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Interstate 40



Interstate 40 is a major east-west freeway, spanning eight states on its cross-country voyage. Starting in Barstow, California, the freeway generally follows the Historic U.S. 66 alignment across the Mojave Desert into the high desert around Flagstaff, south of the Grand Canyon. Entering New Mexico, the freeway intersects with Interstate 25 in Albuquerque, which is the site of a major freeway-to-freeway interchange improvement.

Continuing east, Interstate 40 enters the Great Plains in eastern New Mexico, leading into Texas. The freeway splits from Historic U.S. 66 at Oklahoma City, continuing due east while U.S. 66 heads northeast toward Chicago. Entering Arkansas, Interstate 40 serves Fort Smith and Little Rock before crossing the Mississippi River via the 1973 constructed Hernando DeSoto Bridge at West Memphis. In Memphis itself, the Sam Cooper Parkway composes the partially completed Interstate 40 freeway through the city. This representative of a rare proposed, but unconstructed section of Interstate 40. Originally, Interstate 40 was to cross downtown Memphis directly rather than take the northern beltline via what was Interstate 240.

Crossing Tennessee, Interstate 40 serves Nashville and Knoxville, merging with Interstate 75 briefly west of Knoxville. Then Interstate 40 enters the Great Smokey Mountains, leading into North Carolina. Interstate 40 ends within North Carolina 420 miles from where it enters the state. Serving Asheville, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Durham, Raleigh, and Wilmington, Interstate 40 is especially congested on the stretch of pavement it shares with Interstate 85. A section of decommissioned Interstate 40 is the business loop through Winston-Salem, one of three "Business Loop Freeways" in the country. Interstate 40 terminates just shy of U.S. 17 in Wilmington, terminating along with four U.S. routes (74, 76, 117, and 421) in the vicinity of that city.

High Priority Corridor

Interstate 40 through California and Arizona is part of High Priority Corridor 16 and 70: Economic Lifeline Corridor. Interstate 40 between Little Rock and Memphis is part of High Priority Corridor 55: Dallas to Memphis via Little Rock.

Planned Improvements

The Big I

A $270 million investment in the form of interchange reconstruction culminated in 2002 with the completion of the "Big I" construction project. This 24-month road work commenced July 2000 with the rebuilding of Interstate 40 ramps and overpasses in and around the junction with Interstate 25. This involved the replacement of left-hand entrance and off-ramps with new high-speed flyovers. In addition nearby frontage roads expand to two lanes and continue through the Big I area to improve traffic flow.

The "Big I" interchange project in Albuquerque has been completed. This photo shows the interchange as seen from eastbound Interstate 40 at the junction with Interstate 25. Photo taken 03/31/05 by Jeff Royston.

Relocation of Crosstown Expressway in Oklahoma City

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation will put the finishing touches in 2014 upon an ambitious relocation and construction project that replaced the ailing Crosstown Expressway in Oklahoma City. Opened in 1965, the state of the art facility for the era in which it was built, was now vastly substandard and in a state of disrepair. Because of that condition, overweight vehicles were banned on the segment of Interstate 40. The cost of inspections and bridge upkeep had surmounted to $1 million per year. These factors necessitated improvement.3

January 1996 marked the first public meeting to discuss the issue. Generated from these early discussions were seven alternatives, considerations of a no-build option, and evaluation of Transportation Systems Management. ODOT added alignment "B-3" December of 1996. The preferences of the various committees and public forums resulted in a narrowing of the potential candidates to two choices: Alternate "B-3" and Alternate "D". These two possible solutions to the Interstate 40 woes were displayed to the community over the course of 1998. December 1998 saw the selection of "Alternate D" as the preferred choice for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The statement was released by January 2001 and open to public comment by February of the same year.3

