Road, then east to the State Fairgrounds. The third point is that another popular way to get to the Allisonville Road is to follow College Avenue north then skirting Fall Creek using the Millersville Road to the bridge opposite the fairgrounds. That bridge, at this time, is at 39th Street. This last route is “probably the most satisfactory way to reach the road.”

“The Allisonville pike turns northeast in passing the Fair grounds, and for a mile follows Fall creek. Just at the upper edge of the Fair grounds it crosses the L. E. & W. (Lake Erie & Western) tracks.” Those railroad tracks would later become the Nickle Plate formerly used by the Fair Train. Near where Keystone Avenue is now was the location of “one of the most picturesque spots along Fall creek,” or Schofield’s Mill. There was also an old dam just upstream from the mill. The old dam is still there, of sorts. There is also a newer dam basically under Keystone Avenue.

Where Keystone Avenue is now, the road is described as “White river and Fall creek gravel road.” It is opposite of Hammond’s Park, described as “one of the prettiest spots of natural scenery about Indianapolis.” The White River and Fall Creek Road ran through Malott Park and within a quarter mile of Broad Ripple Park, at least according to the News.

Back to the Allisonville Road, 1.75 miles north of Hammond’s Park is a dirt road connecting Malott Park to Millersville. That road, described as both a popular route for bicycle riders and one of the best dirt roads in the county, is now 56th Street. Shortly north of that road, the Pike crossed the L. E. & W. tracks again before a good condition dirt road leading to Broad Ripple Park and Broad Ripple. That road is now 62nd Street.

For the next two miles above the Broad Ripple road, the route is described as “very undulating” road. The Pike then drops into a valley and crosses a small stream before, at the 2.5 mile mark, it enters the village of Allisonville. From Allisonville, a road leads to the west to Dawson’s Bridge and Nora, and to the east leads to Castleton. That road, at the time called the Andy Smith Pike, now is called 82nd Street. Half a mile north of there was a dirt road (now 86th Street) that lead east to the village of Vertland on the LE&W tracks.

Before leaving Marion County, and entering Hamilton County, the old road climbed one of the biggest hills on the entire route. After crossing the county line, the next major crossroad (now 116th Street) connected the Allisonville Pike to Fisher’s Station on the LE&W railroad. From there, it was five miles to the destination of Noblesville.

The article, like the one I posted about the Michigan Road, mentions a route to get back to Indianapolis. In this case, it would be the Westfield Road. I will cover that in a later entry.

US 31 in Hamilton and Marion Counties

When the original State Highway Commission law was passed in March 1917, one of the original “Main Market Highways” was the Range Line Road north of Indianapolis. This was designated Highway 1. The Range Line Road was, and still is, built basically due north and south through most of Hamilton County, and followed the old Westfield Pike through northern Marion County to Broad Ripple.

The old road followed what is now Meridian Street north to the old Central Canal, where it turned to follow the canal to near its connection at White River. The old road is called “Westfield Boulevard” through this section.

What this Google Map doesn’t show is how tight the road actually gets through this section. One of the purposes of the state road system was to make truck routes throughout the state. The system is designed so that all trucks, with some marked exceptions, be allowed to use the designated routes without hassles. The section at Broad Ripple was a little questionable with the width of the road in spots.

From Broad Ripple, the old road followed basically a straight line, the Range Line, to just south of Kokomo. Through when entering the old section of Carmel, the road name became Range Line Road, a tribute to the old Auto Trail name. North of Carmel, it was called Westfield Road until it reached Westfield, where it became Union Street.

This route, on 1 October 1926, became part of US 31. The limitations of the route had been apparent from the beginning. They really became a problem with more trucks on the road. It wasn’t long until the State Highway Commission decided to bypass the section from Broad Ripple to Carmel.

In 1929, plans were announced to build a new US 31 from the Central Canal to just north of downtown Carmel. There were some that didn’t like the idea. The citizens of Carmel didn’t like the idea of being removed from the state highway. They recommended connecting the new road from the canal north along what is now Meridian Street to the old road near Nora.

History shows us that the town of Carmel didn’t get their way. Sort of. And, well, bypass wasn’t exactly true either.

For starters, the new US 31 Carmel bypass was built to connect to the old road just south of what is now 146th Street, pretty much like it is now. The difference is that the road now known as Old Meridian Street was the bypass, not the current section from basically between where 121st Street would be and 136th Street/Smokey Row Road. The current US 31 in that section is a bypass of the bypass.

It’s not hard to see where the original bypass and the new bypass start and end in this Google Map.

The second thing that happened did address the fact that Carmel would have been removed from the state highway system. The old road was changed from US 31 to SR 431. This really didn’t fix the problems with the old road. It wouldn’t be until the mid-1960s that the suggestion that Carmel had made was acted upon. Again, sort of. By that time, construction of I-465 was moving right along, and the route of SR 431 was moved to follow Keystone Avenue from SR 37 (Fall Creek Parkway) north to 86th Street, then west along 86th Street to Westfield Boulevard. A couple of years later, with the completion of both I-465 and Keystone Avenue to 146th Street, the original SR 1/US 31/Range Line Road was reverted to local control. (As an aside, it would be a little over 30 years later that SR 431 was completely removed from the state road system.)

But it wasn’t ALL bad with the moving of US 31. First, it made traffic flow better and safer (ahem…well). Second, the state built built a beautiful bridge over the White River on what is now just Meridian Street. (US 31 inside I-465 was decommissioned on 1 July 1999, making Meridian Street a city property.) Jim Grey, a fellow blogger and road geek, posted a great write up about it. He comes at it with both a road geek and a photographer view.

It can be seen here:
https://blog.jimgrey.net/2017/03/17/the-meridian-street-bridge-over-the-white-river/