The Meridian Street bridge over the White River in Indianapolis

meridiannorth
Imagery and map data © 2017 Google Maps.

In Indianapolis, Meridian Street is aptly named as it divides the Westside from the Eastside. For many years, it served as US 31 on the Northside. And what a lovely drive it is, lined all the way with luxurious and often historic homes.

Meridian Street and US 31 have an interesting history on Indianapolis’s Northside, as this street didn’t extend north of the Central Canal and Westfield Boulevard, about a mile to the south, when the US highway system was instituted in 1926. That year, a bridge was built over the canal and Meridian Street was presumably extended. But the bridge over the White River wouldn’t come until 1933, and so US 31 followed Westfield Boulevard until then.

In the map excerpt, Meridian Street curves sharply north of Kessler Boulevard on its way to the White River. But notice the street that extends straight where Meridian starts to curve. That’s Meridian Street West Drive, which sure looks to me like Meridian Street’s original alignment until the bridge was built.

Meridian St. bridge over White River

I shot the above photo in 2007; this is the bridge’s southeast end. This bridge was in sorry shape then. In 2012, it underwent a much needed renovation. Here’s a photo I made of the bridge that year while hiking through nearby Holliday Park. The work was well underway; notice the condition of the arches and the new railing.

Bridge

Recently I explored around and under this bridge on its north end, my Pentax KM and a 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M lens along for the ride. I was shooting Kodak Tri-X that day.

Meridian St. Bridge

This seven-span concrete-arch bridge is about 784 feet long. The White River is under only its threecentral spans. Its southmost span covers Riverview Drive, and the span immediately north of it goes over a levee. The northmost span covers a trail that links to Holliday Park. The arch to the south of it simply spans earth.

Meridian St. Bridge

I explored the bridge from its north end this day. It still looks good after its 2012 renovation.

Meridian St. Bridge

I just love being under a concrete bridge’s arch to see the slats from the original formwork in the concrete.

Meridian St. Bridge

And of course it takes no time at all for graffiti to find its way onto a bridge’s nether regions. I wish I’d thought to photograph it just after it reopened, when it was still perfectly clean. But I also rather like finding graffiti under a bridge. It feels to me like a kind of communication among souls who find something compelling about such a place. I can’t imagine ever personally marking a bridge, but because I’m at home under a bridge I feel a certain kinship with people who would wield a rattle can here.

Meridian St. Bridge

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Comments

11 responses to “The Meridian Street bridge over the White River in Indianapolis”

  1. J P Cavanaugh Avatar

    Interesting – I had no idea that Meridian Street changed alignment so late. But comparing the architecture (and the road itself) north and south of the river should have given me a clue.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I was surprised to learn that it didn’t extend past the White River until so late!

  2. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    Nice to see a bridge like that repaired rather than just replaced.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Surprising, actually, given that it’s often more cost effective for the city to let a bridge deteriorate past repair so they can get Federal funds for its replacement.

  3. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Really great, I drive over it all the time, but wondered what the underside looked like!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      This has been a public service announcement from Down the Road!

  4. Marcia Rhees Slatter Avatar
    Marcia Rhees Slatter

    Very interesting article. I can visually see and remember how Avon has grown since my family moved there in 1950, but I forget how Indianapolis was still making such big spurts of growth as late as 1933. We moved there in 1940 and the biggest change I remember is the 38th Street bridge over White River. That hill on 38th with sharp turn just before the river was a scary ride for a little girl, especially in the winter.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve lived here only since 1994 so the 38th St. bridge has always been a thing for me. But I’ve watched Pike Township go from mostly farmland to mostly vinyl villages.

  5. Doug Thompson Avatar
    Doug Thompson

    — I believe there used to be a two lane bridge over White River and Meridian ran on up Springmill to the town of Westfield. The support pilings were still there when I was a kid, and may still be …. the new four lane bridge was built when government funds became available for US31N bypass of Broad Ripple.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I know there used to be a White River bridge that connected Spring Mill and Illinois Street. You can still see a hump where the road used to be, just west of Illinois St. south of the current bridge. One day I’m going to go over there on foot and explore to see if I can find any evidence of the old bridge – piers or abutments.

  6. […] 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/ […]

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