"Alternate D" represents a new alignment five blocks south of the current Crosstown Expressway, encompassing an existing railroad corridor. The project entailed the building of a surface or semi-depressed freeway with multiple access choices into downtown including a full interchange at Shields Boulevard (original U.S. 77). With this plan, the original Interstate 40 alignment will be converted to a six-lane boulevard. This facility will provide direct access to the Bricktown section of the city and in conjunction with the new Interstate 40 provide generous traffic capacity. The total length constitutes 3.96 miles between May Avenue and Interstate 235. Several amenities are included for area residents to reduce the impact of the freeway to surrounding environs. Included is a sound wall on the south side between Walker and Robinson Streets. The wall situates close to Interstate 40 to allow for a maximizing of the adjacent green space and sees an architectural design reflecting that of Little Flower Church. Within the same vicinity a 20 foot wide pedestrian bridge spans Interstate 40 near Union Station. Known as the SkyDance Bridge, the 380-feet long bridge features an architectural "wing" (based off the state bird: the scissor-tailed flycatcher) rising 192 feet above Interstate 40. The Riverside neighborhood will also benefit from a planned park (MAPS 3) created with additional right-of-way acquisitions3 to begin construction in 2013.

Final FHWA approval was granted in May 2002. This allowed ODOT the ability to design, commence right-of-way acquisition, and ultimately construct the new four-mile ten-lane facility. Ground breaking occurred in 2005, with Interstate 40 eastbound shifting to the new lanes on January 5, 2012 and westbound on February 19, 2012. The project totalled $670 million, up significantly from the $274 million4 estimates in 2003.

Webbers Falls Bridge

Spanning the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System across the Webbers Falls bridge of Interstate 40 eastbound. Photo taken 05/06/12.

On the morning of May 26, 2002, a tragedy occurred on the Interstate 40 Webber Falls bridge over the Arkansas River when two barges moving upstream outside the marked channel of the Arkansas River navigation system struck the pier supports causing the bridge to collapse. 14 motorists perished as their vehicles plummeted into the murky waters below. With a major east-west corridor out of commission, ODOT sought a rapid reconstruction. Opened a week ahead of time, the Webber Falls bridge reopened to traffic July 29, 2002.6 In remembrance to those who died, the Federal Highway Administration, ODOT and the Town of Webbers Falls dedicated a memorial to the victims on May 26, 2003. A bronze and granite memorial was created featuring a design depicting a clock frozen at the time of the accident and a pedestal supporting a child releasing a dove to the heavens. Five pillars were erected representing the survivors. The structure is located upstream from the bridge.7

Little Rock, Arkansas Upgrades

In Arkansas, construction has been underway in North Little Rock since 2003 from the Interstate 30/Interstate 40 interchange to the Interstate 40/Interstate 430 interchange. This section has been undergoing a widening project. Six miles of roadway is being upgraded from two lanes to three lanes in both eastbound and westbound directions. Three bridges that include the North Arkansas 107 (John F. Kennedy Boulevard), the massive Levy overpass, and a small creek are being replaced. So far, the JFK Boulevard overpass was nearly complete as of 2004.10 The Levy overpass has a small section eastbound built but not open as of December 2006. The small creek has half a bridge complete but not open. Three lanes are now open westbound from Burns Park to Interstate 430. Three lanes are also open eastbound from Levy to the Interstate 30 junction. All that is left to complete is the bridge over Levy eastbound and a little paving work.15 Overall, this project is still underway as of July 2007.

Knoxville, Tennessee Upgrades

Westbound Interstate 40 through the 2009-completed SmartFix40 rebuilt roadway and interchagne with Tennssee 158 (James River Parkway). Photo taken 06/25/12.

