Interstate 39

Interstates 39 south & 90 east split from eastbound Interstate 94 on the east side of Madison, Wisconsin. I-94 bee lines for Milwaukee while I-39 & 90 remain paired south to Beloit and Rockford, Illinois. Photo taken by Chris Lokken (07/01/06).


Interstate 39 runs north-south through Illinois and Wisconsin as a long distance bypass for traffic around the Chicago and Milwaukee metropolitan areas. A mostly rural route, I-39 begins on the north side of Normal at I-55, overtaking U.S. 51 north to Peru and La Salle, where it meets Interstate 80. North from there, the freeway continues to I-88 outside Rochelle and U.S. 20 on the south side of Rockford.

U.S. 20 turns the freeway east to Interstate 90, the Jane Addams Memorial (Northwest) Tollway. I-39 & 90 combine there along the east side of Rockford to Beloit, Wisconsin, where they meet the south end of Interstate 43. Advancing northward, the pair pass through Janesville while en route to the capital city of Madison. There Interstate 94 ties in from Waukesha and Milwaukee to the east to form the longest three-way overlap on the Interstate system.

Interstates 39, 90 and 94 share 29 miles of freeway along a northward heading from Madison to the outskirts of Portage. I-39 separates with I-90 & 94 just beyond the Wisconsin River to again overtake U.S. 51 northward from Portage to Packawaukee, Plover and Stevens Point.

U.S. 10 combines with Interstate 59 & U.S. 51 from Stevens Point to a August 2012-completed freeway leading west to Junction City and Milladore. I-51 otherwise parallels the Wisconsin River north to Mosinee, Rothschild and its terminus at the south junction of U.S. 51 and Wisconsin 29. U.S. 51 extends the freeway north along side WI 29 to Wassau and as a solo route northward to Merrill.

Planned Improvements

A long term project underway in south central Wisconsin, the I-39/90 Expansion Project, affects 45 miles of the Interstates 39 & 90 overlap from the Illinois state line to U.S. 12 & 18 at Madison. The 1960s-era freeway includes 11 interchanges with elements of substandard design. Upgrades to the corridor include expansion of the freeway mainline to six overall lanes, reconfiguring the aforementioned interchanges, and additional expansion of I-39 & 90 to eight lanes between Wisconsin 11 (Avalon Road) north to Wisconsin 26. Construction runs from 2015 to 2023.

The conversion of Exit 177 with Wisconsin 11 (Avalon Road) to a diverging diamond interchange will be the first DDI in the state. Further south at Beloit, a major upgrade projected to start in 2018 will revamp the southern terminus of Interstate 43 at Wisconsin 81. The current full-cloverleaf interchange there will converted into a semi/directional T for freeway to freeway movements and a DDI for movements to Wis 81 leading west into Beloit.

Parallel U.S. Routes

Interstate 39 overlays or parallels U.S. 51 for nearly its entire length. With the possible exception of the segment between I-90 & 94 and U.S. 51 at Portage, Interstate 39 is cosigned with at least one other route for all 306 miles.

Future Aspirations

An extension of Interstate 39 north from Wausau to Merrill along the U.S. 51 freeway is possible. Craig Holl wrote Wisconsin DOT to determine whether plans called for upgrading this stretch of U.S. 51 into I-39. Douglas Ross responded in October 2002, "The DOT is currently using design standards that will satisfy requirements for an Interstate Highway, to develop plans for the reconstruction of the segment of USH 51/ STH 29 between Fox Glove Road and Bridge Street. To the best of my knowledge, the Department has no plans at this time to formally request that I-39 be extended; however, if the request is made in the future this segment of roadway should meet the design standard requirements after the reconstruction is completed." A major project, started in 2004, upgraded the U.S. 51 freeway around Wausau to Interstate standards.1


When commissioned in 1984, Interstate 39 was only constructed and signed between Former Illinois 5 (East-West Tollway/Interstate 88) and U.S. 20 at Rockford. The section between Illinois 5 and Interstate 80 was opened in 1986. In December 1987, another segment of I-39 was opened from I-80 across the Illinois River, south to Old U.S. 51 (now Illinois 251). Between 1987 and 1992, the section of I-39 between IL 251 and Bloomington-Normal was constructed. AASHTO approved the extension of Interstate 39 from Rockford, Illinois north to Wisconsin 29 in Wausau, Wisconsin, on October 22, 1993.

