Indianapolis and Requested Changes to the Interstates

The construction of the interstates in and around Indianapolis were always contentious. Whether it be a direct route to the northeast side, or the routing of Interstate 65 from downtown, controversy was never a stranger to the entire process. Things were desired, things were shot down. Today, I want to focus on some requests from the Metropolitan Plan Commission to the State Highway Commission when it came to the designs of both I-465 on the east side and I-65 on the south side. These requests were publicized in July 1968.

The reason that the Metropolitan Plan Commission ever was involved in the first place was a then new Federal regulation designating the group as the review agency for the entire region. The MPC was given review powers over any project that used Federal funds in any way.

The first project that they wanted to change involved I-465 from 56th Street to White River. The major recommendation for this project is that land be acquired between the interstate and Shadeland Avenue, then SR 100, for landscaping between the two. The MPC also made the request that SR 100 between Fort Benjamin Harrison and Castleton be widened, eventually.

Two other recommendations for I-465 were purchase of more right of way in the area of Allisonville Road and 82nd Street, and the removal of the planned 75th Street bridge. The first would allow improvements to the intersection of Allisonville and 82nd…something that is always needed, especially after improvements are made. The second would have eliminated any crossing of the interstate between 82nd Street, which at the time was SR 100, and 71st Street.

The major recommendations were made to the south side on Interstate 65, however. Those recommendations would lead to a very different scenario for those traveling I-65 between Thompson Road and Whiteland Road.

The first recommendation involved Stop 8 Road, now called Edgewood Avenue. The original plan involved Stop 8 Road crossing over the interstate, as it does to this day. The MPC recommended that plan be scrapped, and a full interchange be put in at Stop 8 Road. The building of the current overpass at Edgewood required the demolition of two homes, and the building of an access road to several others. As shown in the 1962 MapIndy aerial photograph below, it would have required much more ROW acquisition.

The second recommendation was to change the planned interchange at Southport Road to just a grade separation. That’s right. The busy intersection of Southport Road and Emerson Avenue would have not involved an interstate interchange as it does today. I am unsure why such a recommendation would have been made. Below is an aerial picture of the area in 1962.

Next, the Metropolitan Plan Commission recommended a change to the width of the Stop 11 bridge clearance, making it wider. This would allow a wider roadway under Stop 11 Road. They also recommended that it be considered for conversion to a full interchange at a later point.

The last two recommendations would allow for a wider roadway for the interstate, and room for expansion later. The two bridges that would be involved were the Emerson Avenue bridge and the County Line Road bridge. The ROW under these two structures, it was recommended, should be wider.

In the end, most of the recommendations involving interchanges were shot down in the end. Southport Road became the access point to I-65. You could still cross the interstates at Edgewood Avenue, Stop 11 Road, and 75th Street. The bridges at Emerson and County Line were made wider and higher for future expansion.

SR 67 in Northeast Marion County

When the Great Renumbering occurred on 1 October 1926, the number 67 was assigned to the Pendleton Pike connecting Indianapolis to Pendleton, through Lawrence and Oaklandon. This would be part of the greater State Road 67 stretching from Vincennes to Muncie…and later to the Ohio State Line. But the route in Indianapolis, and northeast Marion County, would carry the road along Massachusetts Avenue to the city limits, where the name would change to Pendleton Pike.

One of the first changes would involve the adding of US 36 to the same path. Although US 36 is higher in priority, most of the businesses along the old route kept the “67” as part of their names if it included it. As a matter of fact, I find it hard to believe that even today, there are no businesses along that road that include the number “36,” at least as I can recall. But there is a Motel 6t7…with a US route shield shaped sign…as shown to the left.

Changes were being planned for the road in 1933, when it was decided that SR 67 (and as a result, US 36) would be three laned from Indianapolis to Anderson. This would result in a change in the historic path of the Pendleton Pike from northeast of the then town of Lawrence to just south of Pendleton. In Oaklandon, for instance, the old SR 67 followed the current path of Pendleton Pike to what is now Oaklandon Road (formerly Germantown Road, named after the village that is now currently under water in Geist Reservoir at the Marion-Hamilton County line). The road then went north on Germantown (Oaklandon) to Broadway, turning northeast on that street. The old connection between Broadway (old SR 67) and the current Pendleton Pike (US 36/SR 67) still can be seen northeast of Oaklandon.

In 1935, the State Highway Commission decided that the number of miles inside the City of Indianapolis that it had to maintain would best be served if the number was lower. At the time, most of the northern city limit was at 38th Street, the dividing line between the middle tier and northern tier of townships. Where the Pendleton Pike now ends, at 38th Street west of Shadeland, was where the city ended at that point in history.

