Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Transportation Routes North

Setting out a framework for "North": the development of the Vandalia/Butler Twp/Northridge area as a transportation corridor into and out from Dayton. What will be shown is ground transportation, but the airport will be acknowleged, too.

Early Improvements

The first transportation routes were the rivers, via canoe, and perhaps some indian trails or old pioneer roads. The first improved transportation was the canal extension north, duing the early 1830s, and the turnpike construction, also during the 1830s. Most of this was on a north-south orientation. There were two turnpikes to Troy, the one shown here and one to the east of the Great Miami running through todays Huber Heights, once known as the Staunton Road (after the first Miami County seat).

The exception to the north-south orientation was the famous National Road, heading east-west, as an early long-distance road crossing state lines. The early turnpikes didn't extend beyond country villages or the county seat

The Railroad Era

The 185os was the boom era in railroad construction. The first (and only) railroad north was chartered in 1851 as the Dayton & Michigan, but construction was delayed, with the line being finished first in 1859. Shortly therafter it was leased in perpetuity by the Cincinnati, Hamilton, & Dayton (the second railroad to enter Dayton) and CH&D itself was aquired by the Baltimore & Ohio in 1917 (eventually to become the CSX).

This line had only two stations in the area, both well away from the city, so no commuter traffic developed. The line was also distant from the turnpikes, so two stations served the two turnpike villages: Tadmor for Vandalia and Johnsons Station for Chambersburg.

Interurban Interlude

The interurban was a railroad of sorts, but was powered by electricity rather than steam, and interurban lines were usually short haul regional railroads. They differed at first from streetcars as the equipment was more similar to convetional railroad cars. Dayton was a major center for interurban lines, which radiated out from the city, connecting up with lines extending from other places (like Lima, Toledo and Indianapolis).

The line running north, The Dayton & Troy, opened in 1901 and eventually connected through Lima to Toledo. The interurban was the first impetus to suburban development as it permitted quick and frequent service into Dayton and, unlike the mainline railroad, had frequent stops, which are shown here.

The eighth stop gave its name to a local road and the collection of suburban plats that grew up around the stops is known today as Northridge.

Not shown on the map was the "local" commuter service that ended in a loop at Chambersburg, which was given the more suburban sounding name of Murlin Heights.

The First Automobile Routes

Interurbans overlapped with automobiles. As auto ownership took off in the 'teens and especially the 'twenties interurban use declined and eventually the Dayton & Troy closed in 1932 (after a bridge collapse that cost too much to fix).

Paved roads facilated auto travel, as did the first long-distance highways. The first cross country highways were named highways, like the Lincoln Highway. The named highway through Dayton was the eastern leg of the Dixie Highway, intended to connect Florida and the South with the Midwest. The Dixie Highway route followed the Troy Pike into Dayton (which was renamed Dixie Drive).

After the mid 1920s the numbered cross-country US Highways came into being, with US 25 supplanting the Dixie Highway and the old National Road becoming US 40. The US Highways was the first cross-country highway system.

During this era air travel was becoming viable. A private flying field was established on the flatlands northwest of Vandalia in 1928-1929. This early airport apparently was not too busy, as Dayton made it into Ripley's Believe it Or Not: "The Birthplace of Aviation doesn't have a municiple airport".

The field was transferred to the city of Dayton in 1934-1936. WPA airfield pavement improvements in the 1930s led to the first scheduled passenger air service starting in 1936 with three daily flights from the predecessor of TWA.

Limited Access

During WWII the improved airfield was expanded and converted to military use, and a defense plant was constrcucted to the east, across US 25. This probably drove the demand for a easier way to get to Vandalia, bypassing the congested Northridge area. The result was the 'super-highway', Dayton's first limited access divided highway. The "super" did have at-grade intersections, so it wasn't a true grade seperated expressway like we know today. It was probably like OH 4 beyond Huffman Dam, with at-grade crossovers and frontage roads.

The "super" apparently dead-ended at US 40 (allowing cross-country traffic to drop into the city from that highway). On the Dayton side it ended at a traffic circle, which was probably one of the very few in the Midwest on a major highway.

The Interstate Era

Though it looks a bit isolated, the super-highway might have been part of a larger plan. During the war there was planning for a national system of expressways, which was the forerunner of the interstate system. So the planners of the 1940s might have been thinking ahead when they set the alignment of this highway.

By 1957 the interstate highway act was passed and the system was under construction. The old "super" was connected north to Toledo and Detroit and south (during the 1960s) into downtown Dayton and named I-75. A new freeway, I-70, was built paralleling National Road. The intersection was a classic cloverleaf interchange.

An unusual feature of I-75 was that the old "super-highway" remained a quasi-expressway after the the completion of the northern and southern extensions, with dangerous at-grade intersections (with and without stoplights) between the cloverleaf and the the traffic circle exit. This was only corrected in the early 1970s, say 1970-71-72, when full grade seperation was achieved.

In 1974 the old US 25 designation north of Cincinnati was retired.

Interurban Suburbia and Suburbanizing Industry

Coming up: A look at development from the interurban era in Northridge and the expansion of industrial Dayton north along I-75 after 1970.

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