Signs were slow to appear along the overlap with Interstate 90 and I-90 & 94 in southern Wisconsin. The mainline was well posted with reassurance markers, but intersecting roads generally omitted the I-39 designation through to at least 2003. One signing oddity was made in the city of Madison, where instead of signing Interstates 39, 90 & 94 with three separate signs, a single blank Interstate shield was used instead. These trailblazers are posted near East Towne Mall, which is located southwest of the U.S. 151 interchange with Interstates 39-90-94.6

Construction on Interstate 39 was initiated in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The following chronology shows the construction time line of I-39, including information provided by Steve Sarver and Robb Haukohl:3

  • 1984 - Interstate 39 from U.S. 20 near Rockford to Illinois 5 near Rochelle was opened.
  • 1986 - Interstate 39 extended from Illinois 5 to Interstate 80.
  • December 1987 - the section from Interstate 80 south across the Illinois River was opened and its southern terminus was Illinois 251 (old U.S. 51). It was not open from Illinois 251 to Illinois 71. Named the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Bridge, at one mile in length, the span is the longest in Illinois.
  • Late 1988 - construction began on the interchange with Interstate 55 in Bloomington
  • Summer of 1990 - Interstate 55 was reconstructed around Normal to handle an additional lane of traffic. The existing interchange of U.S. 51 and I-55 was closed completely and then reconstructed with its present configuration. Bridge work continued for the overpasses between Normal and Oglesby. The section from Oglesby to Normal utilizes a unique style of overpass construction that allowed for the elimination of the center pier. U.S. 51 was rerouted onto the Interstate 55/74 bypass around Bloomington-Normal, and the main route through town was designated as Business U.S. 51 (AASHTO action taken established Business U.S. 51 on June 2, 1990).
  • Summer/Fall of 1991 - segments of the new highway were opened south to Illinois 18.
  • May 29, 1992 - 4.4 miles of I-39 opened between Hudson and Kappa.
  • October 31, 19928 - final segment of Interstate 39 opened, completing the entire freeway from Rockford to Bloomington. Illinois 251 extends on most of the old U.S. 51; some minor rerouting was necessary because the new four-lane highway was built on top of the two-lane road. It is interesting to note that Illinois 251 terminates just north of Normal, while the four-lane Business U.S. 51 was constructed over the old U.S. 51 for several miles north of Normal. There is a gap of several miles between the two.
  • October 22, 1993 - Interstate 39 extension to Wisconsin approved by AASHTO.
  • Mid-1995 - rest areas were opened on both sides of Interstate 39 between Rockford and LaSalle (I-80). Prior to this time, "phantom exits" were built to illustrate where the actual ramps would be. Also, before the rest areas opened, "Truck Pull-Off Areas" existed on both sides of the highway several miles north of the rest areas. These were later closed and fenced off to prevent access.
  • 1998-1999 - Interstate 39 extended again, this time into Wisconsin. Signage was placed first on the U.S. 51 freeway from Portage north to Wausau, and co-signage with Interstates 90 and 94 was added thereafter. The 1999 Rand McNally was the first atlas to show Interstate 39 along these routes through Illinois and Wisconsin.
  • 2003-2004 - At the Interstate 39/90 interchange in Rockford (Cherry Valley Interchange), the southbound toll was eliminated in December 2003, and the toll booth was torn down. The northbound toll was eliminated in November 2004.
  • April 17, 2003 - E.J. 'Zeke' Giorgi Highway designated along Interstate 39 between I-88 (Ronald Reagan East-West Tollway) and the Illinois-Wisconsin State Line. Representative Zeke Giorgi pushed for the construction of Interstate 39 through Northern Illinois.2

