Interstate 35


Interstate 35 serves the heartland of America, connecting South Texas with the Arrowhead of Minnesota. Starting in Laredo, IH 35 ventures north through an arid region to San Antonio, where it briefly overlaps with Interstate 10 by Downtown. The freeway angles northeast from there along a busy corridor to the capital city of Austin, Waco and Hillsboro where it partitions into east and west branches. Interstate 35W serves Fort Worth while Interstate 35E retains the exit numbering scheme of IH 35 through Dallas. The two reconvene at Denton, where IH 35 resumes a northward heading to Gainesville and a crossing of the Red River into Oklahoma.

Leaving the Lone Star State behind, Interstate 35 travels north to Ardmore and the scenic Arbuckle Mountains ahead of Pauls Valley. The freeway continues to Norman, home of the University of Oklahoma, and Moore, a south suburb of Oklahoma City. Once in OKC, I-35 sees overlaps with Interstate 40 to the southeast of Downtown and with Interstate 44 from Lake Aluma and Lake Arcadia. The freeway advances from Edmond and the northern suburbs along a rural course to the Kansas Turnpike and Wichita.

The only toll section of Interstate 35 is found along the Kansas Turnpike segment between the Oklahoma State Line and Emporia. The rest of the turnpike northeast of Emporia is signed as I-335, I-470 and I-70. Most of the Kansas Turnpike is characterized by four lanes with a concrete barrier separating the lanes of travel. This view looked at northbound I-35 after the interchange with Interstate 135. Photo taken 10/20/03.

The northern heading of Interstate 35 shifts northeastward at Wichita, with Interstate 135 (Former Interstate 35W) branching northward to Salina and Interstate 70. I-35 remains along the tolled Kansas Turnpike northeast to El Dorado and Emporia, where it splits for an easterly route via Ottawa and Olathe. Turning more northeast, I-35 progresses through Overland Park, Shawnee and other suburban cities to Kansas City, Kansas and Downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

Interstates 29, 35, 70 and 670 come together to encircle the central business district of Kansas City. These routes form an inner belt, and the exits along the route are all numbered 2 and a suffix. This is known as the Alphabet Route, as all lettered suffixes are used from 2A through 2Y except for the letters I and O. I-35 briefly overlaps with I-70 on the north side of Downtown and with I-29 from the split with I-70 to Avondale.

Heading away from Kansas City, Interstate 35 remains suburban through to Liberty and the split with U.S. 69. This stretch is home to a signing anomaly, as Missouri 110, the Chicago Kansas City Expressway, takes precedences on reassurance markers posted along the freeway mainline from Interstate 435 northward to Cameron. This MoDOT signing practice also exists along Interstate 44 where it overlaps with U.S. 50 to the southwest of St. Louis. There I-44 is omitted in favor of U.S. 50, as I-35 is in favor of MO 110.

The terrain becomes hilly as Interstate 35 advances northward to Bethany. Crossing the Iowa state line continues by Lamoni to Osceola and the capital city of Des Moines. There the freeway combines with Interstate 80 to the west and north of the city while Interstate 235 serves interests to Downtown. I-35 otherwise exits the Des Moines area via Ankeny for the home of Iowa State University, Ames, and Mason City.

The Avenue of the Saints Corridor, Iowa 27, accompanies Interstate 35 north from U.S. 18 and Clear Lake into southern Minnesota. A short distance beyond the state line is Albert Lea and the crossroads with Interstate 90. The rural freeway journeys north from there to Owatonna, Faribault and the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

Like Dallas-Fort Worth in Texas, Interstate 35 again partitions into separate branches. Interstate 35W stays northward from Burnsville to Bloomington, Downtown Minneapolis, Mounds View and Lino Lakes while Interstate 35E continues the I-35 exit numbers northeast to Apple Valley, St. Paul, White Bear Lake and Centerville. The remainder of I-35 extends northward from near Forest Lake to Hinckley, Moose Lake and the Twin Ports of Duluth and Superior, Wisconsin.

Proponents of the Interstate 35 Corridor refer to it as the "real" NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) highway, since the proposed NAFTA Highway (Interstate 69) is currently incomplete. I-35, together with Interstate 29, provides a direct freeway connection between Mexico and Canada. Interstate 35 begins at the International Border with Mexico at Laredo and terminates at Duluth, Minnesota, 148 miles southwest of the Canadian line, thus nearly affording it border-to-border status.

