Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Visiting my favorite abandoned bridge

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It never fails that about the first of March I start itching to get out onto the old roads. The old roads are there all year, of course, but I prefer to drive them when it’s warm!

One of my sons is learning to drive. I usually have him chauffeur me around while I run errands, but city traffic has been unnerving for him. (His dad’s anxieties probably play a role there too.) I thought it would do him good to get out on a lightly traveled highway and find out that driving can be a pleasure. There’s no better highway for that in Indiana than US 40, the old National Road. With nearby parallel I-70 bearing the lion’s share of traffic, US 40 is often empty.

My favorite abandoned bridge is next to US 40 just beyond the Indianapolis sprawl. I’ve written about it before; check it out. There’s a good place to pull off the highway right by the bridge, so I drove to it as a convenient place to let my son start driving. But first, we explored the bridge. I had always visited this bridge in the summer, when foliage obscured it. It was great to look it over on this late-winter day when it was so visible.

Abandoned US 40 bridge

This bridge was built in the early 1920s, but carried traffic for less than 20 years. In about 1940, the road was widened to four lanes and routed across two new side-by-side bridges. My educated guess is that this bridge wasn’t used because its lanes are narrow. US 40 was widened to be part of a nationwide highway network that could rapidly move troops and military equipment should it become necessary for national defense. (That’s a major reason our Interstate system was built, too.) The new bridges are a lot wider than this one, making them sufficient for the military task.

Abandoned US 40 bridge

Time isn’t kind to an unmaintained bridge. Trees are growing through the crumbling deck! Concrete-arch bridges are filled with dirt underneath the deck, which must be providing the foundation for these trees’ root systems.

Abandoned US 40 bridge

Shortly we got underway with my son behind the wheel. We drove to Terre Haute, had a little dinner, and then came home. My son seemed to enjoy the trip.

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You can virtually tour this part of
Indiana’s National Road here.

12 thoughts on “Visiting my favorite abandoned bridge

  1. Tom Harrell

    Did I read right, you used an apple iPhone to take the pictures? Looks like it did a good job on recording what you saw!

    1. Jim Post author

      I did! My iPhone 5. It never fails to yield crisp shots with good color. It’s not as versatile as an SLR or even my Canon PowerShot S95, but for everyday subjects it does a fine job.

  2. Lone Primate

    Beautiful looking bridge. Oh, so hard to see the thick trees that have grown up at the end there. Do they fully block the roadway? I suppose after 70 years there’s been adequate time for that to happen. Love it when they leave these treasures behind as testament to lost days, though.

    1. Jim Post author

      The trees and fallen branches at the west end do block the roadway, but on foot you can duck under/through it all. Beyond the end of the bridge is a stretch of concrete pavement poured in the 1920s!

  3. Dani

    Beautiful pictures! I so understand the parental anxiety that occurs when being chauffeured by a rookie driver. Ben is 5 days away from being eligible to apply for a license.

    1. Jim Post author

      Thanks! Concrete-arch bridges like this one were so commonly built all over the country from about 1920 through the late 1950s sometime. Thing is, as you drive over it you can’t see its beauty, as it’s all beneath you!

  4. Ward Fogelsanger

    I see that exact spot from the air when I turn left to line up on runway 5 Left at Indianapolis when arriving from the west inbound from Phoenix.

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