Road Trips

Worn out

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.

Lafayette Road (US 52) Bridge

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.)

Lafayette Road (US 52) Bridge

The 1930s side of the bridge is in even worse shape, its rebar latticework visible as the concrete face has crumbled away.

Lafayette Road (US 52) Bridge

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.

Lafayette Road (US 52) Bridge

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.

Lafayette Road (US 52) Bridge

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.

ReadMore See the rest of this bridge’s demolition! See the deck removed, the north half of the bridge gone, and the entire bridge removed.

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17 thoughts on “Worn out

  1. Lone Primate says:

    Wow, that’s a surprisingly wide bridge for something dating back that far. Even starting out… I’m used to rural bridges being one lane, first come first served. :) It’s a long time for a bridge to stay in service.

    Where is the bridge itself found? I might have been dozing but the links I saw seem to show the start and end of the route you mentioned.

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    • Lafayette Road has long been a major artery in the area. It’s also a very old road. I’ve seen it on plat maps dating back to the 1850s. So it’s not surprising that it became one of the first US highways and that a bridge this wide was built on it.

      The bridge is at +39° 53′ 15.78″, -86° 18′ 1.31″

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  2. Another great article! I had no idea that US 52 had been moved. Thanks for the insights.

    I’d like to look at the bridge first-hand. Like LP, however, I had a little trouble picturing where it was. Can you link the photos to Google Maps or Mapquest (etc.)? Especially in future articles, that might be very helpful.

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  3. Kurt says:

    Jim,
    I’m actually pretty surprised that it got a demo order based on some of the conditions the feds and Landmarks were able to get on INDOT. Although my understanding is if no federal dollars are used (a.k.a. toll road funds are used), INDOT doesn’t have to follow any of those stipulations.

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      • Kurt says:

        Depends, most city/counties can’t take projects on like this on their own, so federal dollars usually come into play as much as 80%-this is very common with municipal projects. Regardless, my understanding is the way the MOA (memorandum of agreement) worked was that even if you don’t take federal dollars, if the bridge is listed on the survey and you move forward with removal, it could jeopardize future federal funding. It is why the Michigan St. bridge was rehabbed and why Garro St. is scheduled for rehab. The county wanted to demo both.

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  4. While exploring Wheeling I’ve noticed some horrible conditions. A lot of crumbling, and on some Interstate 70 bridges I’ve noticed exposed rebarb. In one spot they even have a net under the bridge, because parts were falling on street traffic below the interstate (I-470).
    It’s sad to see it go, but I’m glad to see some quick action with replacement.

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  5. I ran across this awesome birdseye aerial photo of Traders Point village that shows the bridge and where the Standard service station was:

    If you hadn’t seen this one, you will probably enjoy it like I did. From the old aerial photos on Indygov, it was hard to tell what was what and where it was located, but this one is worth 1000 words.

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  6. I’ve just learned that before Lafayette Road was US 52, it was part of the Jackson Highway auto trail. That trail started in Chicago, passed through Downtown and headed to Franklin along the Madison State Road (which became US 31) on its way to New Orleans.

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    • I have heard of caches of old road photos at Purdue, the Indiana State Library (or whatever it’s called) and the Indiana Historical Society. One of these days, I’ll go dig in.

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