In Tennessee, roadwork dramatically expanded the stretch of Interstate 40 from the start of the Interstate 75 overlap to the southern terminus of Interstate 81. A routine sight throughout the mid and late 1990s, construction widened the Interstate 40-75 overlap to eight lanes, and Interstate 40 east of Knoxville to six lanes. The Tennessee Department of Transportation followed those projects with the Smartfix40 reconstruction to rebuild and expand 2.5 miles of Interstate 40 between Interstate 275 and the Cherry Street interchange (Exit 390). This project included an extension of Hall of Fame Drive (5th Avenue Connector) southeast to Summit Hill Drive from its current terminus at Broadway (U.S. 441) and an interchange modification for the Broadway and Tennessee 158/James White Parkway junction (Exit 389). Work also involved alteration to the Cherry Street interchange, a realignment of U.S. 11-70/Magnolia Avenue to East 5th Avenue, and the relocation of Fourth Avenue to the west of Interstate 40.2 Work shut down the Tennessee 185 (James White Parkway) freeway in 2007 to rebuild that roadway and parallel Hall of Fame Drive. The SmartFix40 project followed in 2008 with a complete closure of Interstate 40 between Interstate 275 and Cherry Street to tear down and rebuild its viaduct, which was completed in 2009.

North Carolina Projects

Major road work commenced in August 2012 on a modernization project for Interstate 40 between U.S. 21 and Interstate 77 at Statesville. The $89-million project, expected to last until March 2017, reconstructs the cloverleaf interchange between the two freeways into a high-speed directional interchange. Adjacent work with U.S. 21 upgrades the diamond interchange into a diverging diamond interchange (DDI).

One of the first Interstate 40 relocation projects was the construction of a southern bypass for Interstate 40 around Winston-Salem. Built and opened to traffic in 1993, Interstate 40 now bypasses downtown Winston-Salem. The former freeway alignment is now part of Business Loop I-40. A future Winston-Salem Northern Beltway is planned for construction starting in 2015 or later; this belt route would be designated as Interstate 74 and Interstate 274 once it opens to traffic.

The Greensboro Urban Loop, which is partially constructed, was slated to carry Interstate 40 around the city of Greensboro. The portion of the loop south of the city was constructed through the early to mid-2000s. The southeastern section opened on February 21, 2004 as new alignment for Interstate 85, and the southwestern portion opened on February 21, 2008. With the opening of this bypass, Interstate 40 was relocated onto the bypass for just seven months, and the old freeway alignment was redesignated as Business Loop I-40. September 2008 saw Interstate 40 restored through Greensboro and U.S. 421 relocated from through the city to the southwestern bypass. The Greensboro Urban Loop is also designated as part of Interstate 73, and the future northern half of the loop is designated Future Interstate 840.

In North Carolina, widening between the Durham Freeway (Exit 279) and Interstate 540 (Exit 283) brought Interstate 40 up to seven lanes. This stretch received 147,000 vehicles per day, so the widening was generally a welcomed sight. Expansion to eight lanes, which entails adding a fourth westbound lane, was completed on October 1, 2003. The $12 million project began in 2001.1 Even with these additional lanes, other sections of Interstate 40 are planned for improvements as the area continues to gain population. Starting in March 2013, reconstruction of Interstate 40 will focus on the corridor between U.S. 1 near Cary to Interstate 440 and its curve northward to the Knightdale Bypass (U.S. 64 & 264). This project is projected to take two years to complete.

A proposal emerged from the threat of Hurricane Isabel, a 2003 storm that packed 160 mph winds at one point. North Carolina officials debated a plan to switch Interstate 40 into a one-way facility in the case of a major hurricane threat (category 3 on the Saffer Simpson Scale with winds of 111 mph or greater). Under this plan, 90 miles of Interstate 40 between Interstate 95 and the city of Wilmington will be made north-bound or west-bound only during the evacuation phase of a hurricane threat. The configuration will end several hours before the arrival of Gale Force or higher winds from the said storm. This idea originated after the passing of the 1999 Hurricane Floyd made landfall at Wilmington, North Carolina.5 That particular storm packed 140 mph winds before weakening at the Carolina coast line to 105 mph winds. To mitigate the effects of potential situations where emergency and other vehicles needing to travel east toward the coast during potential evacuation situations, a maximum 12 hour window will be implemented for the one-way altering of Interstate 40. At the end of this time frame, traffic patterns will return to normal before wind speeds become a threat.5 Similar configurations on the Interstate system exist along Interstate 26 in South Carolina, Interstate 59 in Louisiana, and Interstate 65 in Alabama. Hurricane Georges in 1998 prompted officials in the Deep South Region to implement these provisions. As for Hurricane Isabel, the storm system made landfall at Drum Inlet in North Carolina packing 105 mph winds on September 18, 2003. The maelstrom was blamed for 29 deaths and $1 billion in damages.

