Road Trips

North on the Dixie Highway from Bloomington

A couple weeks ago I drove to Bloomington to see my son, who lives there. When I headed home, I followed the Dixie Highway, old State Road 37, as far as it would take me. Since SR 37 had been upgraded to become I-69, which removed all of the turnoffs to the old alignments, I wasn’t sure what I would find. I was pleased that the old road took me almost to Martinsville. Here’s its route, which now includes some new-terrain road.

Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway to where it ended on my September, 2020, trip. Map data ©2020 Google.

For about 14 miles, Old 37 and the Dixie follow a winding path nowhere near the new Interstate. But for the next four miles or so, until it ends, the old road parallels I-69 and acts as its frontage road.

Within those first 14 miles, the old road is just as it always was: lightly traveled and lush. I’ve written about this segment before, here and here.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

I had this road entirely to myself this Friday afternoon. On past trips I’ve encountered bicyclists out here; not this time.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

This long segment used to exit onto State Road 37, but Interstates are limited access by their nature. Here’s how it exited onto SR 37 northbound when I first visited it in 2007.

Old SR 37

Today, the old road curves the other way into a brand new frontage road.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

Shortly the frontage road meets the next old alignment of Old SR 37 and the Dixie Highway. When I last wrote about it, here, I said that an old bridge had been left in place after a new bridge was built alongside it. I got to see the old bridge. It was saved because its qualities put it on the state’s Select list of bridges, which prevents it from being demolished without the state jumping through a whole bunch of hoops. It looks to me like some repairs have been done to it to stabilize it. But it is open now only to pedestrians.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

This southbound photograph from the new bridge shows that the old road has been significantly upgraded. Notice how wide it is, compared to the old road on the right.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

The new road ends about 2½ miles later, where the older, narrower pavement resumes. Shortly the road dead ends at this old bridge.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

I was happy to find this bridge still here, as I’d heard a rumor that it had been removed. But I’m still saddened that it’s closed to traffic after failing an inspection in 2015. Here it is the last time I got to drive on it, which was in 2012. Read more about this bridge here.

Pony trusses

The old highway north of the bridge has been removed, however. What a strange sight.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

I’ve heard that this bridge will be repurposed as a pedestrian bridge. I’ve studied the I-69 plan map for this area and it looks like there’s no plan to continue the frontage road from here.

Here’s one final look at this old bridge from the north.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

Until I-69 is built around Martinsville, it’s easy enough to return to SR 37: back up from here to the first side road, follow it east until it Ts, turn left, then follow that road until it reaches SR 37.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!

Standard
Travel

Sunset over the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

The George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

My wife and I spent a weekend in Louisville recently. We hadn’t gotten away since our January trip to Chicago, and we badly needed a change of scenery. So we rented an Airbnb in the heart of downtown and spent our time walking and making photographs. There wasn’t much else to do thanks to the pandemic.

The George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

The US 31 bridge from Indiana to Kentucky over the Ohio River was built in 1929. It underwent a restoration a couple years ago that finished with its new yellow paint job. It had been painted a silvery gray before.

The George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

Lots of bridges cross the Ohio at Louisville, including the two I-65 bridges and the old Big Four bridge, visible here. The Big Four bridge is open to pedestrians only. The George Rogers Clark bridge has pedestrian walkways as well — thank heavens, or making these photographs would have been a dangerous proposition.

The George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

There are also a couple railroad bridges to the west, plus the I-64 bridge. Here’s a view of some of that.

Sunset off the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

As the title promised, here’s the sun going down over the Ohio River from the bridge.

Sunset off the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

While I stood there, a few motor-powered rafts tore around on the river. This one passed by us on its way under the bridge. If you look closely, one of the people on the boat gave me the peace sign.

Speeding by

Pentax K10D, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.

Standard
Road Trips

Goodbye to the bridge that kindled my love of bridges

I fell in love with bridges because of this bridge.

Public domain image by Wikipedia user Nyttend

In 1987 I was a junior in college and I had a girlfriend at Indiana University. My buddy Doug also had a girlfriend at IU — and he had a car. He generously let me ride along every time he drove to Bloomington.