High Priority Corridor

Interstate 35 in its entirety is part of High Priority Corridor 23: Interstate Route 35 Corridor.

Parallel/Historic U.S. Routes

Interstate 35 replaced all of U.S. 81 from Laredo north to Hillsboro (I-35W replaced U.S. 81 northward to Blue Mound and Wautaga). The southernmost 18 miles doubles as U.S. 83 as well. Overlaps further north include U.S. 190 between Belton and Temple, U.S. 77 from Waco to Hillsboro (I-35E maintains an unsigned overlap with U.S. 77 northward through Dallas) and U.S. 77 again from Denton to Exit 1 in Oklahoma. U.S. 77 parallels or overlaps with I-35 through Oklahoma to Tonkawa. Shorter overlaps also exist in the Sooner State with U.S. 70 and U.S. 64.

U.S. 81 rejoins the Interstate 35 corridor from South Haven to Wichita in southern Kansas. Where I-35 leaves the Kansas Turnpike, U.S. 50 takes over as the parallel highway or cosigned route. The pair head east from Emporia through to Interstate 435, where U.S. 50 parts ways for Lees Summit, Missouri. U.S. 56 east from Gardner and U.S. 169 north from Olathe also join I-35 northward to Overland Park. There U.S 69 briefly forms a four-way overlap with the freeway before U.S. 56 & 169 separate for Shawnee Mission Parkway at Merriam. U.S. 69 follows suit and parts ways for the 18th Street Expressway north into Kansas City.

The Alphabet Loop also sees U.S. 24, 40, 71 and 169 tie in at various locations. Heading north from there, U.S. 71 accompanies the I-29 & 35 overlap, staying with Interstate 29 through to St. Joseph. This leaves I-35 to travel solo briefly before U.S. 69 rejoins the corridor from Claycomo north to Osceola, Iowa and again from Des Moines to Blairsburg.

U.S. 18 overlaps with I-35 at Clear Lake. Northward into Minnesota, U.S. 65 and U.S. 69 come to separate ends at Albert Lea. U.S. 69 ends at Minnesota 13 (former U.S. 16) west of Downtown while U.S. 65 ends at I-35 south of Interstate 90. U.S. 65 historically ran north along what is now I-35 to Minneapolis. Another truncated route, U.S. 8, paralleled / overlapped with I-35W from Downtown Minneapolis to Forest Lake. The route now begins at I-35, one exit south of the truncated end of U.S. 61. Historic U.S. 61 lines the I-35 corridor northward from Wyoming to Duluth.

Split Routes

Until 2013, when Interstates 69C and 69E were established, the only two remaining split routes (route numbers with a letter suffix indicating direction) in the Interstate Highway System were the Interstate 35 branches through Dallas/Ft. Worth and Minneapolis/St. Paul. The other suffixed route along I-35, Interstate 35W between Wichita and Salina, was replaced with Interstate 135 in 1976.


In Texas, Interstate 35 was an original Interstate Highway, and it was approved by the Texas State Highway Commission in 1962 with 492 miles (figure includes both Interstate 35E and 35W).7 The segment of Interstate 35 through Austin was completed in 1962.

In Oklahoma, the first section of Interstate 35 to be opened to traffic was the four-mile connection from U.S. 177 (Exit 232) north to the Kansas Turnpike. This connection opened on April 22, 1958, and it was considered to be the first Interstate highway to cross state lines and connect to another state.9

Interstate 35 through the Ardmore, Oklahoma area in Carter County was reconstructed in a two phase project. The first phase encompassed seven miles of I-35 from a point seven miles north of U.S. 70 to the Murray County line (Exits 40 to 47). This portion of the overall 12-mile project was completed in fall of 2003. The second phase of the project began ran throughout 2004.1

Further north, an Interstate 35 long-term widening and reconstruction project entered its final phase in 2003. A 14-month project expanded a 1.5-mile segment between S.E. 82nd Street and S.E. 66th Street in Oklahoma City. The new travel lanes were built within the median of the existing right of way. This stretch of freeway accommodated 74,000 vehicles per day (vpd) at the time. Upon completion, the $23 million project concluded the overall I-35 widening from the city of Norman northward to Interstate 40 in Oklahoma City.2