A bridge contract was let to Edward F. Smith to build a five span, 217 foot long bridge over the Big Four Railroad along 38th Street west of the intersection with SR 67, which was Massachusetts Avenue/Pendleton Pike. The bridge, in 1935, cost $143,825.01. The Indianapolis News of 25 May 1935 states that “Thirty-eighth street, with this and other contemplated improvements, is to become State Road 67. Construction will start in a few days and is scheduled to be completed by November 15.” Plans to move SR 67 to the 38th Street corridor were mentioned in newspapers as far back as June 1933, when plans for a new Fall Creek bridge on 38th Street, near the State Fair Grounds, were in the works.

While construction was going on between Indianapolis and Anderson in 1935, the official detour route had changed in late June. The original detour involved taking US 40 to Greenfield, then north on SR 9 to Pendleton. The new official detour recommended using SR 13 (became SR 37, now Allisonville Road) to SR 32 in Noblesville, then SR 32 to Anderson. This was recommended over the SR 38 route to Pendleton since SR 32 was a hard surface road, and large section of the newly added SR 38 were still gravel.

By 1937, SR 67 would find itself skirting Indianapolis, at least on the north side, along 38th Street. The old SR 67, Massachusetts Avenue, would find itself labelled SR 367. The three lane project between Indianapolis and Anderson would be completed, and Oaklandon would find itself bypassed by one of the two transportation facilities that made it possible. Now, most of what is left of SR 67 on the northeast side of Marion County (Pendleton Pike from I-465 east) is at least five lanes wide…but quite a bit of it is seven.

State Highway Department Construction Plans for 1963-1965

On 14 November 1961, the Indiana State Highway Department announced its plans for the construction projects for the two year period between 1 July 1963 and 30 June 1965. The two year project between 1961 and 1963 was planned to cost $268.3 million. The 1963-1965 plans would cost slightly less, at $235.2 million. The projected construction would build 408.06 miles of roads across the state.

Of that 408 miles, almost 154 miles of that would be for the interstate highway system. Put on the books to be built in that time was most of Interstate 69 in Indiana. Nearly 103 miles of that road, from Pendleton to the Indiana Toll Road, were to be placed under contract and built starting in July 1963. It would focus on two sections: Pendleton to southwest of Fort Wayne; and US 6 to the Toll Road.

Another interstate project, accounting for 17.7 miles of road, included Interstate 74 from Lizton to Crawfordsville. This was a continuation of the interstate from its then end at Lizton, which would be opened in the fall of 1961 from I-465’s west leg to Lizton.

Another interstate project included in the plan was that of Interstate 65 in Lake County from the county line to the toll road. This project included 22.7 miles of new interstate highway.

David Cohen, State Highway Commission chairman, stated that the construction of connections with I-65 and I-69 would help the “financially-ailing toll road.” In addition to the new interstate connections, the Toll Road Commission would be helped by their own lobbying. The Highway Commission had been put under pressure to slow construction on the Tri-State Highway, a toll free alternative to the turnpike. No projects involving the Tri-State were listed in the 1963-1965 plans.

Marion County would have its share of projects in the Construction Program. Interstate 465 would be the biggest recipient. Construction of the highway from Raymond Street to 56th Street was the largest part of the plan. Also, if the design and location of the east and north legs (from 56th Street to I-65 near Whitestown) was approved by federal officials, preliminary engineering and right of way acquisition would be conducted as part of this program.

At this point, the rest of I-465 (west and south legs) was opened, under construction, or in the 1961-1963 program. The plans for the east leg included 21 road and railroad grade separations and a bridge over Pendleton Pike (US 36/SR 67).

Three preliminary engineering projects involving the Marion County interstates were also included in the 1963-1965 program: I-65 north and west from 16th Street west of Methodist Hospital; I-69 from Pendleton to the north leg of I-465; and I-70 from I-465 west leg to West Street. Cohen mentioned no time table for the beginning of construction of the interstates in Indianapolis, but said that a section of I-65 from 38th Street north and west could be part of the 1965-1967 program.

There was a lot of other projects on the 1963-1965 program. SR 67 from Martinsville to Mooresville was to be expanded into a divided highway, and some of the kinks were to be eliminated. The new SR 37 from the south leg of I-465 to 38th Street, and divided highway treatment for 38th Street from Northwestern Avenue/Michigan Road to Capitol Avenue were also included. The SR 37 project was never completed.

A new SR 431 was also planned, starting at the north leg of SR 100 (86th Street) to US 31 at the north end of Carmel. This project would tie the new SR 431 to US 31 near the junction with the then current SR 431. At the time, SR 431 was Range Line Road/Westfield Blvd. The new SR 431 would become known as Keystone Avenue…now Keystone Parkway through Carmel.

Indianapolis News, 14 November 1961. This map shows the extent of the 1963-1965 State Highway Department Construction Program. Solid black lines show the 1963-1965 plans. Dotted lines show the 1961-1963 plan.

