Illinois Roads - US 51


Anna detour assembly from 1975, courtesy Michael Summa.



US 51 SB approaching US 60/62, which spend barely a mile in Illinois as they pass between the two states shown on this sign. The second photo is the bridge to Kentucky, which US 51 will take with those two routes. The construction of the Mississippi River bridge started the demise of once-prosperous Cairo. Despite being at the confluence of two major rivers, Cairo's downtown became out of the way to east-west travelers. Cairo tried to sign people to head through it instead of the new shortcut, but any chance of survival was broken by the Interstate age. With I-57 passing by the north side of the city, there was now no through traffic left to support it, and it died in situ. Cairo is now a hodgepodge of dilapidated businesses that barely survive, buildings with no occupants, piles of rubble that used to be occupied, and many, many vacant lots. A few neighborhoods, like the northwest side, are still actually quite nice and suburban, but then there are the projects on the west side that are a hotbed of crime, and that's what permeates the largely abandoned downtown and gives Cairo its reputation as a dead place to avoid.


On that happy note, let's head north into the city. The Great River Road and Lincoln Heritage Trail (Southern Branch) both follow US 51, along with whatever that guy holding a bushel signifies, but almost no one follows trails anymore.


Cairo! It's historical, it's fascinating, it has at least two sights! (Or it had them 40 years ago. Status unverified, but assumed constant.)


Cairo is ringed by floodwalls and US 51 has a rusty gate that ostensibly comes down, although there is now precious little to protect. The main remnants of commerce are the numerous railroads at various heights that US 51 must cross on the north side of town. These are in NB order.


SB under same.


If this is the future, I understand why half the country is afraid to move forward. There's one SB and this one NB; once I passed the first, I made sure to stop for the second.


Heading south from I-57 toward Cairo. The last photo is called "sad.jpg". It's southbound, it's an ad, and it's a really sad sight. The other billboard lists every possible sight in Cairo, and you really ought not stop at any of them. (You'd think the fort is okay, being well south of town, but some locals come down there during the day to... well, I didn't stay long enough to find out.)


NB under the Illinois Central Railway, with a 1980s (or 70s?) logo on a modern railroad. They're one of the ones that survived deregulation.


US 51 joins I-74 and I-55 for a ride around Bloomington. Courtesy Michael Summa, this photo was taken in 1979, before the US 51 freeway north of the city was redesignated I-39.

US 60/62 and US 51/60/62
I-39/US 51

See more of Cairo

Into Indiana on I-39/US 51
Into Wisconsin on US 51 alone
Cairo Non-Roads photos
Onto I-55
Onto I-74
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