The Cherry Valley Interchange project reconstructed the connection between Interstate 90 (Jane Addams Memorial Tollway) and Interstate 39 in Rockford. The project started in 2008 and was completed on November 13, 2010. This work upgraded the 1972-built trumpet interchange between I-39 & 90 to include high-speed ramps in all directions.4 An additional project widened the Tollway from Exit 3 (Rockton Road) to U.S. 20 Business (State Street) between 2007 and November 24, 2009.5

Southern Terminus - Interstate 55 - Normal, Illinois
Perspective from Interstate 39 and U.S. 51 south
Southbound Interstate 39 and U.S. 51 approach Exit 1, Junction Interstate 55. Interstate 74 is situated one mile to the west via Interstate 55/U.S. 51 south, therefore this panel advises motorists to the connection. Photo by Jeff Royston (11/01).
Interstate 39 south ends at its interchange with Interstate 55. The END shield can be seen in the background of the above photograph on the right-hand ramp. Photo by Jeff Royston (11/01).
Perspective from Interstate 55 south
First guide signage on Interstate 55 south for Exit 164/Interstate 39/U.S. 51 north - Rockford. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (06/02).
This sign bridge, also taken on Interstate 55 south, indicates to travelers that U.S. 51 southbound continues on freeways via Interstate 55 outside of Bloomington-Normal. Meanwhile traffic for Interstate 39/U.S. 51 north has one mile to prepare for the ramp departure. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (06/02).
The ramps for Interstate 39/U.S. 51 north and Business U.S. 51 south utilize the same collector/distributor roadway. They are spaced far apart, and thus receive their own exit numbers via Interstate 55 south. Photos taken by Brian Dowd (06/02) and Jeff Royston (11/01).
As seen from the Interstate 55 southbound mainline, Exit 165 for Business U.S. 51 south departs from the adjacent collector-distributor lanes. Interstate 39/U.S. 51 see their ramp just ahead. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (06/02).
Another view of southbound Interstate 55 at the northbound ramp to Interstate 39 and U.S. 51. Note that the left-hand panel now includes Interstate 74 east and the associated control city of Indianapolis. Photo by Jeff Royston (11/01).
Two more views of the one-half mile sign bridge on Interstate 55 south for Interstate 39/U.S. 51. Rockford, the original northern terminus of Interstate 39, is 120 miles from this stretch of Interstate 55. Although U.S. 51 used to route through downtown Bloomington, it now bypasses the city to the west along Interstate 55 and 74. It resumes its original alignment south of the city, and travels 40 miles south of this point to Decatur. Photos taken by Jeff Royston (11/01).
Perspective from Interstate 55/U.S. 51 north and Interstate 74 west
Interstate 55/U.S. 51 northbound/Interstate 74 westbound sign bridge for the upcoming split of the two Interstates at Exit 163. Interstate 74 resumes its northwesterly pathway toward Peoria and ultimately the western terminus of Interstate 74 at the Quad Cities. This marks the first appearance of Interstate 39 signage from the south. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (08/16/02).
Only one lane is allocated for Interstate 74 west from Interstate 55/U.S. 51 northbound. This button copy signage indicates to motorists that the marriage between Interstate 55 and U.S. 51 is about to come to a close, with the U.S. route entering Interstate 39 north of Normal. Note the IDOT preference of displaying only one downward arrow for Interstate 55 thru-traffic. Photos taken by Brian Dowd (06/02 and 08/16/02).
One-half mile sign bridge on Interstate 55 north for Interstate 39/U.S. 51. This assembly is located on Interstate 55 as it curves to the east of Interstate 74 north of Normal. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (06/02).
Before Interstate 55 completes its easterly turn north of Normal-Bloomington after the split from Interstate 74, the exit ramp for Interstate 39/U.S. 51 departs northbound. One-half mile ahead is Exit 165 for downtown Bloomington/Business U.S. 51. The city of Rockford is located 120 miles to the north. Photos taken by Brian Dowd (06/02 and 08/16/02).
Interstate 74 sits in close proximity to the southern terminus of Interstate 39. The merge of Interstate 55 with Interstate 74 east is only two miles to the west. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (06/02).
Perspective from Interstate 74 west
The signage for Interstate 39 and U.S. 51 appears on westbound Interstate 74 before the freeway merges with Interstate 55. Use Interstate 55-74 north to Interstate 39 and U.S. 51 north. To U.S. 51 south, use Interstate 55 south. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (08/06/05).
Perspective from Interstate 39 and U.S. 51 north
Northbound Interstate 39 and U.S. 51 shields. Photo by Jeff Royston (11/01).