Future Aspirations

Although California 58 between Bakersfield and Barstow has been submitted for inclusion in the Interstate Highway System, it is not currently part of California's Interstate System. With the ongoing improvement of California 58 between California 99 (see also Future Interstate 9) and Interstate 15 to Interstate standards, an extension of Interstate 40 over the California 58 freeway makes more sense. However, there is no official plan to extend Interstate 40 west at this time.

Meanwhile, in Wilmington, North Carolina, Interstate 40 is proposed to be extended southeast beyond its current terminus at U.S. 117. The extension would extend to Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway by running the new highway largely between Kerr Avenue and Wilmington International Airport. From the airport, the extended Interstate 40 would then follow Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway west into downtown, ending at the Isabel Holmes Bridge somewhat near where North Carolina 133 and U.S. 421 intersect. This project was introduced in December 2004, and it is currently being discussed by local planning and business groups.11

Shared Alignment with Interstate 69

As of May 6, 2008, Interstate 40 shares pavement with Interstate 69 between the Interstate 240 interchange near downtown Memphis, Tennessee, north to the Tennessee 300 interchange.


In Texas, Interstate 40 was an original Interstate Highway, and it was approved by the Texas State Highway Commission in 1962 with 182 miles.13 The section of Interstate 40 in Texas was completed prior to the completion of the companion section in New Mexico in the mid-1970s (from Tucumcari to Glenrio). Bypasses around Vega and Shamrock were added in the 1970s and early 1980s. The Interstate 40 bypass of McLean, Texas, was constructed between March 1982 and Summer 1984. There are a few at-grade intersections west of Vega on Interstate 40 for ranch access; technically, this feature does not meet Interstate standards.

To the east, the first section of Interstate 40 to open to traffic was a five-mile stretch east of Canute to Junction Oklahoma 44 (Exit 53); it opened in April 1959. Interstate 40 in Oklahoma was declared completed with the completion of the 17-mile bypass of Erick in June 1975.14 Old U.S. 66, which had carried traffic through Erick, was recommissioned as Business Loop I-40.

The Mississippi River bridge that carries Interstate 40 between Memphis, Tennessee, and West Memphis, Arkansas, opened to traffic in October 1973. A seismic retrofit of the bridge to withstand a 7.0 earthquake is currently underway.12

One of the most controversial sections of Interstate 40 to be constructed was the alignment through Memphis, Tennessee. Known today as Sam Cooper Boulevard, this freeway was built for about two-thirds of its intended distance. Sam Cooper Boulevard reaches its western terminus at East Parkway North, without entering Overton Park. Local opposition and resistance to the freeway's passage through such a sensitive area resulted in Interstate 40 being rerouted onto the northern half of the Memphis beltway.

Plans for this route in 1956 called for Interstate 40 bisect the city of Memphis, offering freeway access from the east. The exact route of the corridor, which included the freeway and expressway sections of Sam Cooper Boulevard as well as the unbuilt section through Overton Park was adopted in 1966. After the Tennessee Department of Transportation acquired the necessary rights-of-way from the city of Memphis, the design and construction of Interstate 40 was thought to be approved in November 1969. Construction ensued, including the much less controversial approach road from the west.

However, the group "Citizens to Preserve Overton Park" sued to obtain an injunction to stop construction within the park. Interstate 40 construction through Overton Park thus stopped while the lawsuit progressively made its way through various appeals and courts. By March 2, 1971, this fate of Interstate 40 through Overton Park (and thus Memphis) was decided. The U.S. Supreme Court offered its opinion in the case Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, (1971) on March 2, 1971: The freeway would not be built through Overton Park.12

As a result of this, the unbuilt section of Interstate 40 as well as the approach road (which was already under construction) were removed from the Interstate Highway System. The section of freeway orphaned west of Interstate 240 became an unnumbered highway (Sam Cooper Boulevard) with some sections built to freeway standards and others built to boulevard standards. The following table provides some views along Sam Cooper Boulevard.

