Road Trips

Illinois US 50: Heading back to Indiana and finding some never-used bridges along the route

This is the fourth and final installment of my report from a 2009 road trip along the oldest alignments I could find of US 50 across a good chunk of Illinois.

In Carlyle, current US 50 follows the yellow path on the aerial image below. Where the current road turns north, the old alignment of US 50 continues straight. Howevero, the old stagecoach road that formed the US 50 corridor sweeps from there to the northwest.

Sadly, the new alignment interrupted the old stage route, labeled “Old State Rd” on the map below. Overpasses were built for other roads; why not for this historic road?

The stage road eventually curves back to the south. The drivable portion if the stage road ends about 15 miles west of Carlyle, but you can see bits and pieces of its remnants in aerial images. Check out this 1000-foot section of the old road that lies in a farmer’s field! It lines up pretty well with where US 50 curves in this image, suggesting that there US 50 resumes the old stage road’s route.

We drove old US 50 through Beckemeyer, Breese, Aviston, and Trenton, to where current US 50 meets old US 50. Current US 50 continues westward on the original US 50 alignment.

At this point we were starting to wear out from our long day. I wanted to get my friend Michael back to Terre Haute, where he lived, and me back to Indianapolis, where I lived, before we ran out of daylight. So we turned onto current US 50 and headed back east.

Current US 50 is interesting here in that all the signs point to it having been intended to be an expressway – four divided lanes. Overpasses are wide enough to accommodate two more lanes, but that’s not the most telling sign. Remarkably, and mind-bogglingly, wherever a bridge was needed, two were built alongside each other. In each case, one is used, the other has stood unused since it was built in probably the early 1970s. Here’s an aerial view of the eastmost of these twin bridges.

It crosses Beaver Creek. You can walk through the tall grass and stand right on it.

Abandoned, never used US 50 bridge

Which, of course, we did.

Abandoned, never used US 50 bridge

Michael has good balance. I tried standing up there briefly, but felt unsteady.

Abandoned, never used US 50 bridge

There is more to see along US 50 in Illinois. We passed several old motels, some abandoned, some still in business with great neon signs out front. I would have liked to stop and photograph more segments of the old concrete road that parallels current US 50 in many places. I would have liked to drive the entire unfinished expressway west of Carlyle and explored the other three never-used bridges. And I would especially have liked to follow the old stage road west of Carlyle.

But it was time to head home. I was tired, and so was my dog. That’s her tired face.

Sleepy

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8 thoughts on “Illinois US 50: Heading back to Indiana and finding some never-used bridges along the route

  1. Fascinating. Gorgeous, moody, truly timeless shots. I could imagine standing there 50 years ago just as easily as yesterday, or next year. Any idea why they never four-laned US 50 there, Jim? Is there an interstate nearby they put through instead?

    • I have heard that Illinois lobbied hard to have Interstate 64 routed along the US 50 corridor, and that Illinois prepared US 50 for it by building a new road. In some places it was right alongside the old, and in others it was all new terrain. Then I-64 ended up being routed along a much more southerly route. US 50 traffic didn’t demand four lanes, so Illinois quit improving the road.

  2. Doug Owens says:

    Construction had begun on Four lane 50 across the state from StLouis to Vincennes. Daniel Walker was elected governor in 1972 and killed the project. Right of way and many bridges have sat idle fo 50 years. Chicago politicians could care less about a needed expressway across Southern Illinois. It would have opened up the corridor to huge expansion and growth!

    • Does the state still own the right of way? If so, that could be very valuable in the future. Nowadays, real estate issues often doom infrastructure projects.

    • I have always heard that it had to do with I-64 being located so far south in the state. But regardless, it’s always seemed so wasteful to me to do this much work only to kill the project.

  3. Eric M. says:

    I’m curious about the Beaver Creek Bridge on the Old State road. It looks like the road there is now closed. I would hate to see that bridge be torn down.

  4. Dan Cluley says:

    I don’t think I have ever seen extra unused bridges like that, but I was just on one that is unusually wide for the same reason. US 127 south of Jackson MI is mostly 2 lane or 2 lane plus a center turn lane, however the ROW exists for another set of lanes, and at least one bridge over the Grand River was clearly prepared for 4 lanes, although I suspect it would not work for a full interstate design.

    https://www.google.com/maps/@42.141476,-84.3643358,93m/data=!3m1!1e3

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