Interstate 39 begins on Interstate 55 in Bloomington-Normal, just north of the Interstate 55/74 junction. U.S. 51 follows Interstate 39 from northbound Interstate 55 onto northbound Interstate 39. The first overhead along northbound Interstate 39 indicates Begin Interstate 39 North signage. This is a standard practice in the Land of Lincoln. Interestingly, the text below reads Bloomington-Normal to Wisconsin, which indicates the endpoints of the highway in Illinois in lieu of the control city of Rockford. After this sign, the next exit is Business U.S. 51 southbound. Photo by Jeff Royston (11/01).
This sign, at one of the first exits off Interstate 39 and U.S. 51, shows that the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) feels it is faster to take Interstate 39 south to Interstate 55 to get to Chicago rather than go north on Interstate 39 to either Interstate 80 or Interstate 88. Photo by Jeff Royston (11/01).
The northbound beginning of Interstate 39, as it merges with U.S. 51 from this southbound Interstate 55 scene. Interstate 74 ties into Interstate 55/U.S. 51 south within one mile. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (06/02).
Views of Interstate 39 in Illinois
This photograph shows the unique bridge architecture along Interstate 39 in Illinois. The photo taken by Craig Holl (1998).
View eastbound along U.S. 52 at the Interstate 39 overpass. Every interchange along Interstate 39 in Illinois uses the big green signs with both the route shields and guide cities together on the same sign, as shown in this photo. Photo taken by Robb Haukohl (04/11/98).
View southbound from the U.S. 52 overpass over Interstate 39/U.S. 51 near Troy Grove, Illinois. This picture was taken prior to the growing season, so the corn is not as dominant as it would be in the late summer. Photo taken by Robb Haukohl (04/11/98).
This map shows the Interstate 39/U.S. 20 and Interstate 39/Interstate 90 (U.S. 20/U.S. 51) interchanges on the south side of Rockford. Currently, the Interstate 39/90 interchange is a rather tight trumpet interchange. There are frequent traffic tie-ups there, and there is a $0.15 automated exact change toll plaza [note - this may have increased since 1997!] with two booths in either direction. Its been that way since the U.S. 20 bypass was built in the 1960s. As for the Interstate 39/U.S. 20 Bypass interchange, it is an incomplete cloverleaf -- as if there were plans to somehow extend Interstate 39 north of U.S. 20 for some reason. Northbound/southbound Interstate 39 bend off and merge in directly with eastbound/westbound U.S. 20, and the ramp from northbound Interstate 39 to westbound U.S. 20 goes directly north, over U.S. 20, then cloverleaves around. The merge area for Interstate 39 southbound and the ramp from eastbound U.S. 20 is extra-extra-wide, and appears to be the merge area for one or two more ramps that are not there yet. The identical pattern is used for the Interstate 474/Interstate 74 interchange south of Peoria and the Interstate 255/Interstate 270 interchange northeast of St. Louis. Map created by Robb Haukohl (04/11/98).
View of Interstate 90 eastbound at the Interstate 39 interchange. In late April 1998, the tollway authority had started construction on a widening project. This picture (taken by Robb Haukohl) shows that their apparent intention was to widen Interstate 90 southbound to three lanes for about one-quarter mile short of the interchange, probably to add more deceleration room and backup space. This project is now complete. Photo taken by Robb Haukohl (04/11/98).
At the point where Interstate 39 southbound splits from southeastbound Northwest Tollway (Interstate 90), here is a picture of the Interstate 39/U.S. 20/U.S. 51 turn-off sign along eastbound Interstate 90 should be. Apparently the Illinois Tollway Authority just used the old U.S. 20 sign and tacked a green tab to the top of the sign with an Interstate 39 shield. Its been that way ever since Interstate 39 was posted. Heading northbound, there used to be an END Interstate 39 shield mounted on a light pole, but it has been taken down. Photo taken by Robb Haukohl (04/11/98).
View of Interstate 39 in Wisconsin
Robb Haukohl indicates that Wisconsin DOT upgraded the interchange at Interstate 39 and Interstate 90/94 south of Portage in 1993-1994. There is now a flyover ramp from southbound Interstate 39 to eastbound Interstate 90-94, which replaces the cloverleaf, which was frequently congested. This picture shows the northbound approach to the Interstate 39 interchange just south of Portage along Interstate 39/90/94. Photo taken by Robb Haukohl (04/11/98).
