Indianapolis, the capital of Indiana and the largest city in the state is best known as the Crossroads of America. This nickname extends to the rest of the state as well, but it is within Indianapolis where many of the state’s interstate and U.S. highways converge. This brings the city within easy access of most of the country and makes it the trade center for Central Indiana.
Indianapolis was platted in 1820 by Alexander Ralston, whose plan for the city consisted of a mile square area that was bordered by North, South, East and West Streets and near the banks of the White River. This plan consisted of an orderly square with Meridian Street forming the north-south axis and Market Street forming the east-west access. Together, they converged on Monument Circle, which is today the heart of Indianapolis. Washington Street, one block south of Market Street, was where the National Road, the first highway in Indianapolis, went through. Up until the 1980s, U.S. 40 followed Washington Street through the city just as the National Road did. The plan was inspired by the Washington, D.C. plan, which Ralston had helped in creating, and consists of diagonal avenues radiating from the square to the four corners of the square. Other than Meridian, Market, and Washington Streets, the other roads were named for states.
In its early history, Indianapolis did not grow much, due to the fact that it was not on a navigable waterway. It was only when the railroads came into the city that the population started to boom, since Indianapolis was situated in a place for the crossroads of the railroads. In the 20th Century, this would translate into early highways coming into the city, converging in Indianapolis on their trips across the country. Starting in the 1950s, the interstate highways began their way into the city, starting with the outlying areas and the Interstate 465 loop and finally into the heart of the city via Interstates 65 and 70. In the 1960s, as with many Midwestern cities, the city started to decrease in population and was losing people to the suburbs. This prompted the city to merge with Marion County in 1970 as part of the Unigov system. This allowed for Indianapolis to jump up in population and allowed for it to continue growing. This decision also bought Indianapolis some time to start improving its downtown by building a new convention center, stadium and other facilities to make the city more attractive. These efforts were rewarded by bringing the Indianapolis Colts, NCAA Headquarters, and Super Bowl XLVI to town. Of course, the city’s most famous attraction is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 race, giving the city the nickname, “Racing Capital of the World.”
By 1976, the interstate system in Indianapolis was effectively completed with seven interstate legs coming out of the city, two for Interstates 65, 70 and 74 and one for Interstate 69. Future plans will create two more freeway legs with Interstate 69 south and U.S. 31 north of the city. In the early part of the 21st Century, the focus has been on updating the freeway network around Indianapolis by widening highways and replacing old interchanges. Indianapolis is now the second largest city in population in the Midwest and the Indianapolis metropolitan area is the fastest growing in the state, now accounting for nearly one third of the state’s population. What was once called Naptown, in a derogatory sense, has since become the vibrant center for the Central Indiana region, bringing people from all over the country into one of the fastest growing Midwest metros. More than ever, Indianapolis lives up to its title as the Crossroads of America.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, the U.S. and state highways that ran through the city were rerouted along Interstate 465 in a way to get rid of INDOT responsibilities along what were basically Indianapolis city streets. This has created a unique situation where several highways are overlapped along the Interstate 465 beltway, but not acknowledged except for at their ends.
Interstate 65 runs for 261 miles in Indiana from the Southern Indiana suburbs of Louisville, Scottsburg, Columbus, Franklin, Indianapolis, Lebanon, Lafayette and the Northwest Indiana region. Through Indianapolis, Interstate 65 carries traffic from Johnson County and the Perry Township suburbs of the city through Downtown and into the Pike Township suburbs en route to Boone County. From Exit 99 in Greenwood to Exit 120 at Interstate 465 the highway maintains six lanes. The stretch of Interstate 65 to the northwest of the city was the first built, followed by the segment from Keystone Avenue toward the south. Slowly, the interstate was built inward before the completion of the overlap with Interstate 70 in the Downtown area in 1976. The interstate follows the path of U.S. 31 to the south of the city and U.S 52 to the north, where it multiplexes through Boone County.
