Road Trips

The National Road and US 40 at the Indiana/Illinois line

I’ve written extensively about the National Road, especially in Indiana and Illinois. See everything I’ve written here. As I work to deprecate my old Roads site, I need to bring a few articles about the road in Illinois here. Here’s the first of them, about the many changes at the Indiana/Illinois state line. I’ve updated and expanded it. This is based on recent research and a bunch of visits: one in 2006, two in 2007, one in 2009, and one in 2014.

The National Road and US 40 have changed dramatically at the Indiana-Illinois state line thanks to repeated improvements in this corridor. I’m going to try to explain the changes and show the various alignments. It gets confusing, so strap in.

The Indiana Historical Aerial Photo Index (IHAPI) at the Indiana Geological Survey shows these roads’ progression. Click any of these maps to make them larger. This first image is from 1946, showing the original two-lane US 40 running from upper right in Indiana to lower left in Illinois. The thick white line at about the ¼ mark from the left is the state line.

Indiana Historical Aerial Photo Index image

In about 1949, in Indiana the road was moved slightly north and improved to four divided lanes. On the Illinois side, sometime during the 1950s the original road was abandoned and a new two-lane alignment built immediately to the north. This 1958 aerial images shows it all. In the bottom left corner of this image, you can see a trace of the original National Road alignment just below the new US 40.

Indiana Historical Aerial Photo Index image

I-70 was built here in the mid-late 1960s. About a mile and half of it on either side of the state line was built directly onto the US 40/National Road alignment. This 1966 aerial image shows I-70 under construction. When I-70 was finished, US 40 was routed onto it for about three miles. Also under construction here is a two-lane road that connects US 40 in Indiana to what would shortly become old US 40 in Illinois.

Indiana Historical Aerial Photo Index image

Finally, this is what the scene looks like today. Click this map to make it larger. I’ve widened the view a bit to show the interplay between US 40 and I-70, placing the state line near the middle. In 2011, US 40 was rerouted onto I-70 to bypass Terre Haute, placing the 1949 alignment of US 40 here under county maintenance. Notice especially Illiana Drive, which branches off W. National Dr. in Indiana and flows into the old alignment of US 40 in Illinois.

Bing Maps, 2021

From a road trip I made in 2009, here’s what the original National Road/US 40 alignment looks like in Indiana. This is a westbound photo. This bridge over Clear Creek was built in 1919.

Old US 40 near Toad Hop

Shortly past that bridge is the last opportunity to turn off the original alignment before it ends. This is the last 200 feet of the original National Road in Indiana. The 1949 alignment of US 40 is about 200 feet to the north (right) of here, and I-70 is about 200 feet to the south (left). The turnoff is immediately to the right of where I stood to make this photo, and it connects right to Illiana Drive. If you squint, you can see it on the map above.

Old US 40 near Toad Hop

If you make that turn and cross the 1949 alignment of US 40, Illiana Drive curves hard to the left and heads toward Illinois. While this road was never the National Road or US 40, the Indiana National Road Historic Byway was routed along it by necessity. You can see a National Road guide sign just beyond the speed limit sign in this 2006 photo.

Toward Illinois on old US 40

Shortly you come upon the Illinois state line. On my 2006 visit, I drove into Illinois a little bit and found US 40 shields on this section of road, even though US 40 was officially routed onto I-70. On this visit in 2007, the US 40 shields were gone. I’ve heard, but can’t confirm, that Illinois maintains this road and counts it as part of US 40. Beyond this curve, Illiana Drive flows into the 1950s alignment of US 40.

Into Illinois

This was the day of the annual Ride Across Indiana (RAIN), a bicycle tour across Indiana that follows US 40 all the way. This was the starting line, just inside Illinois. That’s my friend Dawn standing near my car; she’s been a frequent road-trip companion for many years.