Interstate 40 in Winston-Salem was relocated onto a new alignment as a result of approval from the AASHTO Special Committee on Route Numbering on October 2, 1992. The old alignment was recommissioned as Business Loop I-40.

An original Interstate highway, Interstate 40 was initially slated to end at its junction with Interstate 85 in Greensboro until 1968, when its route was extended east to Wilmington. It took another two decades for the route to be completed and opened to traffic; it opened on June 29, 1990, which marked the completion of the entire transcontinental route. AASHTO approved the designation of the section of Interstate 40 between Raleigh and Wallace (about 30 miles north of Wilmington) after the road was completed, on December 7, 1990. There was some difficulty in determining which route Interstate 40 would take eastward. At first, the state petitioned for the Interstate 40 freeway to follow U.S. 70 from Raleigh-Durham east to Morehead City in 1962. Although that plan was rejected, U.S. 70 has gradually been upgraded to freeway and expressway standards over the past decade. Meanwhile, the 1968 extension of Interstate 40 allows the freeway to reach one of North Carolina's principal ports and largest coastal cities at Wilmington and provides additional coverage for hurricane evacuation.9

Highway Guides

Decommissioned Section of Interstate 40: Sam Cooper Boulevard in Memphis
Perspective from Sam Cooper Boulevard Westbound
After Interstate 40 departs from the freeway at the Interstate 240 interchange, Sam Cooper Boulevard begins its westerly trek toward Overton Park. Photo by Steve Hanudel (08/19/05).
The first several miles of Sam Cooper Boulevard are built to freeway standards and could easily be designated as a spur route from Interstate 40 or as a business loop freeway. When Interstate 40 was removed from Sam Cooper Boulevard, the pull through signs still show the control city of Little Rock and simply omit the Interstate shield. Here, Sam Cooper Boulevard reaches Exit 8, Graham Street. Photo by Steve Hanudel (08/19/05).
The final exit on westbound Sam Cooper Boulevard is Exit 7, Highland Street. After this offramp, Sam Cooper Boulevard reverts to local boulevard standards, with parkway landscaping and at-grade intersections. Photo by Steve Hanudel (08/19/05).
After Highland Street, the speed limit on westbound Sam Cooper Boulevard lowers to 40 miles per hour. The number of through lanes is only two through this area. Photo by Steve Hanudel (08/19/05).
West of Highland Street, this is a typical configuration of Sam Cooper Boulevard. A multi-use trail follows the north side right of way, and the roadway has three through lanes. Traffic signals allow for connections to adjacent streets. Photo by Steve Hanudel (08/19/05).
Westbound Sam Cooper Boulevard comes to an end at this signalized intersection with Junction U.S. 64-70-79 and Tennessee 57-277, East Parkway North. Overton Park, with its dense tree canopy, is not penetrated by Sam Cooper Boulevard. Instead, traffic must turn left (south) or right (north) on East Parkway North. To U.S. 64-70-79 west to downtown Memphis and the continuation of Interstate 40, turn left (south) here via East Parkway North, then follow Union Avenue west to Interstate 40. Photo by Steve Hanudel (08/19/05).