Interstate 69 has had the most diverse history among Indiana freeways and is the only one that isn’t complete as of 2012. The north end of the freeway starts at Interstate 465 on the northeast side of Indianapolis and heads for 154 miles north to the Michigan border near Angola. The stretch of Interstate 69 from Exit 0 at Interstate 465 to Exit 5 at Indiana 37 north in Fishers experiences some of the worst traffic in Indiana from the extreme suburban growth to the north of Indianapolis. Originally, the highway was to be routed south of Interstate 465 through the northeast side of the city to the North Split interchange with Interstates 65 and 70 near Downtown, but the plan was defeated due to community opposition. This was the only time that a serious interstate project was stopped in the city. The southern half of Interstate 69 is currently being built in various segments. Eventually, it will stretch from the Evansville area northeast to Bloomington where it will follow the Indiana 37 corridor through the western half of Perry Township to a new interchange with Interstate 465. The interstate will then follow Interstate 465 around the east side of the city to the current Interstate 69. Interstate 69 follows the path of Indiana 37 to the north and will follow the exact corridor to the south in the future.
Interstate 70 runs for 157 miles from the Illinois border, outside of Terre Haute, through Indianapolis and to the Ohio border near Richmond. Interstate 70 runs from the southwest suburbs of Plainfield and Decatur Township and heads past the Indianapolis International Airport and through the west side of Indianapolis. The stretch to the south of the airport was rebuilt in the 2000s to form an impressive stretch of highway that is the widest in Indiana. The interstate forms the southern and eastern sides of the three-sided Downtown loop. The stretch of Interstate 70 on the east side of downtown is multiplexed with Interstate 65, in between the North and South Splits. East of downtown, the highway carries eight to ten lanes out to Interstate 465 near the Warren Park area. This is the busiest highway in the city, largely because it carries the added traffic from the northern Marion County and Hamilton County suburbs that was intended on using the never-built Interstate 69 freeway. The Super 70 project rebuilt this stretch of interstate in the late 2000s. East of Interstate 465 the highway continued through Warren Township and into Hancock County where it remains six lanes to Exit 96. Interstate 70 follows the path of U.S. 40 across Marion County.
Interstate 74 goes for 172 miles across Indiana from the Illinois border outside of Danville, Illinois to the Ohio border near Cincinnati. It runs through Indianapolis on its own course on the northwest side near Speedway and on the southeast side past Wanamaker and Acton. In between, it follows Interstate 465 for 19 miles along the west and south sides of the city. Originally the interstate was to go through the city, following Crawfordsville and 16th Streets toward Downtown and Southeastern Avenue east toward the southeast. West of town the highway follows the path of U.S. 136, and east of town it follows U.S. 421, multiplexing with the U.S. highway east of Interstate 465.
Designated as the USS Indianapolis Memorial Highway, Interstate 465 is the beltway for Indianapolis. The highway was built as a freeway bypass of the city and a replacement for the old Indiana 100, which was conceived as a bypass in its own right. The western and southern ends of the freeway were the first built, followed by the eastern end. By 1970 the northern end and the dogleg extension to Interstate 65 were completed. This five-mile dogleg was later designated as Interstate 865.
Since the beltway’s completion, INDOT has slowly upgraded the highway with the added growth of the Indianapolis metropolitan area who uses the beltway as a main street for the region. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the eastern segment of the highway was rebuilt with new interchange designs. In the late 2000s, the western segment, among the first built, was rebuilt with new interchanges as well. Other construction projects included the rebuild of the highway through the Park 100 area on the northwest side and the Northeast side around the Castleton area. More than half of the highway is now at least eight lanes wide with the rest being six lanes.
Interstate 74 follows the beltway for 19 miles on the west and south sides and Interstate 69 will follow it in the future along the south and east sides. All U.S. and State highways that go through Indianapolis follow Interstate 465 due to their rerouting away from the city center. The southern and southeastern stretches of the beltway contain numerous highways with the stretch between Exits 44 and 46 containing U.S. Highways 31, 36, 40, 52, and 421 and State highways 37 and 67.
