The bridge was once part of US 52, one of the original 1927 US highways. At first, that highway led only from northwest of tiny Fowler, Indiana to Bluefield, WV. But by the 1950s it stretched from Portal, ND to Charleston, SC, crossing the Mississippi River three times along the way.
In the days before county was city, US 52 entered northwest Marion County along Lafayette Road as it headed toward downtown Indianapolis. Three miles later, it reached the village of Traders Point and crossed Eagle Creek. Traders Point isn’t there anymore, and after Indiana built its interstates in the 1960s, neither was US 52; it was rerouted to follow I-65 and I-465. The old highway became a city street. The bridge over Eagle Creek, which was built in the 1920s and widened to four lanes in the 1930s, likely stayed fresh while state highway funds flowed its way. But city budgets being what they are, little or nothing has been done to maintain the bridge for the last 40 years or so. The results are predictable.
That’s the 1920s side of the bridge. The only clue drivers have of the bridge’s condition is the crumbling railing – if they even notice it as they whiz by at 55 miles per hour. I’ve driven over this bridge hundreds of times and never noticed the gaps and exposed, rusting rebar until I stopped to photograph the bridge. (That’s I-65 over there.)
The 1930s side of the bridge is in even worse shape, its rebar latticework visible as the concrete face has crumbled away.
The clues that the bridge was once widened are visible only from places drivers can’t see. This arch shows a seam right of which is the original 1920s structure. I always think it’s cool to see the ridges in an old bridge’s arch, the ghost of the formwork that held it while its concrete cured.
Indiana built a lot of concrete arch bridges on its highways between the 1910s and the 1930s. Those that remain, like this one, tend to be on bypassed highways. Those that have been maintained or restored will carry traffic for the next hundred years. This will not be one of those bridges. The city of Indianapolis has closed Lafayette Road for the next few months while it demolishes this worn out old girl and builds a new bridge in its place. It’s why I was able to stand in the middle of the bridge on a Saturday morning for a rare sight: an empty Lafayette Road.
The soft spot in my heart for an old bridge doesn’t extend to this neglected old girl. She’s done her bit. Let a new bridge rise in her place.
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