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American Road Magazine
Celebrating our two-lane highways of yesteryear…And the joys of driving them today!

Old Old Us 50 In Southwestern Indiana

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I am finding that US 50 in southwestern Indiana has quite a colorful history in terms of realignments. Apparently, I-64 was originally slated to follow US 50 through here and into Illinois -- so much so that the current four-lane alignment between Washington and Vincennes was built in anticipation. That alignment bypasses every town along the way like a good Interstate should. But lobbying got I-64 built along the "US 460" (now SR 62) corridor across southern Indiana instead.


I've already shown you photos from old US 50 as bypassed by the I-64 that never was. But I have learned that there is an even older alignment of US 50 between Washington and Vincennes.


One of my favorite Indiana map resources is available at the Web site of the Indiana University libraries. It has official state highway maps from 1917, 1923, 1924, and 1927 through 1931. Those maps show not only the original alignment, but how it was slowly realigned to the second alignment between 1929 and 1931.


What's even more cool is that after I posted photos from the original alignment to my Flickr space, a fellow who follows me chimed in to say he grew up in Vincennes and remembers the four-lane going in, and that his father remembers the 1931 alignment going in -- and vouched for my educated guess at the original alignment.


This image shows all three alignments. I've traced the oldest in blue. The next alignment and the current alignment overlap in places; where they are different, look for roads marked Old US 50. (Click the image to see it full size.)




I followed this alignment west to east. Here's Old Wheatland Road, near where this alignment begins on the east side of Vincennes.



Old Wheatland Road by mobilene, on Flickr


As you can see, Old Wheatland Road rises and falls with the terrain.



Old Wheatland Road by mobilene, on Flickr


It merges into SR 550 for a short bit just before it reaches Wheatland. Clearly, this section of 550 was built on Old Wheatland Road.



SR 550 by mobilene, on Flickr


The real gem on this alignment is this 1909 bridge. It's a three-spanner carrying one lane traffic. It was apparently renovated a few years ago.



Washington Road Bridge by mobilene, on Flickr


The bridge builder's plates still adorn the bridge at either end.



Washington Road Bridge by mobilene, on Flickr


The bridge originally had a wooden deck, but it was replaced by this steel deck in the renovation.



Washington Road Bridge by mobilene, on Flickr


The rest of the old alignment wasn't very remarkable -- just a series of country roads with more jogs and zigzags than we put up with in our highways today.




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Another great report! And the 1909 bridge is amazing.


I have concluded from your reports and my National Parks Highway expedition that Mid westerners save their old roads and bridges like some folks save string....they keep them just in case they need them some day! :lol:


I'm glad I did the NPH run because it introduced me to the kind of roads you have been exploring for the past couple of years. Indiana, and by my measure, Wisconsin and Minnesota, are rich in old alignments. I haven't done other Midwestern states but I assume from other reports on the forum (e.g. Denny) that they are equally blessed.


As always, thanks for sharing!




Keep the Show on the Road!

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I've driven IN-62 and knew that I-64 parallelled it in places. You can chose fast or fun travel as appropriate. But I was not aware that it was ever a US route. Thanks for the education and thanks for the pictures of the very cool Washington Road Bridge.

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