I-465 Construction, the PRR and Madison Avenue

Indianapolis served as a railroad capital for many years before the coming of the automobile. Since surface roads connected Indianapolis to many points in the state in many directions, it was logical that the coming of the automobile would lead to a concentration of automobile routes. But those were still subject to the locations of railroads. The interstate would change all that.

The purpose of the interstate was to create a high speed, limited interruption traffic flow. This, by definition, would require the new interstates to deal with going over or under those rail routes. Most of those intersections were accomplished with the interstate going over the railroads. And these overpasses are high, due to the clearances that were going to be required by the railroads at the time.

If one looks at a map of Interstate 465, one would notice that there is only one railroad bridge over the interstate. That bridge is the original Madison & Indianapolis, then Pennsylvania Railroad, on the southside. The reason for this really came down to the location of the interstate more than anything else.

When the interstate’s location was decided, it would follow closely to the original chosen location to SR 100 which it was replacing. That original location, in terms of Indianapolis modern street names, was Shadeland Avenue, 82nd/86th Street, High School Road, and Thompson Road. A quick glance at a map shows this.

On the southside, through the south central part of the county, this led to the interstate route traversing through the Lick Creek “valley.” The Pennsylvania Railroad already had a bridge over Lick Creek in the area. That same bridge also crossed the road leading into what was Longacre Park (being turned into a trailer park from September 1963), which had been in that location since 1926.

Louisville & Indiana (former Madison & Indianapolis/Panhandle/Pennsylvania Railroad) bridge over Lick Creek and Lick Creek Parkway into Longacre Mobile Home Park. This Google Maps image was sampled on 10 May 2020, from an image captured in June 2019. This image shows both the original bridge and the 1964 concrete expansion places on top to raise the level of the railroad.

The level of the railroad over that section of the coming interstate was right around 13 feet above ground level. This amount of clearance wasn’t enough for the State Highway Commission. This would require the Pennsylvania Railroad to raise the level of the railroad about three feet. This can be seen by the concrete extension over and above the old stone bridge over Lick Creek and Lick Creek Parkway just south of the interstate.

Google Map aerial photo of the Louisville & Indiana crossing of Interstate 465. Image was sampled 10 May 2020.

The Indianapolis Star of 27 March 1964, in a news story announcing road closures throughout the area, mentions that “Lawrence Street will be blocked for two weeks while the Pennsylvania Railroad elevated and repairs the tracks in connection with Interstate 465 construction.”

Also at work at the time was the Madison Avenue crossing of Interstate 465. Before the coming of the interstate, Madison Avenue had been a two lane state road, SR 431, south of Shelby Street. The main access to Longacre Park was actually north of Lick Creek, as shown in the following 1952 aerial photograph from MapIndy. The trailer park along Madison Avenue at Redfern Drive would come into direct play when I-465 started construction through the area.

1957 MapIndy aerial photograph of the Lick Creek area from Madison Avenue to Longacre Park.

Before the interstate construction would reach the area, a redesign of the Madison Avenue crossing of the area was already in process. The new bridge across the future interstate and Lick Creek would be two lanes in each direction. To accommodate this construction, a new, temporary, Madison Avenue would have to be built to bypass the area of the new bridge. Also, utility lines would also have to moved to the east.

1962 MapIndy aerial image of the area of Madison Avenue and Lick Creek.

The image to the left is the 1962 aerial photograph of the area from MapIndy. It shows the bypass Madison Avenue being built through the mobile home park at Redfern Drive mentioned above. The bypass would start south of the current Lick Creek Parkway, and reconnect to Madison Avenue right at the angled intersection of Shelby Street. The bypass route can be seen as the brighter road through the left center of the photo. (It hadn’t seen traffic yet, and as such was brand new concrete.)

Some people have wondered why Madison Avenue is the only (former) State Road that did not have an interchange with Interstate 465. Spacing is the only answer I could come up with. The Pennsylvania Railroad is one-quarter mile, or so, east of Madison Avenue. East Street, the US 31 bypass built in the early 1940’s, is one half mile west of Madison Avenue…not counting the ramp lengths. Shelby Street is one half mile east of East Street through its entire length through Marion County.

1962 MapIndy closeup aerial photo of the Madison Avenue bridge construction over future I-465 and Lick Creek.

The bypass Madison Avenue built in 1962 would become the frontage road in what was later the Madison Mobile Home Park. It is now called McConnell Way. A quick glance at utility lines through the area show that they weren’t been moved back to the side of Madison Avenue after construction was completed. The following aerial photograph, from 1972, shows the construction through the area completed.

