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/