In Kansas, Interstate 35 had the following highlights in its history:6

  • U.S. 24, 40, 69, 75 (Topeka to Nebraska), and 81 were first considered as potential Interstate routes by Kansas on June 5, 1945. A subsequent submission by the Kansas State Highway Commission on May 22, 1946, resulted in three primary routes to be considered by the federal government: Route 1 (today's Interstate 70), Route 2 (today's Interstate 35), and Route 3 (today's Kansas 66; Interstate 44 avoids the Sunflower State).
  • The section of Interstate 35 that overlays the Kansas Turnpike was constructed in 1955 and 1956, with the entire turnpike opening on October 21, 1956.
  • The portions of the Kansas Turnpike that carry Interstate 35, Interstate 70, and Interstate 470 were approved as part of the Interstate Highway System by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in 1957. Interstate 335 was designated for the remaining unnumbered section of the Kansas Turnpike in 1987.
  • Interstate 35 was designated by AASHTO on August 14, 1957, as an original Interstate Highway from Laredo north to Duluth.
  • During the late 1960s, most of Interstate 35 (Kansas) from Ottawa to Kansas City (excluding the segment around Emporia) was constructed and opened to traffic.
  • In 1974, the ten-mile section from the Kansas Turnpike around Emporia was completed and opened to traffic. At that time, Interstate 35 was complete in Kansas.

Within Kansas City, Missouri, the Paseo suspension bridge over the Missouri River was replaced by a seven-lane cable stay bridge. Named the Christopher S. Bond Bridge, construction began on April 21, 2008. The span cost $245 million, of which $195 million was derived from Missouri Amendment 3 and $50 million from federal SAFETEA-LU funds. The Interstate 29/35 Connections Project was mostly finished in December 2010, when MoDOT opened all ramps and lanes on the new bridge. This was accomplished on budget and six months ahead of schedule. Touch-up work however continued to July 3, 2011, when the multi-colored LED lighting system went operational.13

In Iowa, Interstate 35 was opened in phases between 1958 and 1975.45

  • Missouri state line to Iowa 2: December 2, 1970
  • Iowa 2 to U.S. 34: December 17, 1969
  • U.S. 34 to Iowa 152: August 30, 1960
  • Iowa 152 to Iowa 92: November 26, 1958
  • Iowa 92 to County Route G-14: October 5, 1958
  • County Route G-14 to Douglas Avenue: September 21, 1958
  • Douglas Avenue to Exit 131, Merle Hay Road: November 9, 1958
  • Exit 131, Merle Hay Road to U.S. 69 (Exit 136): November 26, 1958
  • U.S. 69 (Exit 136) and Interstate 235 South and Interstate 80 East: November 17, 1960
  • Interstate 80 to U.S. 30: November 11, 1965
  • U.S. 30 to U.S. 20: December 6, 1967
  • U.S. 20 to Iowa 106: November 14, 1975
  • Iowa 106 to Iowa 9: August 7, 1971
  • Iowa 9 to Minnesota state line : December 12, 1972

In Minnesota, the first section of Interstate 35 to open was between Owatonna and Medford in 1958. The last section of Interstate 35 through St. Paul, Minnesota, opened to traffic on October 15, 1990.8

Interstate 35 through Duluth concludes after a series of cut and cover tunnels at what was the largest public works project in northeastern Minnesota. This stretch of freeway was proposed in 1958 by the Federal Highway Administration. It extended I-35 3.2 miles to the East End residential district of Duluth, but not the Two Harbors Expressway as originally envisioned. The cut back from the Expressway as approved by a residential vote,11 allowed $55 million in funds to be used for bridge and road work in Downtown Duluth. The initial 1.4 mile stretch of the $200-million12 extension opened on October 29, 1987.10 It includes the 500 foot long Lakeplace Park tunnel.11

Interstate 35 was again extended on November 21, 1989, when an 18-block section of the freeway opened. Included on this stretch are 600 foot and 700 foot long tunnels. The trenched freeway design of I-35 using tunnels spared the historic Fitger's Brewery, two other historic buildings and the rose garden in Leif Erikson Park.11