Locally known as the Dogleg, Interstate 865 travels for only a few miles in southeastern Boone County as a connector route between the Interstate 465 beltway and Interstate 65. Interstate 865 began its life as a part of the Interstate 465 beltway. This meant that Exit 25 on the beltway was a point where Interstate 465 came together in three spots. Therefore, in 2002, it was decided to change the highway’s designation to Interstate 865. The nearly five mile interstate has no exits other than at its ends and carries two lanes of lightly traveled traffic along its route.
U.S. 31 carries commuter traffic from the Greenwood area north and south from Westfield and Carmel into Indianapolis. The highway has been multi-laned throughout the area for years. U.S. 31 runs from north to south across Indiana and did so across Indianapolis until its rerouting around Interstate 465. Historically, it followed Westfield Boulevard from Carmel into Indianapolis where it was flowed into Meridian Street. Later on, Meridian Street carried the highway from Downtown, whereas Madison Avenue carried it to the south. Madison Avenue was bypassed in the 1950s by a larger expressway that bypasses Homecroft, Southport, and Greenwood. This bypass is still U.S. 31 today. The routing through downtown had changed a bit through the years, but for many years had followed Delaware and Pennsylvania Streets as a one way couplet through downtown before turning west onto North Street to Meridian Street, following it to the county line and beyond. Today, the highway is routed along Interstate 465 on the east side from Exits 2 to 31.
U.S. 36 is another busy highway through the metro area, remaining at four lanes on both Rockville Road and Pendleton Pike. Since its inception, U.S. 36 has followed Rockville Road in from Hendricks County to the road’s end at Washington Street. It then followed Washington into Downtown where it took a variety of routes to head toward the northeast along Massachusetts Avenue, which becomes Pendleton Pike at 38th Street. The final routing of the highway had it leave Washington Street at West Street, and north along it to 38th Street. From there, it followed 38th Street to Pendleton Pike and continued northeast toward Lawrence. Today, the road follows Interstate 465 along the south and east sides from Exit 13 to Exit 42.
U.S 40 was the main east-west highway across the city before the interstates, a testament to the fact that it once carried the National Road. Throughout its history, the highway had followed Washington Street across the city. Even today it still utilizes Washington Street on the west and east sides of the city outside the Interstate 465 beltway, where it follows the highway along the south and east sides from Exit 12 to Exit 46.
U.S. 52 connected Indianapolis to Lafayette to the north and Cincinnati to the southeast. To this end, it originally followed Lafayette Road from Lebanon southeast into the city. The original routing then followed 16th Street east to West Street. The highway then followed West Street south to Washington Street and then southeast along Southeastern Avenue. The highway then broke off at English Avenue which then turned into Brookville Road, which U.S. 52 followed out of Indianapolis. Notably, U.S. 52 was the first U.S. highway to follow the Interstate 465 beltway, only partially completed at the time along the west and south sides. Later on, the highway was rerouted along the north and east sides of the city. Today, U.S. 52 enters Interstate 465 via Interstate 865 and follows from Exit 25 to Exit 47 at Brookville Road.
U.S. 136 was originally a spur route off of U.S. 36, and began at U.S. 421 (West Street/Northwestern Avenue) and followed 16th Street to its famous intersection with Georgetown Road and Crawfordsville Road, outside the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It then followed Crawfordsville Road northwesterly toward Brownsburg. Interstate 74 was later built to the north of the highway from Interstate 465 westward, prompting a reroute of Crawfordsville Road to the south so that Crawfordsville Road out of Speedway could flow straight onto Interstate 74. Until 2011, the highway had a quirk in it so that it went east from the junction with Interstates 465 & 74 to the point where Crawfordsville Road had broken off to the south. U.S. 136 followed this southern routing back onto the original Crawfordsville Road en route to Clermont. This “loop” effect meant that this was technically the last non-interstate highway to exist inside the Interstate 465 beltway. Since the completion of the new interchange complex at Exit 16, the routing of U.S. 136 along Crawfordsville Road now ends at its new diamond interchange at Interstate 465.
