Tuesday, March 4, 2008

US 20 in Indiana: Gary

Making the trip out to Yellowstone National Park by car a few years back, we took I-90 westbound and had to pass through Gary, Indiana. We were warned that no matter what time of day we passed through Gary on I-90, we’d be stuck in traffic. And we were. It took us almost 90 minutes to go less than two miles.

At the time, I wish I had known that US Route 20 passed through Gary. I may have been tempted to drive it, rather than be in a traffic jam of exhaust-spewing cars. Now, instead of hearing the repetitive song “Gary, Indiana” from the musical “Music Man” in my head when I think of that city, I now think of one of the worst traffic jams I ever experienced, where there wasn’t even bad weather, or rush hour, or a traffic accident causing it.

So I started looking into some of the history of Gary and how US 20 passes through it.

Gary, Indiana is on the western end of the state, and is considered part of the metropolitan area of Chicago, Illinois. Bordering Lake Michigan, it is the largest Indiana city that is not a county seat. The city was founded in 1906, and took its name by honoring the founders of the city, the U.S. Steel Corporation, whose chairman was Elbert H. Gary. The city was to be the home for U.S. Steel’s new plant. (I am sure the residents were glad they chose his last name and not his first!)

US 20 in Gary closely parallels, and sometimes runs concurrent with, US 12. According to Wikipedia:

Whiting to Gary
This portion of U.S. 12 largely consists of industrialized sections of Whiting. It begins concurrent with U.S. Route 20 and U.S. Route 41. In Whiting, U.S. 41 branches south, following the eastern side of Wolf Lake. U.S. 12/20 continues southeast through a field of Amoco oil storage tanks. South of the storage tanks, U.S. 20 continues south and turns east south of Interstate 90 (Indiana Toll Road), while U.S. 12 runs east, and then southeast towards the Gary/Chicago International Airport.

U.S. 12 then runs below the Toll Road at the Little Calumet River. It closely parallels U.S. 20 on the west side of Gary, then joins with it at Bridge Street. Through Gary, U.S. 12/20 runs westbound on 4th Avenue, and eastbound on 5th Avenue. It also has intersections with the Toll Road at Buchanan Street and State Road 53 (Broadway).

East of Gary, U.S. 12/20 has a signalized intersection with the northern terminus of Interstate 65.

Through this part of northwest Indiana, U.S. 12 consists of four lanes (two westbound, two eastbound), and widens to six lanes when concurrent with U.S. 20.

Gary to Michiana Shores
In the far eastern portion of Gary, U.S. 12/20 split for the final time, although U.S. 20 closely parallels U.S. 12 for the next 20 miles (32 km). U.S. 20 follows a slightly more southerly route to Michigan City (via Portage and Porter) while U.S. 12 forms the southern border to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and becomes the Dunes Highway. “

OK, maybe after reading this, I was probably better off spending my 90 minutes stuck in traffic on I-90.
Gary Indiana. Maybe best traveled over by air?
The US Route 20 Blog homepage can be found here.

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