This map of the interchange at the Interstate 39/90/94 junction in Portage compares how the interchange looked in the 1960s with how it looks today. The interchange reconstruction work was completed in 1993-1994. In the map of the Interstate 39/Interstate 90/Interstate 94 'Cascade' interchange near Portage, the eastbound Interstate 90/94 ramp to northbound Interstate 39 is separated from the northbound Wisconsin 78 travel lanes with a 'Jersey' barrier until after the intersection to turn from northbound Wisconsin 78 to westbound Interstate 90/94. This construction may be to maintain Interstate standards through the interchange. Map created by Robb Haukohl (04/11/98).
The signs on northbound Wisconsin 78 at the Interstate 39 interchange also show Interstate 39 as multiplexed with Interstate 90/94. This is the sign bank just short of the first ramp. Six shields in a row? This may be a record. Also, the black-bordered shields are, in fact, one continuous sign! The direction parts on top and the arrows below are attached later. Photo taken by Robb Haukohl (04/11/98).
This picture was taken in Madison, Wisconsin, at the Wisconsin 30 overpass over U.S. 51 (Stoughton Rd.), looking south. Note the mysterious blank spot on the sign over the left turn lanes next to the To Interstate 90/94 emblems, right where the Interstate 39 emblem should go. The shield was added by 2000. Photo taken by Robb Haukohl (04/11/98).
Interstate 39 between Interstate 90/94 and U.S. 51 north of Portage is posted either as Interstate 39/To U.S. 51 in the northbound lane, and Interstate 39/To Wisconsin 78 in the southbound lane ... or just at Interstate 39. The first photos shows the first such sign, immediately after turning off Interstate 90/94, and just before the Cascade Mountain Road interchange a scant quarter-mile north. A bit further north is the second sign, found between the exits for Wisconsin 33 and Wisconsin 16. Photos taken by Robb Haukohl (04/98) and Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Northern Terminus - Wisconsin 29 - Wausau, Wisconsin
Perspective from Interstate 39 and U.S. 51 north
This is the last Interstate 39 and U.S. 51 north reassurance shield assembly, right around Milepost 182. It is just north of the overpass at Maple Ridge Road, which is the first one that gets a warning about low clearance, at 14 feet, 6 inches. Photo taken by Jay Maynard (12/02).
A diagrammatic overhead outlined the movements at the three-wye interchange with Wisconsin 29 east. Wisconsin 29 west joins U.S. 51 north to serve Wausau before venturing further west. Note the local destination cities (Wausau and Weston) and long-distance control cities (Chippewa Falls [just north of Eau Claire] and Green Bay). Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
An end shield for Interstate 39 appears just ahead of the off-ramp (Exit 187) to Wisconsin 29 east. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Wisconsin 29 ventures east to Weston, Shawano and Green Bay. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Wisconsin 29 west merges onto U.S. 51 north beyond the overpasses pictured here. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
U.S. 51 north & Wisconsin 29 west overlap for 3.3 miles to the west of Wassau. This stretch of freeway was upgraded to Interstate standards. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Historical Perspective from Interstate 39 & U.S. 51 north
The reassurance sign in the median after Exit 185 indicated only U.S. 51, which implied that Interstate 39 was coming to its end. This sign was removed by 2007. Photos taken by Jay Maynard (12/02).
Beyond the Wisconsin River, this mileage sign showed that Wisconsin 29, the terminus of I-39, was only 1 1/2 miles further north. This interchange sequence sign was replaced with a new overhead posted within the freeway median. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
A look at Interstate 39 at Wisconsin 29 east (Exit 187) before the interchange was reconfigured from a trumpet into a three-wye. Photo taken by Jay Maynard (12/02).
Perspective from Wisconsin 29 west
Just west of Marathon County Route Q near the town of Ringle, Wisconsin 29 west encounters the first sign it is going to intersect the northern end of Interstate 39/U.S. 51. Of course, this mileage sign omits Interstate 39 and instead opts for the older route of U.S. 51. This is 12 miles east of that interchange, just outside of Wausau. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Now near the city of Weston, where Wisconsin 29 west interchanges with Marathon County Route J is the second mileage sign of the interchange with U.S. 51 (and the northern terminus of Interstate 39, which has yet to be mentioned). This sign is eight miles east of the interchange. Wisconsin 29 is a full freeway from Ringle west to Interstate 39/U.S. 51 and is up to at least expressway standards from Wausau east to just west of Green Bay. It carries a 65 miles per hour speed limit, but has several at-grade intersections with few interchanges, while providing a very scenic drive. It is full freeway around the city of Shawano. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Interstate 39 finally makes an appearance on guide signage on Wisconsin 29 west at this two-mile guide sign located just east of the interchange with Business U.S. 51. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