Western Terminus - Interstate 15 - Barstow, California
Perspective from Interstate 40 west
Westbound Interstate 40 approaching Main Street/Business Loop I-15. Interstate 40 uses the Main Street exit for traffic from Westbound Interstate 40 to Northbound Interstate 15. Main Street is also Business Loop I-15 and Historic U.S. 66. Travelers must use this non-freeway connector between westbound and northbound. Note the Route 15 Business sign beneath the advance sign for Main Street. Also note that the sign does not mention that one must use that exit to access Northbound Interstate 15. Photo taken by Andy Field, Casey Cooper, and Joel Windmiller (01/22/02).
Westbound Interstate 40 approaching Main Street (Business Loop I-15/Historic U.S. 66) and Junction Interstate 15. This tiny reflective sign for Junction Interstate 15 is the first indication that Interstate 40 is approaching Interstate 15, and it is only 3/4 mile away from the interchange. Photo taken by Andy Field, Casey Cooper, and Joel Windmiller (01/22/02).
Westbound Interstate 40 signage for North and South Interstate 15. This is the only sign indicating that one must use Main Street to access Northbound Interstate 15. Photo taken by Andy Field, Casey Cooper, and Joel Windmiller (01/22/02).
Westbound Interstate 40 at the Main Street exit. Note that Northbound Interstate 15, Business Loop I-15, and Historic U.S. 66 are all unsigned here. It would be clearer if all three shields were placed on this overhead sign. Photo taken by Andy Field, Casey Cooper, and Joel Windmiller (01/22/02).
This is the last Westbound Interstate 40 standalone shield. There are no END shields. Photo taken by Andy Field, Casey Cooper, and Joel Windmiller (01/22/02).
Continuing westbound on Interstate 40, the freeway crosses over Interstate 15 and merges with southbound traffic. Photo taken by Andy Field, Casey Cooper, and Joel Windmiller (01/22/02).
Interstate 40 crosses Interstate 15 and merges onto the freeway. This interchange was recently widened. Since this photo was taken late in the day, the sun angle makes it harder to see. Photo taken by Andy Field, Casey Cooper, and Joel Windmiller (01/22/02).
Westbound Interstate 40 is now parallel to southbound Interstate 15 as it transitions onto Interstate 15. The sign on the right is for Southbound California 247, the first exit after the Interstate 15/40 merge. Photo taken by Andy Field, Casey Cooper, and Joel Windmiller (01/22/02).
Interstate 40 transition onto Interstate 15. Photo taken by Andy Field, Casey Cooper, and Joel Windmiller (01/22/02).
End Interstate 40 as it merges onto Interstate 15. If, someday, Interstate 40 is extended via California 58 to Bakersfield, Interstates 15 and 40 would merge here for a few miles, then turn west again at the new California 58 interchange with Interstate 15. The newly located California 58 interchange makes it much easier for traffic on westbound Interstate 40 to connect to California 58. Previously, traffic had to take Northbound Interstate 15 to access California 58, and that would have required that connection along Main Street/Business Loop I-15 through Barstow. Photo taken by Andy Field, Casey Cooper, and Joel Windmiller (01/22/02).
Perspective from Interstate 15 north
Entering the vicinity of Barstow, northbound Interstate 15 meets the California 58 freeway at Exit 179. California 58 follows old U.S. 466 west to Mojave and Bakersfield on an expressway or freeway alignment (although some sections remain two lanes as of 2006). Some have suggested that California 58 west to Bakersfield could be an extension of Interstate 40 if it is brought up to Interstate standards. Photo taken 02/20/05.
The next exit along northbound Interstate 15 is Exit 181, Junction Business Loop I-15 (L Street) to U.S. 66 (Main Street) to downtown Barstow. Photo taken 02/20/05.
This mileage sign provides the distance to the next three exits in Barstow: Exit 181, Junction Business Loop I-15 (L Street) north to U.S. 66 (Main Street); Exit 183, Junction California 247 south/Barstow Road north; and Exit 184A, Junction Interstate 40 east to Needles. Photo taken 02/20/05.
Northbound Interstate 15 reaches Exit 181, Junction Business Loop I-15 (L Street) to U.S. 66 (Main Street) to downtown Barstow. If California 58 became Interstate 40 and Business Loop I-40 were to be established in Barstow, Business Loop I-40 would likely follow the existing Interstate 15 business loop, then follow Old U.S. 66-91 (Main Street) to reconnect with California 58/Interstate 40. Photo taken 02/20/05.
California 247 travels south to Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree via Lucerne Valley, where it connects with California 18. Photo taken 02/20/05.
This auxiliary sign advises that traffic en route to the Marine Corps Base Nebo Annex should use Interstate 40. Note the use of text "I-40" rather than a shield. Photo taken 02/20/05.
