On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.
In my early days driving, I wished there were a way around Lakeville and La Paz and their 35 mph speed limits. I’ll be getting that wish when US 31 is rerouted between South Bend and Plymouth in the coming years.
On opposite sides of the St. Joseph/Marshall county line, bounded by State Road 4 on the north and US 6 on the south, these twin towns were built along the Michigan Road in the 1800s, probably hoping for commerce the road would bring.
This map shows US 31 (Michigan Street) from State Road 4 through Lakeville.
This northbound photo is taken from the corner just south of Newton Park. It shows the four-lane-undivided character of the road between South Bend and Lakeville.
I’m sure Lakeville has made a lot of money over the years off people who don’t slow down in time for this town. A boldly colored LED sign in front of Newton Park used to warn people of the speed limit, saying that if they didn’t heed it, they would get to meet the town judge.
When Brian and I were kids, before you entered Lakeville you passed over a railroad track on a bridge. Several years ago, traffic was rerouted around US 31 while they removed the track and the bridge. Only a slight hill remains where the bridge was. I took this southbound photo of Lakeville from the crest of the hill.
Today, there is no sign that the railroad ever went through here. This easterly photo is from the hill where the railroad bridge used to be.
Somewhere along the way I found a post card, postmarked 1911, of Lakeville and this road. As you can see, this was a wide road even then. That’s because this is the old Michigan Road, an early state-funded highway, and it had a 100-foot right of way.
On Lakeville’s south side, Quinn Trail probably used to be US 31, based on how it could flow from and then back into current US 31, and how there’s a curve at the south end that lets this segment meet US 31 squarely. I can’t tell why 31 was rerouted here.
It looks like the northernmost segment of this alignment is currently a parking lot. This photo shows the southbound road south of there.
A small bridge on Quinn Trail is surprisingly wide, as you can see in this northbound photo from a 2009 visit. One railing is visible; the other is just out of the photo on the right. It suggests that there was a thought that someday this road might need to be a lot wider. Instead, the road was moved when it was widened.
Judging by the width and condition of this road, this hasn’t been US 31 in a long time. This northbound photo is from near the end of this segment.
Quinn Trail ends here. I took this southbound photo standing in the road’s direction at that point. Notice how it could flow easily into US 31 about where the guardrail curves out of sight.
Lakeville is in southern St. Joseph County near the Marshall County line. Shortly after crossing into Marshall County, we came upon La Paz. This map shows the town.
Like Lakeville in days gone by, La Paz begins on the north with a railroad bridge. This photo looks down into La Paz from the bridge.
Looking over the railroad tracks from this bridge, we could see an eastbound train heading for us. As we watched it and took photos of it, Brian said, “He’s going to blow the whistle at us and wave.” Just as I shot the photo below, sure enough, the conductor did just that! I asked him how he knew. Turns out that my old friend has been keeping from me all these years that he’s a railfan. He knows the ways of the trains.
From a 2009 visit, here’s a northbound view from within La Paz, leading toward the railroad bridge.
Next: The old alignment of US 31 through Plymouth, Indiana.
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