This low bridges warning sign is found throughout the Wausau area for Interstate 39/U.S. 51 south. Road work is currently underway to improve these height clearances as well as resurface the roadway. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
This diagrammatic overhead represents the one mile guide sign for the northern terminus of Interstate 39 from Wisconsin 29 west. For those wondering where Interstate 39 ends (and for those who thought that Interstate 39 continued north into Merrill), this sign proves that at least as of April 14, 2007, Interstate 39 ends at the point where Wisconsin 29 merges with U.S. 51 to the southwest of Wausau. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Wisconsin 29 west crosses the Wisconsin River prior to interchanging with the northern terminus of Interstate 39. The Wausau area is quite scenic with plenty of trees and hills, including Rib Mountain, located just west of this interchange. Remnants of original concrete paving covered by asphalt percolate to the surface as Wisconsin 29 continues west. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
A third westbound lane opens on the left to provide an exit only lane to Interstate 39/U.S. 51 south towards Stevens Point and Madison along Wisconsin 29 west. Wisconsin 29 west prepares to merge onto northbound U.S. 51 to serve Wausau. Interstate 39, however, does not continue north of this point, yet. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Another warning sign for low bridges on Interstate 39/US 51 south (seven miles of low overpasses). Ongoing roadwork will one day alleviate this problem. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Wisconsin 29 west reaches the northern terminus of Interstate 39. Exit here to head to Stevens Point, Plover, Wisconsin Rapids, Westfield, and eventually Portage and Interstates 90 and 94, prior to Madison. For traffic heading north, a construction filled stretch of freeway leads US 51 north and Wisconsin 29 west towards Wausau, Merrill, and Eau Claire. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
This is the view from the ramp from Wisconsin 29 west to Interstate 39/US 51 south. The hill in the background is believed to be Rib Mountain. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Perspective from U.S. 51 south and Wisconsin 29 east
Southbound Interstate 39 and U.S. 51 approaches Exit 195, some eight miles north of the northern terminus of Interstate 39 (at Exit 187). This is the first mention of Interstate 39 along southbound U.S. 51. The exit in the distance is for U.S. 51 Business/Marathon County Road K, which was U.S. 51 prior to the construction of the present freeway. Photo taken by Jay Maynard (12/02).
This bridge over the Rib River, along with three more like it over various streets, is probably what is not up to Interstate standard on U.S. 51 between Exit 187 and Exit 211 in Merrill. Note the almost complete lack of shoulder. The rest of the road is no different from what's south of the terminus. Photo taken by Jay Maynard (12/02).
Continuing south into Wausau, Wisconsin 29 east prepares to split from U.S. 51 south. This is the first guide sign for Interstate 39's northern terminus (aside from the previous bridge warning sign). Interstate 39 itself is not mentioned. This is within the interchange with Rib Mountain Road. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
The on-ramp from Rib Mountain Road forms the exit only lane for Wisconsin 29 east toward Green Bay. Wisconsin 29 provides a fast path to Green Bay from Wausau. Note that Interstate 39 still has not been mentioned. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Wisconsin 29 east parts ways with U.S. 51 south at Exit 187, and Interstate 39 finally makes an appearance at its northern terminus. Note the use of local (Weston, Stevens Point) and long distance (Green Bay, Madison) control cities. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Historical Perspective from Interstate 39 & U.S. 51 north
Looking at the south split of U.S. 51 and Wisconsin 29 when a trumpet interchange joined the two freeways. Photo taken by Jay Maynard (12/02).
Perspective from Interstate 39 and U.S. 51 south
The first Interstate 39 and U.S. 51 south reassurance shields are posted at Milepost 185. The first interchange for Interstate 39/U.S. 51 south is with Business U.S. 51 for the Wausau suburbs of Rothschild and Schofield. Photo taken by Jay Maynard (12/02).
A second look at the first reassurance marker posted for Interstate 39 south. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Soon thereafter, Interstate 39 and U.S. 51 south cross the Wisconsin River and leave the Wausau metro area en route to Stevens Point, Portage, and Madison. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).