Terre Haute and Bloomington are connected by State Road 46. It rolls and winds gently through the countryside. It’s truly a lovely drive; make it if you’re ever out that way.

I never paid any attention to bridges until Doug and I started making this trip. Just west of tiny Bowling Green, State Road 46 crosses the Eel River. Starting in 1933, it did so over this two-span Parker through truss bridge.

Passing through this bridge became a quiet highlight of the trip. I probably never mentioned it to Doug. I came to enjoy the shadows the sun cast through the overhead trusses as we passed.

I came to enjoy other truss bridges in my travels. Soon I was curious about other kinds of bridges. My inner bridgefan had been awakened.

A regular inspection in 2011 found some failed gusset plates, critical to the bridge’s safety. They were repaired in a one-month closure. Then in 2012 more structural problems were found, leading to a three-month closure for repairs. But the Indiana Department of Transportation could see that this bridge would soon need either a thorough restoration — or replacement.

I’ll cut to the chase: INDOT chose replacement. People who lived near the bridge wanted it restored. They rightly pointed out that this bridge was on the National Register of Historic Places thanks to its association with settlement and economic development in the county. Their arguments only delayed the inevitable. In 2019, this old bridge was removed, and this bridge was built.

Replacement SR 46 bridge near Bowling Green

It’s been years since I had been out this way. Since moving to Indianapolis in the mid 1990s, I had little call to drive the road between Bloomington and Terre Haute! But in August I met one of my sons at a state park near his home for a long hike. Because of COVID-19, we hadn’t seen each other in at least six months. We were long overdue. That state park is on State Road 46.

After our hike, my son needed to be on his way. I had a couple hours to kill, so I plotted a long drive and went on my way. My first destination was this bridge. I knew not seeing the old truss bridge would be challenging. Fortunately, SR 46 is just as charming a drive today as ever. Enjoying the drive took some of the sting out when I came upon the new bridge.

I’ve lamented modern bridges before: they stir no hearts. Their utilitarian design probably makes them less expensive to build and maintain. As a taxpayer, I appreciate that. Also, when this one has outlived its useful life, nobody will protest its demolition and replacement.

I’ll say this much in praise of the new bridge: it’s plenty wide. The old bridge’s deck was just 23.6 feet wide. Encountering an oncoming semi in there always felt like an uncomfortably close encounter! Actually, those semis are a big part of what make old truss bridges like these obsolete. Trucks just weren’t as big and heavy when these bridges were built. Today’s semis simply wore these bridges out faster. The new bridge offers no eye candy, but it is stout enough to take on any vehicle the modern era can throw at it.

Because of the bridge’s historic status, all is not lost. It was dismantled and will be relocated to a park near Nashville, Indiana, where it will serve as 2 single-span pedestrian bridges. When I hear that this project is complete, I’ll make a trip to see — and experience this old bridge once again.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!

Standard
Film Photography, Preservation

Re-restored: 1892 Holliday Road bridge

I thought for sure this bridge was a goner after a too-large tractor left it a twisted wreck. But this 1892 Pratt through truss bridge on Holliday Road in Boone County, Indiana, was rebuilt and it looks as good as ever. It had previously been restored in 2007-2009, making this its second restoration in about a decade.

Holliday Road Bridge

Holliday Road is closed to vehicular traffic right now for construction of some sort of development nearby. I reached it on my bicycle using the Turkey Foot Trail, which ends at Holliday Road within sight of the bridge. Here now, a bunch of photos of the bridge in all its bright red glory.

Holliday Road Bridge
Holliday Road Bridge
Holliday Road Bridge
Holliday Road Bridge
Holliday Road Bridge
Holliday Road Bridge
Holliday Road Bridge
Holliday Road Bridge

Holliday Road itself is a narrow gravel road that got very little use before it was closed. It was, however, wide enough that two oncoming cars didn’t have to play chicken. Today it’s quite overgrown, especially near the bridge.

Holliday Road disappearing
Holliday Road

I made these photos with an Olympus OM-4T SLR and a 40mm f/2 Zuiko Auto-S lens on Fujicolor 200.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!

Standard
Road Trips

1925 pony truss bridge on Old Indiana State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway

Let’s return to my 2007 trip along Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway between Indianapolis and Bloomington.