1972 MapIndy aerial photograph of Madison Avenue and (then) Penn Central crossing of I-465 and Lick Creek.

For those interested, the cover photo for this post is the same area shown in all the other photos as would have been seen in 1937. That image is also from MapIndy. MapIndy is available online at: http://maps.indy.gov/MapIndy/index.html.

Building I-465 at West 21st Street

When the interstate system worked its way to Indiana, the plan for a bypass around Indianapolis was on the books as part of the project. Even before the route numbers were nailed down, the destinations and relative locations were in place. What would become I-465 would take almost a decade to build – more if you count the section from I-65 to I-865 on the northwest side of Marion County. (For more information about that statement, see “The Beginning of I-465,” published on 16 May 2019.) But I-465 was contentious…and not entirely for the reasons one would think.

Indianapolis Star, 11 August 1961.

The first real bone of contention (other than the coming destruction of entire sections of Marion County) was the area where I-465 and 21st Street meet on the west side. The section of the current interstate from Crawfordsville Road south to almost 10th Street runs very close to Big Eagle Creek. The town of Speedway at the time suffered from flooding on a regular basis. The state planned for 21st Street to cross over the interstate. Local residents, and county government, wanted the opposite…the interstate to cross over 21st Street. Part of the argument was that the state had already planned to elevate sections of the road on both sides of 21st Street. Why not keep the elevation for the 21st Street section.

Part of the argument was flooding…or the potential for such. People in the town of Speedway were under the impression that running 21st Street under the interstate would form a valve to keep flooding to a minimum. As the Indianapolis Star pointed out in an editorial piece on 24 August 1961, “nothing could be further from the truth.” The interstate was graded far above the maximum flood level at Eagle Creek. The building of an underpass for 21st Street, it is pointed out, would require a complete new system of levees to be built to control the flooding of 21st Street. The problem for Speedway and flooding was not an interstate overpass, but major work needed on Eagle Creek.

It was pointed out in another article that the plans for I-465 included, in the embankment for the bridges, four channels for water to flow through the area not actually in Eagle Creek. The Indianapolis Star of 9 July 1961 reported that Joseph I. Perrey, chief engineer for the Indiana Flood Control and Water Resources Commission, stated that no matter what was built at I-465 and 21st Street, the problem with Speedway flooding was more controlled by the 21st Street bridge over Eagle Creek. “The construction of 21st Street either under or over Interstate 465 will have no affect in stopping flooding.” Mr. Perrey continued “but a new county bridge could alleviate the situation somewhat.”

Progress was made towards changing the state’s mind about the 21st Street overpass. Summer of 1961 saw a flurry of activity. The state agreed to change the project, if the county put up a $50,000 bond to cover any cost overruns due to the change. The deadline for the county agreeing to that provision, and thus the contract to change the plans, was 21 August 1961. County Commissioners agreed to sign the deal that day, if they could include a provision to delay the posting of the bond. By law, the county said, it would take five days to make the money available.

But the State Highway Commission was also in a bind at this point. Construction had reached a point where concrete was ready to pour. Any delay in that poring could have resulted in the contractor suing the state. In addition to the changing of 21st Street from an overpass to an underpass, the county was asking that 21st Street be built four lanes wide, instead of two, to “avoid a greater expenditure if 21st must be widened later.” (Source: Indianapolis News, 21 August 1961)

The whole thing was made worse when the county questioned the state about the current status of the contract. (Source: Indianapolis Star, 8 September 1961) “The State Highway Commission yesterday refused the ‘bait’ offered by the Marion County Board of Commissioners to cancel the contract obligating the county commissioners to pay for the time the state suspended operations on Interstate 465.” The state was expected to send the county a bill for the six day shutdown of construction on the interstate due to the county trying to raise the bond money. The county, for its part, wanted the contract to be declared cancelled…which the state wasn’t having.

Add to this, the county stating that they weren’t paying anything until a full accounting was relayed to them. They expected it to be, roughly, $1,000 a day, not the $25,000 the State Highway Commission expected.

Meanwhile, the whole decision to build a 21st Street bridge over I-465 was being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Public Roads. That investigation started when three local residents accused the Highway Commissioner of conflict of interest, and hinted that his three sons would benefit from the building of an overpass. Indications were that libel suits would start flying from the Commissioner’s sons once cleared by the Federal investigation.

“The controversy over the intersection of I-465 and 21st Street was started by Jules T. Gradison who owns the land around the intersection. He demanded that 21st Street pass under I-465 and the state agreed to the change when the county commissioners offered to pay the extra cost, estimated at from $150,000 to $200,000.” Mr. Gradison also pointed out that he would have given any extra acreage needed to change the plan free of charge.

21st Street crosses over I-465 to this day. The overpass is also, to this day, only two lanes wide. With the many reconstructions of I-465 through that area, the 21st Street overpass has allowed for the widening of 465 needed over the years.