Northbound Interstate 15 reaches Exit 183, Junction California 247. This sign was replaced between 2001 and 2005. The next interchange is Exit 184A, Junction Interstate 40. Photo taken 02/20/05.
Shortly after the California 247 and Barstow Road interchange, this diagrammatic sign is posted on northbound Interstate 15 prior to the split with eastbound Interstate 40. Photo taken 02/20/05.
Continuing north on Interstate 15, this sign for Interstate 40 east to Needles is located on the shoulder of the freeway. Photos taken 02/20/05, and by Andy Field, Casey Cooper, and Joel Windmiller (01/22/02); and Jeff Royston (01/99).
Northbound Interstate 15 reaches Junction Interstate 40. The Green-Out Overlays cover up old U.S. 66 and U.S. 91 shields, meaning that these signs were likely placed in the mid-1960s. Photos taken 02/20/05 and by Andy Field, Casey Cooper, and Joel Windmiller (01/22/02).
These photos show the connecting ramp between northbound Interstate 15 and eastbound Interstate 40 at Exit 184A. This directional interchange offers high speed movements between northbound Interstate 15 and eastbound Interstate 40 as well as westbound Interstate 40 to southbound Interstate 15. Other movements between the two freeways are afforded via the business loop (Old U.S. 66). Photos taken by Andy Field, Casey Cooper, and Joel Windmiller (01/22/02).
Perspective from Interstate 15 south
Just beyond the interchange with old California 58, Interstate 15 southbound sees this Interstate 40 mainline trailblazer. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (05/19/03).
Progressing westward, one mile out from the Main Street interchange at Barstow. There is no direct ramp from Interstate 15 south to Interstate 40 east. Thus traffic must utilize Main Street via the connection to Interstate 40 Exit 1 to access eastbound. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (05/19/03).
A second guide sign for the Main Street and Interstate 40/Needles interchange of Interstate 15 southbound. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (05/19/03).
Auxiliary guide sign indicating that Main Street is also designated Business Loop I-15. This is a standard practice for signing Interstate Business Loops from the Interstate mainline. It should also be mentioned that Main Street constitutes the original U.S. 66 routing as well. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (05/19/03).
Interstate 15 southbound at the cloverleaf ramp for Business Loop 15/Main Street and the access to Interstate 40 east. The control city for Interstate 15 is the city of San Bernardino. The municipality is 71 miles to the southwest. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (05/19/03).
The flyover ramp of Interstate 40 westbound to Interstate 15 southbound. Five miles separate this overpass from the California 58 interchange for San Joaquin Valley traffic interests. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (05/19/03).
Interstate 40 westbound traffic merges onto Interstate 15 ahead of the California 247/Barstow Road interchange. This photograph shows the off-ramp departure for that junction. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (05/19/03).
Perspective from Interstate 40 east
The first interchange along eastbound Interstate 40 is Exit 1, Montara Road. This is the first interchange on nascent Interstate 40. For much of the route in California, Interstate 40 retains two lanes in each direction and has a 70 mile per hour speed limit. Photo taken 02/20/05.
Montara Road offers a local connection to Old U.S. 66 and Business Loop I-15 in Barstow. Photo taken 02/20/05.
It is a long way from Barstow to Wilmington, North Carolina: 2,554 miles to be exact! Interstate 40 is the third longest Interstate highway in the country, after Interstate 90 and Interstate 80. The freeway crosses eight states -- California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina -- and it stays in some of these states for more than 400 miles (especially the last two states). Photo taken 06/27/09.
The first rest area along eastbound Interstate 40 is 28 miles east of Barstow, as indicated by this sign. Shortly after this sign is the first interchange (Exit 1, Montara Avenue), and Interstate 40 begins its trek across the Mojave Desert toward Needles, the Colorado River, and the state of Arizona. Photo taken 02/20/05.
Eastern Terminus - U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 - Wilmington, North Carolina
Perspective from Interstate 40 east
We begin our coverage of Interstate 40 east prior to the recently (2006) opened interchange of Interstate 140 and U.S. 17 northeast of Wilmington. The reassurance shield prior to the Interstate 140 junction (Exit 416) is signed with Ends 5 Miles. The final exit of Interstate 40 is Exit 420, Junction U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 (College Road). Photo taken 11/11/06.