A ribbon cutting ceremony finalized the 3.2 mile Duluth Extension of I-35, when the 36-block section of freeway was finally completed on October 28, 1992. Capping 11 years of construction, the fourth tunnel (Leif Erikson Tunnel) in Duluth opened to traffic as Minnesota's second longest tunnel. The tunnel passes under Leif Erikson Park at a total length of 1,480 feet (which is 12 feet shorter than the Lowry Tunnel on I-94 in Minneapolis). The I-35 Extension won the Federal Highway Administration's 1991 Excellence in Highway Design award.12

Also within the state of Minnesota, Interstate 35 between Minneapolis and Duluth is designated the "Red Bull Division Highway." The legislation for the memorial was approved in 2000.3

Highway Guides

Southern Terminus - U.S. 83/Business Loop Interstate 35/Texas 359 - Laredo, Texas
Perspective from Interstate 35/U.S. 83 south (series 1)
Interstate 35 terminates just north of the International Border with Mexico. This photo was taken near downtown Laredo, at the Scott/Washington Street exit. As noted on the overhead sign, Business Loop Interstate 35 is one of the last exits for the southbound Interstate 35 freeway. Business Loop Interstate 35 actually begins north of this point, from Exit 3, but it continues as a spur into downtown Laredo and to the Mexican Port of Entry. Photo taken by Rich Piehl (12/01).
Freeway Ends - 1/4 MILE sign in Laredo. This is one of a series of countdown freeway end signs on southbound Interstate 35. Photo taken by Rich Piehl (12/01).
Southbound Interstate 35 splits into U.S. 83 and Texas 359 to the left and Business Loop Interstate 35/Downtown Laredo/Mexican Port of Entry to the right. U.S. 83 is the most direct route from Laredo south to Brownsville, one of the most southerly points in Texas. U.S. 83 is a two-lane road for much of its journey, but changes into a freeway itself deeper in the Rio Grande Valley. Interstate 69, if constructed, will provide Interstate access to this region of Texas as well as Laredo. Photo taken by Rich Piehl (12/01).
Closer View of overhead sign for U.S. 83 and Texas 359 to the left and Business Loop Interstate 35/Downtown Laredo/Mexican Port of Entry to the right. Photo taken by Rich Piehl (12/01).
Southbound Interstate 35 terminates at this traffic light in Laredo. Traffic may opt for U.S. 83/Texas 359 or Business Loop Interstate 35 at this point. The traffic light mast arm obscures the signs from this angle. Photo taken by Rich Piehl (12/01).
Perspective from Interstate 35/U.S. 83 south (series 2)
The second to last southbound Interstate 35 exit serves Park and Sanchez Streets. The off-ramp is Exit 1B (missing exit tab) which is shown on the gore point sign in the background. In conventional Texas format, a slip ramp takes Interstate 35 motorists onto an adjacent frontage road. Photo taken by Justin Cozart (08/02).
One half mile from the conclusion of Interstate 35, Exit 1A for Scott and Washington Streets departs. Washington Street connects Interstate 35 with Laredo State University. Photo taken by Justin Cozart (08/02).
A side perspective of Exit 1B for Park and Sanchez Streets of Interstate 35 south. There is no Exit 1A or 1B on Interstate 35/U.S. 83 northbound. Photo taken by Justin Cozart (08/02).
Three southbound lanes continue past Exit 1B on Interstate 35 towards the endpoint. Speed limits are downgraded to 45 mph as an end advisory sign warns of the pending terminus in one quarter mile. Photo taken by Justin Cozart (08/02).
Although Interstate 35 does conclude, its counterpart U.S. 83 does not. The highway turns to the east along Guadalupe Street through downtown. Texas 359, which is shown on the left-hand guide sign connects Laredo with Hebronville and Falfurrias to the east. Zapata is the county seat of the county by the same name, and is located on U.S. 83 southward near the International Falcon Reservoir. Photo taken by Justin Cozart (08/02).
One final overpass is the last hurrah for Interstate 35 southbound. The guide signs partition traffic between U.S. 83 south and Business Loop I-35 south. The two right-hand lanes lead to a port of entry facilities and toll bridges to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Photo taken by Justin Cozart (08/02).
Business Loop I-35 turns to the right, bisecting downtown before turning northward along Santa Maria Avenue. It does connect with the western Rio Grande toll bridge. Traffic continuing straight will encounter the San Diario toll bridge. U.S. 83 southbound traffic must turn left. Photo taken by Justin Cozart (08/02).