  1. Eric Conn, personal email ("Wisconsin 29"), Tuesday, November 30, 2004.
  2. "Madigan to dedicate Giorgi Highway today." Rockford Register-Star, April 17, 2003.
  3. Robb Haukohl, personal email ("I-39 Updates"), Wednesday, March 30, 2005.
  4. "I-90/39 Ramp Project.", July 23, 2010.
  5. "Jane Addams Memorial Tollway - Newburg Road to Rockton Road - Reconstruct & Widen" Illinois Tollway, press release, November 24, 2009.
  6. Chris Lokken, personal email ("Some information on Wisconsin's interstates"), Friday, April 7, 2006 and May 11, 2006.
  7. Todd Applegate, personal email ("Updates on I-39/90/US 20 in Rockford, IL"), December 28, 2007.
  8. "Completion of last link ends the 47-year-old saga of I-39" Pantagraph, The (Bloomington, IL), October 31, 1992.

Page Updated November 3, 2015.

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State Illinois
Mileage 123.42
Cities Normal, La Salle, Mendota, Rockford
Junctions Interstate 55, Interstate 80, Interstate 88, Interstate 90
State Wisconsin
Mileage 182.72
Cities Beloit, Janesville, Madison, Portage, Plover/Stevens Point, Wausau
Junctions Interstate 43, Interstate 94, Interstate 90/94
TOTAL 306.14
Source: December 31, 2014 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
Interstate 39 was complete between I-80 near La Salle and I-90 at Rockford. 1986 Gousha North American Road Atlas.
I-39 was extended south from I-80 to Oglesby in early 1989. The freeway was first envisioned in 1945 as a high speed route between Salem and South Beloit.8