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Interstate 35

 

Routing

Interstate 35 serves the heartland of America, connecting south Texas to northern Minnesota. Starting in Laredo, it passes through San Antonio, Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, Oklahoma City, Wichita, Kansas City, Des Moines, Minneapolis/St. Paul before culminating in Duluth.

High Priority Corridor

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

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

Guide

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. Interstate 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, some 200 miles southwest of the Canadian line, thus nearly affording it border-to-border status.

In between Mexico and Canada, Interstate 35 travels through the heart of Texas along the old U.S. 81 corridor, serving cities such as San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas. Leading due north parallel to U.S. 77, Interstate 35 serves Oklahoma City. However, just south of Wichita, Kansas, Interstate 35 veers northeast toward Missouri. Interstate 35 briefly parallels U.S. 50 along a rare east-west section. Former Interstate 35W (now Interstate 135 provides a direct route through Wichita to Salina along the U.S. 81 corridor. Interstate 35, meanwhile, continues northeast to connect Kansas City, Des Moines, and Minneapolis/St. Paul areas via the U.S. 69/65 routes. North of Minneapolis, Interstate 35 replaces old U.S. 61 north to Duluth. At Duluth, the freeway ends, and traffic is required to take two-lane Minnesota 61 along the shores of Lake Superior toward Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Split Routes

The only two remaining split routes (route numbers with a letter suffix indicating direction) remaining in the Interstate Highway System are located along Interstate 35 at Dallas/Ft. Worth and Minneapolis/St. Paul in the form of Interstates 35E/35W. The other suffixed route along Interstate 35, Interstate 35W between Wichita and Salina, was replaced with Interstate 135. Prior to the 1980s, many other routes (such as Interstates 5, 70, 75, 80, 81, etc.) had actual or proposed split or lengthy spur routes with the letter suffix.

Naming

In the state of Minnesota, Interstate 35 between Minneapolis and Duluth is designated the "Red Bull Division Highway." For more on this, see the legislation for the memorial at http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/GOP/goppress/Workman/0217twredbull.htm.3

Planned Improvements

A reconstruction of Interstate 35 through the Ardmore, Oklahoma area in Carter County is underway. This project encompasses seven miles of Interstate 35 from seven miles north of U.S. 70 to the Murray County line (Exits 40 to 47). This portion of an overall 12-mile reconstruction is slated for completion fall of 2003. The second phase of the project will begin early 2004 and complete later in the same year.1

Further north, an Interstate 35 long-term widening and reconstruction project is in its final phase. A 14-month project is underway on the 1.5-mile segment between S.E. 82nd Street and S.E. 66th Street in Oklahoma City. The new travel lanes will be created within the median of existing Interstate 35. This stretch of freeway currently accommodates 74,000 vehicles per day (vpd). The $23 million project culminates the overall Interstate 35 widening from the city of Norman northward to Interstate 40 in Oklahoma City.2

In Kansas City, the Paseo suspension bridge over the Missouri River in being replaced by a six-lane cable stay bridge (upgradable to eight lanes with pedestrian/bicycle lane), with construction beginning on April 21, 2008. The new bridge is expected to open in 2011 at a cost of $245 million, of which $195 million is Missouri Amendment 3 funds and $50 million is federal SAFETEA-LU funds. For more information, see Interstate 29/35 Connections Project. The new bridge is to be called the Christopher S. Bond Bridge.

History

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

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.

In Iowa, Interstate 35 was opened in phases between 1958 and 1975.4 5

  • 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

Future Aspirations

Interstate 35 may be extended both north and south of its current terminus. Although an extension along Minnesota 61 along the shoreline of Lake Superior is very unlikely (and environmentally costly), an expressway along U.S. 53 as part of the Falls-to-Falls Corridor may be constructed. At some point, if it is built to Interstate standards, it could theoretically become an extension of Interstate 35. However, no such plans are under consideration now.

To the south, Interstate 35 could potentially be extended along U.S. 83 through the Rio Grande Valley, perhaps meeting Interstate 69 near Brownsville. Again, such an extension is not official and is not likely at this point, but such a freeway extension may become reality as the population continues to expand in south Texas.

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).

Sources:

  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.

Page Updated August 17, 2007.

 
Mileage

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: October 31, 2002 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
* - 96.95 miles on I-35E
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