Perspective from Business Loop I-35 south
Adjacent to the intersection of Interstate 35's terminus, is this shield assembly for the northbound beginning. A U.S. 59 trailblazer is in place, because Interstate 35 intersects the southern terminus of that highway at Exit 2. Business Loop I-35 also sees its southern terminus here. Photo taken by Justin Cozart (08/02).
Signage pointing toward northbound Interstate 35 and U.S. 83 from Business Loop I-35 in Laredo. Interstate 35 and U.S. 83 continue north for a short distance, then separate a few miles north of Laredo at Exit 18. Photo taken by Rich Piehl (12/01).
Perspective from Interstate 35 north
Begin Northbound Interstate 35 freeway in Laredo. The freeway is shown as cosigned with U.S. 59 and U.S. 83, although shield assemblies on Business Loop I-35 indicate U.S. 59 in a trailblazer form. Photo taken by Lachlan Sims (4/01).
The first northbound exit of Interstate 35 is the aforementioned southern terminus of U.S. 59. Ramps to Interstate 35/U.S. 83 northbound exist from Washington Street and Park Streets (Exits 1A and 1B southbound). U.S. 59 is one of three routes connecting Laredo with the north. The highway travels northeast towards Freer, Beeville, and Victoria. In conjunction with Texas 44 at Freer, 143 miles separates Exit 2 with downtown Corpus Christi. Photo taken by Justin Cozart (08/02).
Business Loop 35 returns to Interstate 35/U.S. 83 at Exit 3B. The highway follows the original alignment of U.S. 81 along Santa Maria Avenue and Old Santa Maria Road. U.S. 81 was truncated back to Dallas in the early 1990s, as Interstate 35 overrides virtually all of its route. Photo taken by Justin Cozart (08/02).
Northern Terminus - Minnesota 61 - Duluth, Minnesota
Perspective from Interstate 35 north
Northbound Interstate 35 approaches Exit 256A, Junction Minnesota 194, Mesaba Avenue/Superior Avenue (right lane exit only). The left two lanes continue as Interstate 35 for about three miles, and at Exit 259 the freeway ends and Minnesota 61 begins its journey north to Canada. Photo taken by Patrick Lilja (07/03/05).
As Interstate 35 approaches its final mainline interchange (Exit 258), the freeway passes under a cut and cover tunnel in downtown Duluth. Photo taken by Patrick Lilja (07/03/05).
The last mainline interchange of Interstate 35 is at Exit 258, 21st Avenue East. A freeway ends advisory sign is also posted on this overhead assembly, indicating that the highway will end in three-fourths of a mile. Photo taken by Don Greiskalns (5/01).
Minnesota 61 (Exit 259) follows old U.S. 61 north along the Lake Superior shoreline to Ontario, Canada. The mostly two-lane highway is the main conduit between Duluth and Canada. Photo taken by Patrick Lilja (07/03/05).
This END Interstate 35 one-quarter mile sign is located a short distance further ahead on northbound prior to the Minnesota 61 split. This is the only advisory sign that Interstate 35 comes to an end. To the right is the open expanse of Lake Superior. The westernmost reach of the fresh water lake is only one mile or so to the southwest. The pedestrian over-crossing serves a "Lakewalk." Photo taken by Jeff Royston (10/01).
Continuing north, Interstate 35 prepares to split: the left lane connects to London Road, while the right lane (Exit 259) transitions onto northbound Minnesota 61 (Former U.S. 61) to the north shore of Lake Superior. Minnesota 61 is a very scenic route that straddles the Lake Superior shoreline northeastward to Grand Portage and the Canadian Border. Photo taken by Patrick Lilja (07/03/05).
Northbound Interstate 35 ends as the right lane exits onto northbound Minnesota 61 at Exit 259 while the left lane connects to London Road in Duluth. Photo taken by Patrick Lilja (07/03/05).
Perspective from Minnesota 61 south
The upcoming traffic light is the location for the southbound beginning of Interstate 35. The overheads direct traffic to turn left for Interstate 35 while also indicating that Minnesota 61 comes to a southbound end. London Road continues into downtown Duluth from this point and is the former U.S. 61 routing through the city. Photo taken by Don Greiskalns (05/01).
Perspective from Interstate 35 south
This is the first reassurance shield along southbound Interstate 35 after the London Street and Minnesota 61 confluence. Photo taken by Patrick Lilja (07/03/05).


