INDOT’s 12,000 mile limit

(Or: How do you get to Indianapolis?)

This entry originally appeared in the Indiana Transportation History Facebook group on 16 July 2014.

I have been asked many times why the state of Indiana has been removing roads from the state highway system. Other than the obvious reroutes for traffic efficiency, INDOT is limited by IC 8-23-4-2 as follows: “(a) The state highway system shall be designated by the department. The total extent of the state highway system may not exceed twelve thousand (12,000) miles.”

There is a lot more to the code (for instance: “The state highway system consists of the principal arterial highways in Indiana and includes the following: (1) A highway to the seat of government in each county.”

So why are there no state roads – other than I-65 and I-70 – in Indianapolis? The 12,000 mile rule appears here in glowing fashion.

I-465, for most of its length, is NOT just I-465. Other than the obvious I-74 multiplex (the official term for a road that travels the same path as another) on the west and south sides of the city, depending where you are on I-465, you could be on as many as SEVEN different routes. Take the two mile section from I-65 to US 31 South (East Street) on the south side. At that point, you are technically on I-465, I-74, US 31, US 36, US 40, SR 37, and SR 67. For maintenance recording, that is 14 miles of road in those two miles. For Indiana Code purposes, it is still only two miles. This allows INDOT to have more roads in the system while keeping to the 12,000 mile limit. (And for another fun fact, eventually that section of I-465 will also be part of I-69! That makes EIGHT routes that are in that very small section of interstate. And US 31, SR 37 and US 40 didn’t count until July 1, 1999. Prior to that, US 52 was on that section – but that was rerouted in the mid-90’s to the north side on 465.)

The beauty of bypasses is that they only count once, even though they may be numerous multiplexed roads.

The 12,000 mile limit also creates situations that simply do not exist in other states. For instance, when SR 44 was closed between Franklin and Shelbyville, the INDOT approved detour was north on I-65, to I-465, to I-74 to SR 44 east of Shelbyville. Other states have more state routes connecting places, and they tend to be closer together, making a 42 mile detour completely ridiculous. (The other INDOT route – consisting only of state highways – would have been only 32 miles via I-65, SR 252, SR 9 and SR 44. Still completely ridiculous, honestly.)

US Highways: They are actually State Roads

I originally posted the following in the Indiana Transportation History group on 11 Jun 2014. It has been slightly edited to correct some “oopsies” in my original.

For those old enough to remember (and I, unfortunately, am not one of them) before the Interstate system came into being, and US routes were the cross-country method of auto transport, this post is for you.

Somewhere lost in the history of transportation is the true story behind the US Highway system. Believe it or not, the Federal Government was late to the “good roads” party, and really only joined it half-heartedly. Let me explain.

Near the end of the 19th Century, there was a craze sweeping the nation – bicycling. The problem was that most roads at the time were basically dirt paths through the country. Some were graveled, yes. Some were bricked, but mainly only in towns. Those that rode bicycles started clamoring for better roads to reliably and safely use their new-fangled transportation method.

The US Post Office was also involved in this movement, mainly because mail was that important. And delivering the mail in some rural locations was troublesome at best.

With the creation of the automobile boom in the early 20th century, the Good Roads Movement started including the drivers of the horseless carriage. Again, because most roads at the time were dusty at best, and practically impassible at worst.

Clubs started nationwide to encourage auto travel (the Hoosier Motor Club was one). Clubs were also started to encourage the creation of travel routes that were more than dirt roads to the next county seat.

These last clubs led to many named highways throughout the nation. For instance, Indianapolis was served by the (Andrew) Jackson Highway, Dixie Highway, Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway, National Old Trails Road, the Hoosier Highway, Michigan Road, the Range Line Road, the Hills & Lakes Trail, and the Hoosier Dixie.

The most famous of the Road Clubs was the Lincoln Highway Association, which crossed Indiana through the northern tier of counties. On its trip from New York to San Francisco, it passed through Fort Wayne, Ligonier (included because it was the SECOND Ligonier on the route – the other being in Pennsylvania!), Goshen, Elkhart, South Bend, La Porte, and Valparaiso. (As you can guess, it wasn’t exactly a straight line at first!)

In 1926, the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO), in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Public Roads finalized a national route system that became the US Highways. This was to combat the numerous named highways that led to some major confusion among the automobile traveling public. The system was discussed starting in 1924, with a preliminary list issued in late 1925.

Named highways painted markers on utility poles most of the time. It, apparently, was not unheard of to have numerous colored markers on one pole. And new named highways were popping up monthly. (They even kept appearing after the numbered highways started appearing.)

A misconception is that a US Highway is a Federal road. US Highways have a distinctive shield with a number. It can also have, legally, a State Road marker. That’s because US highways were really just state roads that shared the same number for its entire distance. So SR 40 in Indiana was also SR 40 in Illinois and Ohio, and so on. (INDOT has even posted SR 421 signage on SR 9 at the entrance ramps to I-74/US 421 in Shelbyville.)

While US highway numbers have come and gone across the state, most of them appeared in one of two phases – 1927 and 1951.

The original US Highways in Indiana were: 12, 20, 24, 27, 30, 31, 31E, 31W, 36, 40, 41, 50, 52, 112, and 150.

The second major phase included US 136, US 231, and US 421.

Between these two phases, the following roads were added:
– US 6 (1928)
– US 33 (1937)
– US 35 (1934) It required changing SR 35 to SR 135.
– US 36 – Yes, it is listed twice. US 36 originally ended at Indianapolis from the west. It was extended east in 1931.
– US 152 – Mostly followed US 52 (Lafayette Road) north from Indianapolis from 1934 to 1938. It never left the state, so it was downgraded to mostly state road 53 (which, strangely, was added BACK into the federal numbering system as US 231).
– US 224 (1933)
– US 460 (1947-1977)

These were added to the system in sections. For instance, US 6 came into Indiana from the east and ended up being routed along what, at the time, was Indiana State Road 6.

There have been many changes in the original US highways. Some have bypassed towns in many places (like US 31). Some have just been removed from the system (like the northern end of US 33). Some were replaced by the interstate system created in 1956 (like US 27 north of Fort Wayne).

The beginning of the end of the major importance of the US Highway system started in 1947, when AASHO deemed it “outmoded.” This led to the creation of the interstate system with a law signed by President Eisenhower in 1956.