Windows Live Local map, 2007

Not a quarter mile south of the end of the Martinsville segment, the next segment of SR 37’s old alignment appeared.

This segment began quietly among a field of yellow-flowered weeds. The road seemed unusually narrow. I wondered if it widened when it met the original SR 37 roadway.

Beyond the curve, the road didn’t widen. The road lacked the two-foot “extensions” on either side I had seen since Johnson County.

Old SR 37

Shortly I came upon this wonderful old bridge. This three-span pony truss bridge was built in 1925.

Pony truss bridge

I love this bridge, and have returned to it several times since 2007. Here’s a photo I made of it in 2012.

Pony trusses

The posted 3-ton limit was a big clue that this old bridge was not as strong as it once was.

Pony trusses

Sadly, in 2015 this bridge failed an inspection and was closed. Here’s a photo from the last time I visited it, in 2017. I wrote about that visit here.

Abandoned bridge on Old SR 37

The I-69 plans use a lot of the old SR 37 alignments as frontage roads, but the plans don’t make clear what will happen here. I’m not optimistic about this bridge’s chances for survival.

Let’s return to 2007 now. It seems like this segment, which is about a mile long, just provides access to a couple neighborhoods to the east. The narrow pavement along this segment was smooth and even but unstriped. Soon I reached the end. Most segments of old alignments that end this way clearly complete a line with the current road or pick up on the other side of the road, at least in my experience, but that was not true with either end of this segment.

Old SR 37

Next: A stretch of early-1920s concrete pavement in Morgan County.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!

Standard
Road Trips

National Road and US 40 bridges over the Wabash River in Terre Haute, Indiana

When I moved to Terre Haute in 1985, the bridge that carried US 40 over the Wabash River into West Terre Haute was in sorry shape. It had served since 1905 and had been rehabilitated in 1973. But by the late 1980s it again needed a great deal of work. This postcard, which carries a 1912 postmark, shows it in sturdier times.

This unusual seven-span bridge had a central plate-girder section that carried vehicular traffic, with Pratt deck truss spans on either side for pedestrians. The pedestrian spans were closed by the time I lived in Terre Haute, presumably because deterioration had made them unsafe.

This bridge replaced a wooden covered bridge that was built in 1865. I’ll bet it was the longest covered bridge in the state while it was in operation.

But back to the unusual deck-girder/deck-truss bridge. Rather than restoring it yet again, the state chose to replace it with not one, but two new bridges, one eastbound and one westbound. The bridges were named for two Terre Haute natives, singer/songwriter and comedic actor Paul Dresser (westbound) and journalist and author Theodore Dreiser (eastbound). Dresser and Dreiser were brothers; Dresser changed his last name. Dresser wrote one of the most popular songs of the 19th century, “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away,” making his bridge over the Wabash River a touching tribute. The Dresser and Dreiser bridges opened in 1992, and the old bridge was demolished.

Terre Haute Tribune-Star photo

Notice the separation of these two bridges. Since the 1970s, US 40 had been realigned a couple of times through downtown Terre Haute, and these two bridges merely met US 40 where it was. Here’s how the two bridges cross the Wabash River.

Map image ©2020 Indiana Map Framework Data, Maxar Technologies, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data ©2020 Google.

US 40 and the National Road used to go straight through downtown Terre Haute, where it met the 1905 bridge and the 1865 bridge before it. This 1973 topographical map shows the route; it’s the red line across the middle of the image.

By the time I moved to Terre Haute, US 40 had been rerouted downtown. Westbound, when it reached US 41 (Third Street), the original path was no longer through. You turned north on US 41 for one block to Cherry Street, when you turned west again and followed a curve onto the 1905 bridge. Eastbound, after coming off the bridge a curve led to Ohio Street, one block south of the National Road. US 40 followed Ohio Street for several blocks before turning north and then east again onto the National Road. This 1989 topographical map shows the configuration.

From a 2009 visit to Terre Haute, here’s the Vigo County Courthouse, at the corner of the National Road and US 41. By this time US 40 had been rerouted again westbound to turn north at Ninth Street and then west one block later at Cherry Street.

Vigo County Courthouse

The grassy area in the lower right is where the National Road used to go.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!

Standard