In 2012, I drove a section of the Dixie Highway from the Illinois state line to Indianapolis along the corridor that is now US 136. I’m bringing that trip report here from my old Roads site.
The Dixie Highway enters Indiana from Illinois along US 136 at the extreme northern end of Vermillion County, which is tall and narrow. It’s all of 2.3 miles wide here! The road quickly enters Fountain County.
Several old alignments lurk as the Dixie nears the Wabash River at Covington. It’s pretty common for an old road to have many previous alignments near where it crosses a river. First, the terrain in the river valley can be challenging, and as road construction techniques improved, old alignments along the path of least resistance could be improved to smoother and safer rights of way. Second, a succession of bridges likely carried traffic over the river, each at a slightly different place. Such appears to be the case where the Dixie reaches the Wabash.
On the map below, I believe the green line to be the oldest surviving alignment, although at its east end (marked with the question mark) I can’t tell from evidence on the ground how it flowed to the wooden covered bridge that crossed the Wabash at about the same place as the red line does. The red line is the next alignment, which carried a 1916 steel truss bridge. The current bridge was built in 1978.
Remnants remain along both the green and the red lines. Here’s where the green line begins at its west end.
I’m not sure now why I didn’t explore more of the old algnments here, but I didn’t. My next stop was on the other side of the Wabash, to look at the 1916 alignment. Here’s an eastbound shot. There’s nothing back here; I was surprised local officials didn’t block this at its eastern end.
A guardrail eventually blocks access, though the pavement continues westbound to the river.
An old-style guardrail lines the south side of the road.
I don’t know when the covered bridge was built, but apparently it burned in a fire. A ferry carried traffic across the river until a new bridge could be built.
A more modern six-span iron Pennsylvania through truss bridge was built on the same spot. It opened in 1915, and was completed in 1916.
Consider that the Dixie Highway was organized in 1914, and that losing this bridge must have been quite a hindrance to this section of the newly formed highway, which stretched to Chicago.
The 1916 bridge was narrow, which was typical of the time. It’s surprising that it was used through 1978, as it had to be quite harrowing to meet an oncoming semi on it. I always wish, of course, that old bridges can be rehabilitated and used for one-way traffic, with a newer bridge carrying traffic the other way. Alas, this structure has now been lost for more than 30 years.
Next: Covington and two small towns in Fountain County.
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