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Across US-50 - Southern Illinois

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I recently drove the entire US-50 across southern Illinois this past week.

Poor spot. The intersection of US-50 and IL-4 south of Lebanon.

It is a 3 way stop with mostly trucks using IL-4 for north south transit. In fact with the number of trucks I saw on IL-4 in my short experience, I wonder how much it is becoming the north-south eastern bypass of the Metro-East that IDOT had thought IL-158 would become (and gave up).

Other than Lebanon, there are no cities on the route from I-55 all the way to I-64. The mayor who promoted the US-50 Bypass (and has since passed away) was a proponent of a IL-4 Eastern Bypass of Lebanon. He may have been ahead of his time.

Current US-50 from IL-158 to IL-4 is just too old, has much to many businesses up against it. If the Lebanon Bypass is to be done correctly, it really needs to begin at Air Mobility Drive (IL-158) all the way to Summerfield, where the upgrade to Carlyle from the 80's begins/ends.

From Summerfield to Carlyle, the road has been repaved with signs reporting it as "test pavement". It was in excellent shape with no rip-raps or joint heaves. IDOT still owns all the land to complete this as a 4 lane limited access as I was watching the property line fences throughout.

I did take a look at the bridges from the construction done back in the 80's and subsequently abandoned.  Used generally by contractors to get equipment across those creeks and rivers without having to tie up a lane, many of them are showing some bridge joint issues probably caused by lack of use and seasonal temperature changes over the past 35-40 years. Mostly expansion heaves.

Truck traffic on this route during my time on it was light to moderate. Mostly logistics operators and agricultural trucking.

Of course I hit the "end" of that work north of Carlyle where the new route stops abruptly at IL-127 and made the jog through downtown Carlyle to goes back to the 1928 alignment.

Once back on this old alignment, you see many of the functional and engineering compromises that have been kicked forward by IDOT over the years. Guardrails over a few swamps that are directly up against the highway with no shoulders. Much the route had been resurfaced, but there are many farms, small industrial and the usual grid county roads that intersect the road every mile.

It stayed this way all the way to Sandoval.  Once there US-50 has to make yet another jog through town (showing off its 1928 roots) and the traffic types changed immediately once we continued east of town. IDOT recently cancelled the US-51 Bypass east of Sandoval where they had planned for a cloverleaf with a future US-50 north bypass. Won't happen now.

Truck traffic picked up markedly and grew as we got closer to Salem. The AADT between Odin and Salem is over 10k and I believe it. XPO Logistics has a large truck terminal between Salem and Odin and those were the trucks we were seeing. I can only assume those westbound trucks were headed to Centralia. Between XPO and I-57 is the usual collection of fast food, small industrial, etc. The former printing plant off Selmaville Road is totally gone and so was the truck traffic to/from it.

There is no bypass of Salem for US-50 and so you are limited by typical urban speed limits. The Union Pacific bridge over the highway was upgraded some 20 years ago, so there are no clearance issues.

One odd result of a bridge upgrade is a jog over the creek from the C&EI Reservoir. They built the new bridge next to the old one, but didn't put a lot in getting the road realigned to the new bridge.

Not a big deal really, but when you come down the hill towards the bridge, you clearly see this sudden jog to the north for no reason.

Between Salem and Xenia, it follows the old ROW, but IDOT has replaced all of the narrow bridges and widened & paved for shoulders where possible. Much better than the 1970's where there were no shoulders and lots of narrow bridges. But this segment still has lots of farm access, driveways, county roads, etc.

Also a difference in the types of trucks heading west changed. No longer logistics firms, about 40% of the trucks were from WalMart and the rest industrial supplier types. This reflects traffic generated by the distro center in Olney and some of the industry in Flora.

Once at Xenia you get moved back over to the expressway ROW that was not finished and eventually cancelled.  Interesting to look at the abandoned pavement next to you all dirty and unused with grass pushing up through the cracks.

IDOT still owns a good wide ROW here and they have no farms, driveways or small business access on this segment, but the county roads remain.

Along here it is cosigned with US-45 as it bypasses Flora and Clay City. Flora has built local streets which serve as frontage roads. It appears the planned intersections with US-45 were all to be ground level and traffic lights prevail here. Lots of truck skid marks, so this tells you the light seems to surprise many of the drivers.

The road is still in good shape here.

Once past Flora and Clay City, the trucks going west are now 99% WalMart based. I think I counted only 1 non-WalMart truck all the way to Olney.

From south of Clay City all the way to Vincennes, US-50 uses a ROW that was developed back in the early 60's as part of the planned I-64 to Louisville.  You can see "old US 50" a few times while driving this route which was put down in 1923 and appears got its last update sometime after WW2.

Also of historical note, the Old US 50 bridges over the Big Muddy and Small Muddy Creeks are still standing. With their unique brick sidewalls and trusses you will see some old style road building techniques. Built in 1923 you can read more here.

You can get to them, but you cannot drive across them as they have been closed.

The segment from Olney to Vincennes is showing its age. IDOT has inexplicably allowed driveways to be built between Olney and Sumner.  I can only assume with the old US-50 (former IL-250) so close by this may have been a compromise, but 1 development clearly shows they did not force them to build a frontage access. The many proposals to update this route will have issues with ROW. From Sumner to the Wabash River, it is much improved. The truck types now have shifted to WalMart in both directions. The rest of the trucks were agricultural.

Well, that is US-50 today across Illinois.

That section with all the unused bridges fascinated me when I drove it several years ago.

Great description. The unused bridges were from the supplemental freeway upgrade and the Xenia to Indiana section were from the 64 ROW. It's great how you point that out.

Do you think the old bridges are usable with a re deck?

I was reviewing the unbuilt  freeway sections. Can we consider 50 inbuilt or with the addition of the Lebanon bypass was it In fact completed much as the expressway segments should be considered completed?


--- Quote from: 3467 on June 22, 2021, 11:55:09 AM ---Great description. The unused bridges were from the supplemental freeway upgrade and the Xenia to Indiana section were from the 64 ROW. It's great how you point that out.

Do you think the old bridges are usable with a re deck?

I was reviewing the unbuilt  freeway sections. Can we consider 50 inbuilt or with the addition of the Lebanon bypass was it In fact completed much as the expressway segments should be considered completed?

--- End quote ---

As for the old bridges, redeck = yes, the problem would be with scour at the piers. If the route gets funding ever again, I would say they would probably replace the stringer steel with pre-stressed concrete.

It is a mixed bag from Summerfield east. Because the project was cancelled so hastily in 1974, there is a mix of expressway with diamond exits (Breese), some county roads where the intersections were put back in, some with overpasses, but a 2 lane stub intersection put in. All of the county road overpasses that were built support a 4 lane expressway.

The road suffers from incompletion and anyone looking to expand anything industrial or for logistics will lose because they can't check the box for a 4 lane highway. So essentially it's a frankenstein, part Super 2, part 4 lane expressway, part rural arterial.

Having seen the route from IL-158 to Lebanon, I can easily say the bypass is needed, but it has to go west of IL-4 to be fully functional.

Reconnecting the bypass to the 1973 project at Summerfield should be fairly easy. All the dirt the contractors amassed for the planned overpass is still there (covered with trees) and IDOT still owns all the ROW between Summerfield and IL-4.

I like the term Frankenstein for that segment.
It looks like and it's just the maps in the MYP  that the bypass will begin at 4. Think they will remember 50 on to 4 to 64?
I count about 21 miles from Carlyle to the 4 lane before 57 and then about 10 to Xenia.
I also wonder if it's that development after Olney that Ed observed that scuttled the 4 lane?


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