As “Mapguy” Dale Sanderson has noted, US Highway 136 is indeed a late-comer to the Federal highway system. It was commissioned in 1951 as the first (and thus far, only) spur of US Highway 36. As originally laid out, the highway began at a junction with US 36 in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. From there, it proceeded across Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri to end, again at US 36, in St. Joseph, Missouri. US 136 was designed to serve as a connecting road through the Midwest and, in recognition of that status, it was extended in 1960 to a new western terminus near Edison, Nebraska. As recently as 1991, a further change was made to US 136 when its eastern terminus was realigned to end a few miles east of its junction with Interstate 74.
Today, from its beginning in Indianapolis, US 136 closely parallels Interstate 74 through western Indiana. At Crawfordsville, home of the Indiana Strawberry Festival, US 136 has a junction with US Highway 231. The highway continues on toward the Illinois state line, crossing a major north-south route, US Highway 41.
Just after entering Illinois, US 136 reaches Danville, birthplace of actor Dick Van Dyke (of the famous Dick Van Dyke Show). There, at a junction with US Highway 150, the highway turns north for some twenty miles before resuming its westward trek. US 136 runs in an almost straight-line fashion across the prairies of Illinois, through villages such as Heyworth and McLean, where it meets old Route 66.
After crossing the Illinois River at Havana, US 136 turns slightly north and reaches Macomb, Illinois. Home of Western Illinois University, Macomb sponsors the annual Balloon Festival and is also a training area for the St. Louis Rams football team. The highway spends some forty miles more until it crosses another great river, the Mississippi, and lands at Keokuk, Iowa.
US 136 barely touches Iowa – just long enough to meet US Highways 61 and 218, and serve as a main thoroughfare through Keokuk. A few miles out of the city, past the bridge over the Des Moines River, US 136 enters the “Show-Me” state of Missouri. For most of its run through the state, US 136 stays near the Missouri-Iowa border, and passes near the mysterious village of Mt. Moriah. A few miles west of its interchange with the mighty Interstate 35, the highway encounters US Highway 169, where it used to turn south and follow US 169 to St. Joseph.
Instead, US 136 continues on to the west, crossing Interstate 29 and the Missouri River as it passes into Nebraska. Once in the Cornhusker State, US 136 turns a bit southward. Its first port of call is Beatrice, Nebraska, where it meets US Highway 77, the main road to Nebraska's capital, Lincoln. Leaving Beatrice, the highway meanders slightly south to meet US Highway 81 at the village of Hebron, and begins to follow alongside the Republican River.
Passing by the Willa Cather state historic site at Red Cloud, US 136 runs for almost one hundred miles before reaching its western terminus at a junction with US Highway 6, the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, and US Highway 34. At this point, US 136 has racked up some 800 miles in length from its start in Indianapolis. Though not one of the more well-known highways of the country, US 136 is still an important connector road serving the many small cities and towns along its route.
Sanderson, Dale. "Highway Ends", End of US Highway 136
. October 2006. < http://www.geocities.com/usend3039/End136/end136.htm>. (November 2006).
Droz, Robert V., "Sequential List of US Highways", US Highways From US 1 to US 830
. July 2003. <http://www.us-highways.com/us1830.htm> (November 2006)
The author lives one block over from US 136 in Illinois.