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Author Topic: U.S. Route 50 in eastern Illinois  (Read 2721 times)

Jordanes

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U.S. Route 50 in eastern Illinois
« on: July 04, 2021, 09:17:44 PM »

Today, I drove US 50 from Olney to Lebanon, a route I once drove a LOT when driving a tractor-trailer (there is a Wal-Mart distribution center in Olney, and I would haul loads out of there to Wal-Mart stores).

I noticed again something I noticed back in my trucking days...between Olney and Salem (and east of Olney to the Indiana line), there is clearly an older roadway for US 50 that runs parallel to the current routing, and in many places, it is labeled as "Old US 50".

Does anyone have any information on when the current US 50 in this area was commissioned, and the old road no longer used?
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edwaleni

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Re: U.S. Route 50 in eastern Illinois
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2021, 11:37:54 PM »

Today, I drove US 50 from Olney to Lebanon, a route I once drove a LOT when driving a tractor-trailer (there is a Wal-Mart distribution center in Olney, and I would haul loads out of there to Wal-Mart stores).

I noticed again something I noticed back in my trucking days...between Olney and Salem (and east of Olney to the Indiana line), there is clearly an older roadway for US 50 that runs parallel to the current routing, and in many places, it is labeled as "Old US 50".

Does anyone have any information on when the current US 50 in this area was commissioned, and the old road no longer used?

Before it was US-50, it was part of the National Trails System which roughly followed the Cahokia Trace and the B&O Southwestern RR.



Between 1923 to 1928 the route known as US-50 began to take form in a formal fashion.

The State of Illinois started converting the trails routes from dirt to oil and chip. From Lawrenceville to Sumner there were actually 2 routes for the Lincoln Trail. One followed the Cahokia Trace, one followed the railroad through Sumner and Bridgeport. Illinois paved the Sumner-Bridgeport road.



By 1930 it pretty much followed the "post National Trails" route from Vincennes to Salem. Most of this route is what you see today as "Old US-50".



Only the route from Xenia to Salem haven't moved since this was finished.

In 1946, right after WW2 this area of Illinois was booming due to the ongoing oil discoveries.

Illinois replaced the former National Trails route through Bridgeport & Sumner and built a new route following the former Cahokia Trace route west of Lawrenceville, and renamed the old route ALT US-50.



In fact that little "bump" on the first 2 maps is the original Cahokia Trace route through what is called Red Hills and is still there today.

You can drive this former Lincoln Trail route by taking State Street west of Lawrenceville to County 1100/1090N.  It merges with US 50 briefly then turn right into the Red Hills Park North Entrance. You are then on a route that dates back to the 1600's.

In 1952-1953 they put in the Clay City south bypass that took out the need to jog through town and it abruptly ended at the west Clay County line and went to the old ROW again.

The upgrade from the Clay County line west wasn't touched again until 1972.

The route from just west of Noble to Vincennes was built out in the early 1960's in anticipation of the interstate highway system. The old US-50 was re-labeled as IL-250 and Busn 50 from Lawrenceville to Vincennes.

The freeway around Lawrenceville to Vincennes was finished in 1962. The Olney bypass to west of Noble was completed in 1964.

The new route from west of the Clay County line to Xenia was built in 1972-1974 timeframe as part of the supplemental highway system but abruptly stopped due to lost funding. I actually remember driving the "old" US-50 here while construction of the new was taking place.

This effort ended at a stoplight at Xenia Road for many years until IDOT put a connector in to the original ROW. The ROW from west of Xenia to Salem is the original ROW but has been repaved, graded, and updated in the intervening years but has some spots where there are no shoulders or poor geometry.

Remnants of this old route of US-50 / Lincoln Trail Highway still exist and have been passed down to the local county or township road departments. Some parts are still in their original gravel form but still use the original culverts from the 1920's.





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edwaleni

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Re: U.S. Route 50 in eastern Illinois
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2021, 10:11:17 AM »

This is what it looks like today.



In the intervening years, minor changes have occurred.

IL-250 no longer runs through downtown Olney.  They turned it south by co-signing it with IL-130 to US-50.

IL-250 for many years ran on the old US-50 between the Olney and the Sumner Turn.

That is now a pretty decrepit county road or for the most part a farm access road along side US-50.  IL-250 is now cosigned with US-50 until the mentioned turn.

Indiana completed the Vincennes Bypass (US-50/US-41/US-150) in 1966.

IDOT still shows US-50 as a divided highway at US-45 north of Flora, but that part of the road was never put into service as part of the 1974 loss of funding. It sits growing weeds with a truck or camper parked (illegally) from time to time.

This "bump" (see below) in the Lincoln Trail is part of the original Cahokia Trace as it navigated the Red Hills. Used by local tribes to cross between the former Mississippian center of Cahokia Mounds (East St Louis) to the Buffalo Trace that came down across Illinois and Indiana.



This trace was later used by French traders between the settlement at St Louis and the fort at Vincennes.  After the French were evicted @ Vincennes by the British, George Rogers Clark took his American militia across this trace in the winter time and evicted the British.

That is why there is a large monument to Clark where the old US-50 cross the Wabash River.
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