Running from the northwest out of Boone County and into the Shelby County in the southeast, U.S. 421 for many years has followed the routing of the Michigan Road, among the first highways in Indiana, stretching from Madison on the Ohio River to South Bend near the Michigan border. U.S. 421 follows the majority of this route even today, with some variations. Through Indianapolis, the highway followed Michigan Road from the Zionsville area through Augusta and New Augusta and down onto West Street where it went south to Washington Street. U.S. 421 then followed Washington Street east to Southeastern Avenue, which it followed out to the edge of town en route to Shelbyville. Eventually, the highway would be rerouted along Interstate 465 from Exit 27 to the northwest to Exit 49 in the southeast.
Indiana 37 exists as a major route connecting Indianapolis with Bloomington to the south and Marion and Fort Wayne to the north. Interstate 69 has taken much of that importance away to the north and will do so to the south in the future. Historically, the highway came down from Hamilton County via Allisonville Road. Allisonville Road flowed into Fall Creek Parkway, south of 38th Street, and then followed Fall Creek Parkway to Meridian Street. It then followed Meridian Street into downtown where it would follow a variety of streets to West Street. It then followed West Street south to where it became Bluff Road. The highway then followed Bluff Road southwest out of the city.
Over the years, the route was modified. When the new Indiana 37 expressway was built to the west of Bluff Road, Indiana 37 was routed onto the interstate from the expressway onto U.S. 31 a couple of miles to the east, it then followed U.S. 31 through the city to 38th Street and then east on 38th Street to a new expressway highway (later named Binford Boulevard after the rerouting to Interstate 465), where it would head out onto the new Interstate 69 freeway. Along with U.S. 31, it was among the last highways to get rerouted along Interstate 465, following along the south and east sides from Exit 4 to Exit 37.
As it did for most of its history, Indiana 67 has remained routed along Kentucky Avenue to the southwest and Pendleton Pike to the northeast. The original routing also utilized Massachusetts Avenue out of downtown onto Pendleton Pike, which was later bypassed by having the highway use West Street to 38th Street and then 38th Street to Pendleton Pike. Today, the highway remains busy around the Lawrence area on Pendleton Pike and is a four-lane expressway through Decatur Township and the Mooresville area. Today, it follows Interstate 465 around the south and east sides from Exit 8 to Exit 42.
This is the most forgotten of current highways in Indianapolis, as it only runs for 0.4 miles from U.S. 136 (Crawfordsville Road) along Girls School Road to the Indianapolis Juvenile Correction Facility, previously the Indiana Girls School, hence the name Girls School Road. Previously, the highway ran south along the road to U.S. 40 (Washington Street) but has since been truncated to be merely a state highway connector from U.S. 136 to the correctional facility. Few in Indianapolis think of it as a state highway and more as a mere city street.
Currently the longest state highway with three digits, Indiana 135 was originally Indiana 35 and once ran along Meridian Street from Johnson County all the way into Downtown Indianapolis where it ended at U.S. 31. Over the years, the route was truncated so that it ended at U.S. 31 along Troy Avenue further to the south. When the need came for Indiana 135 to leave the interior of the Interstate 465 beltway, the highway was moved further south to Thompson Road. Today, it follows Meridian Street north to Thompson Road, where it follows east to U.S. 31 (East Street).
Essentially, this followed the routing of U.S. 136 from 16th Street out to Crawfordsville Road and further west toward Crawfordsville and Danville, Illinois. It was decommissioned in 1939.
Originally conceived as a beltway for Indianapolis, the highway only existed on the north and east sides of town with a small segment near the Indianapolis International Airport. It followed Shadeland Avenue along the then-new Shadeland Avenue Expressway north to 82nd Street. The road then continued west along 82nd Street, which becomes 86th Street upon crossing the White River and further west to Lafayette Road, the old U.S. 52. The other segment followed High School Road from U.S. 40 (Washington Street) to what was then the main terminal to the Weir Cook Municipal Airport (today Indianapolis International Airport). Over the years, the various segments of this highway were decommissioned with the final decommission taking place in 1999 for the part along the Shadeland Avenue Expressway.