RAIN

Shortly after you curve onto the 1950s alignment of US 40, you can see the original alignment standing abandoned alongside. In this aerial image, two roads are marked E US Highway 40. The lower segment is the original National Road alignment.

Bing Maps 2021

This eastbound view shows the road as it emerges from the woods. 2014 photo.

Abandoned brick road

If you walk into those woods, the old roadbed is largely still there. The bricks are just an inch or so into the soil, and you can easily reach them by clearing soil away with your foot. 2007 photo.

Abandoned National Road

As you emerge from the woods you see that the road had a noticeable grade. That’s my car at the top. 2007 photo.

Abandoned National Road

On one of my 2007 visits, turning my car around there I accidentally backed it off the access road and got it stuck. A woman who lived nearby came out to help, as did a passing motorist. My friend Dawn was with me too. We ended up lifting the front end of the car and pushing it back into the ditch, right onto the brick National Road. It must have been 50 years since anyone had driven on those bricks! I backed my car up to get a good running start and then made a break for it up the hill. The bottom of my car scraped the lip at the top of the hill as it went over, but no fluids or parts trailed behind me so I hoped all was well.

Abandoned National Road

The woman asked why we were out on that hot morning. When we pointed excitedly and said, “We’re driving the National Road all the way to Vandalia!” she said, “Oh, that.” I suppose if the National Road runs through your front yard, you take it for granted. She did mention that the neighbor from whom she and her husband bought their property had helped build the brick road, watched US 40 go in ten yards to the north, and lived long enough to watch I-70 start to be built on what used to be some of his land. The neighbor told her that when US 40 was built, all the bridges and culverts along the National Road were torn out. That meant no long drives on the brick.

Incredibly, some years ago I found a set of photographs showing this road being built, in about 1925! Here’s one; you can see more in this article. Notice that this road is a shallow U-shaped concrete pad with a layer of sand laid in, and then the bricks laid on.

Building the Illinois National Road

This diagram from a 1923 report of the Illinois Department of Highways shows this construction. I wonder why Illinois bothered with the bricks; why not just pour a concrete slab and be done with it? But these were experimental days in highway construction, and highway engineers were figuring out what worked best. It didn’t take long for road-builders to give up on brick. I’d say that after about 1925, nobody was building brick highways anymore.

Looking west from Dunlap Road, you get a better sense of the brick road (despite the equipment stored on it). 2007 photo.

Abandoned National Road

This road is in poor condition here. I brought my friend Michael along to see it on the second 2007 visit and we walked this segment until it ended, near where I-70 intersects. Here he is standing on it, in a place where most of the bricks have been removed to reveal the concrete pad below.

Abandoned National Road

On the 2007 trip with Michael, we found an intact bridge on the old road. It would probably be more accurately characterized as a box culvert. I’m pretty sure this culvert spans Hawks Creek. Unfortunately, I’m not 100% sure thanks to my poor note-taking. But given where these photos fall in order the day I made them, if I’m off, it’s not by far. This eastbound photo shows the road, bricks removed, ending abruptly.

Abandoned National Road

The place where the road used to be continues, rather obviously.

Abandoned National Road

Here’s the culvert. It’s an odd affair: the culvert is topped with earth, which is topped with a concrete slab.

Abandoned National Road culvert

This is a sizeable culvert. Here you can see my friend Michael having a closer look at it.

Abandoned National Road culvert

At the I-70 intersection, US 40 exits I-70 and follows the 1950s alignment. But large sections of this brick road continue to appear all the way to Marshall, about 5½ miles away, and then from the other side of Marshall about another 5½ miles, almost to Martinsville.

Related reading:

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Road Trips

A confluence of National Road and US 40 alignments near Vandalia, Illinois

The bonanza of abandoned old pavement along the Illinois National Road dries up just before Montrose, a little town just east of Effingham. Thence west, US 40 almost entirely follows the same alignment of the road from when Illinois paved it in concrete in the 1920s. From a postcard, here’s what that concrete looked like when it was new.

