05 August 2013

Historic Michigan Road signs are popping up!

Byway sign in Marshall County
Almost 5 years ago to this day I met up with a guy named Jim I had only corresponded with over this blog on the topic of the Michigan Road.  The Michigan Road was the first state-commissioned highway Indiana created between 1829 and 1836.  It was established to spur development in the state north of Indianapolis and connect/create ports in Madison and Michigan City.  Jim and I traveled the historic route in Fulton and Marshall Counties and shot a lot of photos in Rochester where we grabbed a bite to eat.  And it was there that we talked about what we could do to foster an appreciation of one of Indiana's most historic highways.  A few months later I attended a state byways conference on behalf of the Indiana Lincoln Highway Association and the venue for our objective became crystal clear.  We needed a "Historic Michigan Road Byway".

So, working with some contacts we already had in the north half of the state, we held our first informational meeting in Rochester in January of 2009.  Over the next several months we built a coalition of folks just like us, who cared about the road and understood the economic benefit a byway could bring to their communities.  In November, 2009, we switched our efforts to the southern half of the state where state byways had been developed many years before.  As I say "they got it" so it was an easy sell.

Byway sign in Clinton County
By the end of 2010 we completed our byway application and submitted it to INDOT.  Review and approval took almost a year to obtain, but in September of 2011 the Lieutenant Governor declared the Michigan Road a state historic byway.  Over the course of the following year we organized and completed our non-profit filings and late last year developed some long-term planning that led to our first objective:  signing the route.

That meant more approvals and raising nearly $8,000.00 in order to secure the first group of signs that cover 12 of the 14 counties the route passes through.  Cities, towns, counties, businesses, tourism offices, and individuals made the purchase possible.  We picked up the signs in June and have been distributing them to INDOT district offices and local municipalities through which the route passes.  Because INDOT is responsible for installing the signs on state roads, and most of the Michigan Road is composed of state roads, the bulk of the signs are being installed per INDOT district office.  The Crawfordsville office has already installed the signs on their stretch through Clinton and Boone Counties.  The LaPorte District office has the remaining northern part of the state and the Seymour office has the southern counties of Jefferson, Ripley, and Decatur.  Where the route is maintained by counties or cities, those local authorities are installing their signs.  The Town of Argos and Marshall County have installed their signs in the last few weeks.

Byway sign in Argos


Our goal is to have the entire road signed by the end of this year.  Some additional fundraising and permitting will need to be done in Marion County-Indianapolis, which is probably the toughest nut to crack.  Marion and Shelby Counties are under the Greenfield District office and will be secured at the same time.  Five years.  It may seem like a long time.....but not when you're starting from scratch, educating the public, building a coalition and forming a non-profit, and did I mention we were working with INDOT?  In all seriousness, the people that make up our board and have gotten us to this point are some of the best Hoosiers I have met.

From just a conversation over a couple of sandwiches in Rochester.....to a state-wide economic and tourism development in 5 years.  Not bad.  It still took longer to build the road.


1 comment:

Jim said...

Has it really been 5 years? Wow!

I continue to hang my head in shame over the lack of progress I've made with signage in Marion County! I think it's likely we'll see signs here in 2014 sometime.

But seeing these signs go up feels even better than the day we found out Lt. Gov. Skillman signed the byway order.