This highway followed Massachusetts Avenue from Downtown Indianapolis to 38th Street in the 1950s and 1960s where Indiana 67 was rerouted along 38th Street and West Street. The road was decommissioned in the 1960s.
This highway existed in two separate parts. The south side segment followed Madison Avenue from both ends of the new U.S. 31 expressway built to bypass the communities of Homecroft, Southport, and Greenwood. It followed the route of what was U.S. 31 before the new bypass was built. The southern segment was eventually decommissioned as the other U.S. and state highways were being rerouted around the city via Interstate 465. The northern segment followed Keystone Avenue from Fall Creek Parkway, near the State Fairground, northward to a northern terminus at U.S. 31 in Carmel. Unilike its southern sibling, it was never U.S. 31, but a bypass of U.S. 31 for the Northside neighborhoods of Indianapolis and Carmel. The segment from Interstate 465 was truncated in the 1990s whereas the part to the north was finally decommissioned in 2007 to the city of Carmel, who built the new Keystone Parkway along its route.
Indiana 434 linked U.S. 421 (Michigan Road) near Augusta with U.S. 31 (Meridian Street) at Meridian Hills along a combination of Westlane Road, West 73rd Street and Meridian Hills Boulevard. The state road was decommissioned by the 1960s.
Sam Jones Expressway
Originally built as a connector from the new Interstate 70 freeway along the west side of the city to the terminal of the Indianapolis International Airport, the Sam Jones Expressway was then known as the Airport Expressway. The expressway went from High School Road, in front of the old terminal, east beyond Interstates 465 & 74 and past the Park Fletcher area to Interstate 70. East of there, it became a four-lane arterial known as Raymond Street. In 2007, the road was renamed for a local civic leader, Sam Jones, as the Midfield Terminal of the Indianapolis International Airport was being built. With the new terminal constructed, the airport was now reached from a new road off of Interstate 70 and the name Airport Expressway was no longer relevant. Today, it still exists as a sub-standard four-lane highway with a few interchanges that connect to local roads.
Shadeland Avenue Expressway
Originally conceived as a part of the Indiana 100 beltway, the Shadeland Avenue Expressway was a freeway-like road at its southern end from Interstate 465 north to Washington Street, north of there it was a regular arterial road. The southern end was modified upon during the reconstruction of the Interstate 465 beltway and its interchange with Shadeland Avenue. Other than that, the highway remains the same as it has since its completion. Today, it is known locally as merely Shadeland Avenue.
Colonal H. Weir Cook Memorial Drive
This short access road connects Interstate 70 with the new Col. H. Weir Cook Terminal at the Indianapolis International Airport.
Indianapolis Area Highway and Road Scenes
|16th Street westbound at Senate Avenue south and an entrance to Methodist Hospital. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|Senate Avenue was made discontinuous by construction of Methodist Hospital. So Senate Boulevard was built to the west to connect the two sections of roadway via 16th Street, one block to the west. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|16th Street passes under Interstate 65 and next intersects Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street. A unique combo-shield for Interstates 65-70 direct motorists northbound onto MLK Street to the southbound on-ramp from 21st Street. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|16th Street westbound at Lynhurst Drive in Speedway. A classic state-named trailblazer directs drivers bound for Interstate 465 onto either direction of Lynhurst. Connections with Crawfordsville Road (former U.S. 136A) west in Speedway or Sam Jones Expressway west at Park Fletcher lead to the beltway. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|21st Street east|
|Martin Luther King, Jr. Street (former U.S. 421) northbound at the 21st Street east to Interstate 65 (Exit 115). Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|21st Street ties Interstate 65 (Exit 115) with parallel Senate Boulevard at Near Northside in this eastbound scene. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|Interstate 65 Indiana trailblazer directing drivers onto 21st Street west from Senate Boulevard. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|One block east of Senate Boulevard, 21st Street meets Capitol Avenue southbound. An elevated rail line connects the hospital with the IUPUI campus to the southwest. The People Mover opened for use in 2003. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|21st Street west|
|Approaching the parclo interchange of 21st Street and Interstate 65 ahead of the intersection with Senate Boulevard south and Boulevard Place north. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|The northbound on-ramp to Interstate 65 departs immediately west of Senate Boulevard / Boulevard Place and 21st Street. Photos taken 11/05/09.|