IL_NR_Vandalia_RPPC

Almost all of that road is covered with asphalt today – almost. A little of this concrete is visible where US 40 and I-70 intersect east of Vandalia. This remarkable confluence of roads includes not only the original US 40 alignment, but a newer alignment of US 40 that bypassed Vandalia. Much of that bypass later became I-70.

Imagery and map data © 2014 Google.
Imagery and map data © 2014 Google.

This 1920s concrete road was built 18 feet wide, where the old abandoned brick and concrete road well east of here was just 16 feet wide. But in this photo you can see concrete strips added on either side to widen it by a few extra feet. Notice also that the original middle portion of the road has no expansion joints, and so it cracked. The 1920s was a time of learning in roadbuilding, and later concrete roads all had expansion joints. This is an eastbound photo from the east end of the concrete alignment.

Abandoned National Road and US 40

I turned around in the same place to take this westbound photo. Notice the curved strip added on the north side of the road to let traffic flow into the later alignment of US 40, which bears right. The concrete alignment picks up dead ahead.

Abandoned National Road and US 40
Westbound from the west end

What an awkward intersection these two old roads must have created when they were still in use.

Confluence of alignments
Westbound from the west end

Here’s an eastbound photo of where the original US 40 alignment ends at I-70.

Abandoned National Road and US 40
Eastbound from the east end

I’ve seen topographic maps from 1969 and 1977 of this area. In the 1969 map, I-70 was nowhere in sight. In the 1977 map, this entire configuration existed. So the old concrete road was in use through sometime during the 1970s, and the time when I-70 merged onto US 40 here lasted a few years at most.

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

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Road Trips, Stories Told

Avoiding Kokomo

One of the things that got me interested in the back highways was the city of Kokomo, Indiana. More accurately, it was avoiding Kokomo that helped spark my interest.

Long ago, US 31 went right through downtown Kokomo. But congestion became a problem, and so about 40 years ago a new four-lane US 31 was built to the east, bypassing the city. Businesses quickly sprouted along the bypass end to end – restaurants, gas stations, stores, even a mall. Stoplights multiplied like rabbits. Soon the bypass was even more congested than the original route through town had been.

Bypass on the left, old US 31 on the right

My dad let me have the spare car my senior year in college and at first I dutifully followed the route he always took when he drove me to school: US 31 from South Bend through Kokomo to Indianapolis, then I-465 west and south around the city, and then I-70 to Terre Haute. But I had to drive the Kokomo bypass only once to realize I didn’t want to do it again. The bumper-to-bumper traffic crawled along at 20 or 30 miles per hour, and I swear I stopped at every. last. stoplight.

It also didn’t help that the rest of the route was a crashing bore. Back then, Indiana’s maximum speed limit was 55 miles per hour. But both US 31 and I-70 were four-lane highways that begged for far greater speed.

So I began looking for alternative routes. I unfolded my Rand McNally map, which seems so quaint when I think about it now, and traced routes between my hometown and my college town. I found several suitable routes, all along two-lane Indiana state highways, and tried them all on my various trips back and forth. This was my first exposure to Indiana’s small towns and endless cornfields and I quickly became hooked.

Today, most of US 31 is posted at 60 MPH, and most of I-70 is posted at 70 MPH. I use these roads when I need to get somewhere in a hurry. But as much as possible I try to give myself plenty of time so I can enjoy driving through Indiana’s countryside.

Driving through Kokomo is still a drag, though. But not for much longer – the state is building another US 31 bypass even farther east of town. It’s a bypass of the bypass! This time they’re doing it right and making it an Interstate-style limited access highway. I’m sure I’ll try it out when it opens. But you’ll still be more likely to find me on a back highway.