  1. "I-35 narrowed near Ardmore." Oklahoma DOT Public Affairs Media Advisory, March 06, 2003.
  2. "The long-awaited widening of I-35 to begin!" OklahomaDOT.
  3. Copeland, Brian. "I-35 in Minnesota designated as Red Bull Division Highway." Personal email, November 18, 2003.
  4. Iowa Interstate - 50th Anniversary (web site no longer online)
  5. Forty Years of Iowa Interstates.
  6. Kansas Interstate 50th Anniversary
  7. "From Anywhere to Everywhere: The Development of the Interstate Highway System in Texas" by Penny Beaumont, Rhonda Brinkmann, David Ellis, Chris Pourteau, and Brandon V. Webb, Texas Transportation Institute, page 29.
  8. Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System: Previous Interstate Facts of the Day by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
  9. Celebrate the Interstate: America's Interstate Highway System Turns 50! by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
  10. "Duluth opens the first section of I-35 extension." Star Tribune: Newspaper of the Twin Cities, October 30, 1987.
  11. "Section of I-35 opening in Duluth features tunnels, waterfront park." Star Tribune: Newspaper of the Twin Cities, November 19, 1989.
  12. "In Duluth , the end of the road - Final part of I-35 will be opened on Wednesday" Star Tribune: Newspaper of the Twin Cities, October 25, 1992.
  13. Kidwell, Brian. "KcICON Quarterly Project Newsletter." (June 2011).
  14. "Famous, Infamous Get Roads, Bridges Named After Them." NewsOK, October 30, 1983.

Page Updated July 1, 2015.

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State Texas
Mileage 504.15*
Cities Laredo, Pearsall, San Antonio, Austin, Georgetown, Temple, Waco, Hillsboro, Waxahachie, Dallas, Denton, Gainesville
Junctions Interstate 410, Interstate 10, Interstate 37, Interstate 410, Interstate 35W, Interstate 20, Interstate 30, Interstate 635, Interstate 35W
State Oklahoma
Mileage 235.96
Cities Ardmore, Pauls Valley, Norman, Oklahoma City, Guthrie, Perry
Junctions Interstate 240, Interstate 40, Interstate 235, Interstate 40, Interstate 44, U.S. 412
State Kansas
Mileage 235.51
Cities Wichita, Emporia, Ottawa, Olathe, Kansas City
Junctions Interstate 135/235, U.S. 400, Interstate 335, Interstate 435, Interstate 635
State Missouri
Mileage 114.74
Cities Kansas City
Junctions Interstate 670, Interstate 70, Interstate 29, Interstate 435
State Iowa
Mileage 218.33
Cities Des Moines, Ames
Junctions Interstate 80/235, Interstate 80/235
State Minnesota
Mileage 259.69
Cities Albert Lea, Owatonna, Faribault, St. Paul, Duluth
Junctions Interstate 90, Interstate 35W, Interstate 494, Interstate 94, Interstate 694, Interstate 35W, Interstate 535
TOTAL 1,568.38
Source: December 31, 2014 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
* - 96.95 miles on I-35E
Interstate 35 was open to traffic from Purcell, Oklahoma north to the Kansas Turnpike by 1962. This included the overlap with Interstate 40, though the west split interchange was only open for through movements along I-35.
I-35 in Oklahoma was named the Raymond Gary Expressway per state legislation in 1957 after the Governor in office at the time (1955-59). Signs were taken down by the time Gary's predecessor J. Howard Edmonsdon took office and few know of the designation today.14
Northeastern Kansas - 1972
Interstate 35 replaced U.S. 50 between Emporia and Olathe
Interstate 35 was built from Ottawa northeast to Kansas City during the late 1960s.6