|Angled mast arms posted at the Capitol Avenue southbound intersection with 18th Street by Methodist Hospital. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|A rare state-named shield for Interstate 65 directs motorists from Capitol Avenue southbound onto 16th Street westbound to Senate Boulevard north and the 21st Street on-ramps. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|Crawfordsville Road east|
|Historical look at the I-74 freeway stub connecting the Indianapolis Beltway with Crawfordsville Road and the former east end of U.S. 136 at High School Road. The stub was demolished with Accelerate465 reconfiguring of the I-74/465 interchange. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|Without a direct connection until 2012, when a new interchange between U.S. 136 and Interstate 465 opened, the freeway stub east from Interstate 74 to Crawfordsville Road was the method by which U.S. 136 connected with the Beltway. The US highway was truncated slightly west to the new Exit 16A of the beltway. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|Crawfordsville Road (former U.S. 136) through Speedway doubles as Hulman Memorial Way. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|Cunningham Road stems south from a busy retail area of Crawfordsville Road to 16th Street in Speedway. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|Lynhurst Drive provides a through route for motorists heading south from Crawfordsville Road to the Garden City and Stout Field areas of west Indianapolis. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|Crawfordsville Road west|
|Lynhurst Drive northbound at Crawfordsville Road in Speedway. The former U.S. 136 leads west to Interstates 74-465. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|Six lanes of Crawfordsville Road intersect Cunningham Road amid retail on all directions. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|Junction Interstate 465 shield assembly posted ahead of the Crawfordsville Road interchange with the Indianapolis Beltway. Accelerate465 realigned Crawfordsville Road to smooth transition into the road west to U.S. 136 at new-Exit 16A of I-465. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|What was the westbound beginning of U.S. 136 until Accelerate465 construction added a diamond interchange between Crawfordsville Road and the Beltway in 2012. A freeway stub directly connected Crawfordsville Road (former U.S. 136 through Speedway) with Interstate 74 leading west to Brownsburg and Peoria, Illinois. This stub was a remnant from when Interstate 74 was planned to run through the city instead of around it on Interstate 465. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|A signalized intersection connected the east end of U.S. 136 with the freeway stub west to the beltway in lieu of direct ramps. High School Road tied in from the north. U.S. 136 stretches across five states for 804 miles between Indianapolis and Edison, Nebraska. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|Crawfordsville Road directly upgraded into the I-74 freeway west of U.S. 136 and High School Road. A full cloverleaf interchange with Interstate 465 followed. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|What was the northbound on-ramp to Interstate 465 to Eagle Creek, Park 100 and Trader's Point in northwest Indianapolis. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|An Interstate 74 trailblazer commenced the route along the Crawfordsville Road freeway stub above Interstate 465. Interstate 74 ITS markers were used on the stub freeway as well. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|Morris Street spans the White River ahead of an industrial area leading to West Street (former Indiana 37). West Street partitions into a one-way street couplet with Missouri Street (north) into a split diamond interchange with Interstate 70 nearby. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|Morris Street westbound at Meridian Street in Near Southside. Meridian Street passes under Interstate 70 to downtown to the right. An Interstate 70 trailblazer directs motorists to remain along Morris Street west to Missouri Street north for the westbound on-ramp to St. Louis. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|Missouri Street partitions from West Street (former SR 37) to carry northbound traffic into downtown. Ramps to Interstate 70 lie one block to the north. Photo taken 11/05/09.|
|Entering the split-diamond interchange with Interstate 70 on Missouri Street north. Drivers joining eastbound default into the South Split interchange with Interstate 65. Photos taken 11/05/09.|
|The westbound on-ramp forms a brief frontage street connecting Missouri (north) and West (south) Streets within Exit 79A. Interstate 70 spans the White River to West Indianapolis and continues to Indianapolis International Airport (IND), Terre Haute and St. Louis. Photos taken 11/05/09.|
Page Updated January 25, 2012.