And then there was the time I spun my car most of the way through tiny Fulton, Indiana. Read that story

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Road Trips

The disrupted National Road in Ohio

I-70 and the National Road cling to each other for 18 miles between Morristown and Old Washington in eastern Ohio. Sometimes the two roads parallel each other closely; other times, they’re the same road. On this map, the blue line is the National Road. (Thanks to fellow National Road fan Christopher Busta-Peck for creating it; go here to see it on Google Maps.) As you can see, it’s often hard to tell where the National Road stops and I-70 begins.

I followed as much of the old road as still exists.  Overall it was a pleasant drive, for where the forlorn National Road remains, it is peaceful. I encountered not a single soul as I explored these miles.

Waymor Rd.

But this portion of my trip took some determination as the road frequently disappeared into I-70’s fill, as in the photo below. I backtracked twice to cross over I-70 and return to the road on the other side, and once I had to take a wide detour on rough gravel roads.

Wings Lane?

But along the way I encountered the only S bridge that was, at the time, still open to traffic on the entire National Road. I’ll share photos next time.

Lots of old National Road bits have been left behind over the years. Check out this one in Maryland, and this one in Indiana.

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

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Road Trips

Then there was the time I-70 jumped out in front of my car

In about 1990 I made what remains the longest road trip of my life. I drove from Terre Haute to Mississauga, Ontario, to visit one friend, and then through Niagara Falls and across central New York, and then down to Edison, New Jersey, where I visited two other friends. Then I headed back to Indiana, mostly along I-70.

I was bored of the Interstate by the time I crossed into Ohio. When I saw an exit for US 40 at St. Clairsville, I took it. (This was just past the Blaine bridges, but I didn’t know that then.) I knew US 40 would take me all the way home if I let it.

I regretted it almost immediately. I was not amused by all the stoplights in St. Clairsville and by the fellow in front of me who was determined to drive 15 miles per hour less than the speed limit. I got out my big Rand McNally atlas (which seems downright quaint now) and looked for a way to get back onto I-70. It showed that US 40 merged onto I-70 ten or so miles ahead, just past Morristown. It even showed that the road widened to four lanes a few miles ahead of the merge.

The slowpoke turned off, and in relief I put my foot into the gas pedal. I reached an intersection where signs said to turn left to reach I-70, which puzzled me. I blew by them eager to drive the four-lane US 40 just ahead.

I had the four-lane highway to myself. A rusty guardrail divided the eastbound and westbound lanes. Then I passed a road sign covered in black plastic, and then another. Was the road closed? Had I missed a detour? But I was cruising happily at 65 miles per hour and let my concerns roll off my back.

Then I rounded a curve and found myself staring right into a hillside. With no warning, the road ended right at its base! I slammed on the brakes and came to a stop just feet away from the end.

Rand McNally was wrong. US 40 didn’t merge onto I-70 here; rather, I-70 was built on top of US 40, at least 30 feet up.

I returned to the scene of my fright on this trip. Here’s the old highway at its dead end. I’m told that the road is pretty much always flooded here now. Also, the dividing guardrail was removed at some point.

Dead end

Here’s how the road curves in from the east.

Dead end

Here’s the view from the air. Simply put, I-70 was built here along the alignment of US 40 and the National Road.

US 40 follows I-70 for about the next 18 miles, to the town of Old Washington. But a remnant of old US 40 and the National Road appears just a mile later, as it emerges from underneath I-70. It’s marked as Co. Rd. 102 and Mt. Olivett Rd. on this map. Before I-70, as it headed west it cut directly across the exit at State Route 800 and followed Co. Rd. 108.

Here’s where the old road resumes. Notice how the seam down the middle goes straight even though the road was later made to curve away  to connect to another county road.

Mt. Olivet Rd.

Turning around from there, it becomes apparent that the old westbound lanes were abandoned.

Mt. Olivet Rd.

The routing of I-70 from here west to Old Washington did a real number on the National Road, but other bits and pieces remain as state and county roads if you know where to look. We’ll explore them in the next post.

I-70 obliterated some of the National Road as it crosses from Indiana into Illinois, too. Check it out.

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

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