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Map - Early Internal Improvements in Indiana

Indiana's geographical location has made it a crossroads area and encouraged development of transportation systems.

Soon after statehood, federal financial assistance in the form of land to sell and use, resulted in the building of the Wabash and Erie Canal and the Michigan Road. The federal government also built the National Road in Indiana from 1829 to 1834. It is now U.S. 40.

The Internal Improvements Act of 1836 was the state's over-ambitious attempt to address transportation needs of Hoosiers, especially for commerce and trade. Eight major projects were specified. The law resulted in financial disaster, and construction was stopped in 1839. Many projects were later completed with public and private funding.

Source: Carmony, 139, 178, 195-96.

The state has been a major railroad center, with its highest mileage of over 7,600 miles in 1920. Today, Indiana has approximately 4,500 miles of track.

Maps adapted from: Cartesia Software, MapArt US Geopolitical Deluxe.

Highways--and then interstate highways starting in 1952--became the major ground transportation. Today, the state has thirteen interstate highways--more than any other state--with a total of 1,138 miles.

Travel and trade by water has always been important to Indiana. Today, barges and ships at Indiana's three international ports handle millions of dollars worth of trade to and from the state.

Aviation has become an important part of Indiana's transportation network. Today, Indiana has 117 public access airports and 564 private access airports throughout the state.

Just the facts about Transportation

  • U.S. 231 is the longest Indiana roadway at 297 miles; it spans the entire length of the state and crosses 14 counties.
  • State Highway Commission was created in 1919 by the Indiana General Assembly.
  • Indiana's first municipal airport was dedicated in 1919 in Kokomo.
  • In 1850, Indiana had 228 miles of rail lines; by 1860, it increased to 2,163 miles.
  • In 1836, Michigan City, the only established Indiana city on Lake Michigan, received funds from the U.S. Congress to construct a harbor.
  • A law of 1816-17 required males age 18-50 to donate up to 6 days labor annually to open and maintain public roads.