The Debate Over Indiana's Time Zone: Where Does EST Change to CST?

The debate over Indiana's time zone has been ongoing for decades. In 1949, the Indiana General Assembly passed a bill to put the entire state in Central Standard Time (CST) and ban Daylight Saving Time (DST). However, the law had no enforcement power and was largely ignored by communities that wanted to observe Eastern Standard Time (EST). In 1957, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law to make CST the state's official time zone, but allowed any community to switch to DST during the summer.

In 1961, the Indiana legislature repealed the 1957 law that made CST the official time of Indiana, allowing any community to observe DST. The Interstate Commerce Commission divided Indiana by the Central Time Zone and the Eastern Time Zone. However, neither the time zone line nor DST was observed uniformly. The United States Congress subsequently passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966 (Pub.

L.). Prior to this law, each state was allowed to decide this issue for itself. Having the state divided into two time zones was inconvenient, so Governor Roger D. Branigin asked the USDOT to put all of Indiana back in the central time zone a year later.

Over the next two years, the USDOT held several hearings in response to Governor Branigan's request. Citizens in northwest and southwest Indiana seemed to favor the central time zone with DST observance, while those in other areas of the state favored EST without observing DST. The USDOT chose to divide Indiana between the Central Time Zone and the Eastern Time Zone. Six counties near Chicago (Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Jasper, Newton and Starke) and six counties near Evansville (Posey, Vanderburgh, Warrick, Spencer, Gibson and Pike) were placed in the central time zone respecting DST.

The rest of the state was placed in EST; however, Floyd, Clark and Harrison counties near Louisville, Kentucky; and Ohio and Dearborn counties near Cincinnati, Ohio unofficially observed DST due to their proximity to major cities that observed DST. In 1972, the Indiana General Assembly overturned a veto by Governor Whitcomb to place Indiana's northwest and southwest corners in CST during DST and placing the rest of the state in EST throughout the year. Several counties in eastern Indiana chose to observe DST unofficially despite Indiana statute. Attitudes began to change in the 1990s when Indiana's complicated time zone situation was considered to prevent economic growth.

Interstate travel and commerce were difficult as people wondered what time it was in Indiana? In 1991, Starke County asked USDOT to move it from CST to EST for the third time. This time, the petition was granted starting October 27th 1991. Pulaski County returned to EST on March 11th when DST resumed. When Standard Time resumed on November 3rd all five Southwest Counties (Daviess, Dubois, Knox, Martin and Pike) returned to EST. Perry County petitioned USDOT to move it from CST to EST but was denied.

The decades-long debate over Indiana's time zone remains controversial today. Some argue that the entire state should move to CST while others would prefer that the state revert to non-observance of DST. Opponents of putting the entire state in a single time zone often cite out-of-state cities as their reason for opposition. Supporters of DST and a common time zone in Indiana often claim that Indiana should adopt Eastern United States timing system for interstate business with that region.

Reuben Macedonio
Reuben Macedonio

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