Eastbound Interstate 40 meets Interstate 140 and U.S. 17 at Exit 416. Through traffic to U.S. 17 north and south should use this interchange rather than continue south into the city of Wilmington. The final exit of Interstate 40 is four miles ahead at Exit 420. For destinations served by southbound U.S. 117 or U.S. 421 or eastbound U.S. 74 or U.S. 76, follow Interstate 40 east. Photo taken 11/11/06.
The final exit along eastbound Interstate 40 is Exit 420, Junction U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 north. For destinations served by southbound U.S. 117 or U.S. 421 or eastbound U.S. 74 or U.S. 76, follow Interstate 40 east. Photo taken 11/11/06.
Eastbound Interstate 40 approaches Exit 420, Junction U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 north (one mile). This interchange will mark the eastern terminus of Interstate 40; the mainline freeway transitions directly onto southbound U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 (College Road) even though no signs advise of this. Photo taken 11/11/06.
Eastbound Interstate 40 reaches Exit 420, Junction U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 north. A reassurance shield on the left side of the road advises that southbound U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 (College Road) continue straight ahead. Photo taken 11/11/06.
Now at the ramp for Exit 420 (U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 north), Interstate 40 ends. The continuing expressway from this point transitions directly onto southbound U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 (College Road) after the two highways merge at the base of this hill. Photo taken 11/11/06.
Prior to the reroute of U.S. 117 in 2002, a shield assembly proclaiming the END of Interstate 40 was posted. However, the shield was removed and replaced with "South U.S. 117" once the US highway was relocated (see 2006 photo). Now there is no END shield for Interstate 40 east (south). From here, U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 travel south into Wilmington, with U.S. 117 leading to the state docks and North Carolina 132 connecting to the beaches served by U.S. 421. Photos taken by Mike Tantillo (10/01) and on 11/11/06.
This is the assembly about half a mile south of Interstate 40's end. Photo taken by Mike Tantillo (10/01).
Perspective from U.S. 421 north
The first appearance of Interstate 40 is found on northbound U.S. 421 at the point where it splits with North Carolina 132. While U.S. 421 (Carolina Beach Road) travels north toward downtown Wilmington, North Carolina 132 (College Road) travels northeast to connect to Interstate 40 en route to Benson and Raleigh. Photo taken 05/31/05.
A set of trailblazer shields for Interstate 40, U.S. 117, and U.S. 421 are posted at this intersection, known locally as Monkey Corner. If Interstate 40 were to be extended southeast, it would likely overtake North Carolina 132 south, perhaps as far south as this point. However, that is merely a pipe dream at this point in time. Photo taken 05/31/05.
Perspective from U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 (College Road) north
Northbound U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 (College Road) meets Business U.S. 17 (Market Street) at this interchange, about a mile or so from Interstate 40. (This was signed as U.S. 17 and U.S. 74 in 2001). This signage changed in 2006 when U.S. 17 was rerouted onto the Wilmington Bypass (partially designated as Interstate 140). Photo taken by Mike Tantillo (10/01).
The next major intersection along northbound U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 is the junction with U.S. 74/Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. This signalized intersection connects U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 with U.S. 74. Use U.S. 74 west to Wilmington International Airport. Photo taken 11/11/06.
Northbound U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 meet U.S. 74/Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway at this intersection , U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 approach the junction with Interstate 40 at Exits 420A-B. The first ramp (Exit 420A) connects to east-west Gordon Road, while the second ramp connects to northbound U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132. The left lanes transition directly onto Interstate 40 west (north). Note the BEGIN Interstate 40 shield assembly in the background. Photo taken 11/11/06.
A span wire assembly carries the traffic signal over the intersection between College Road and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. This is the final major intersection before Interstate 40 begins. Photo taken 11/11/06.
A final reassurance shield assembly for northbound U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 are posted after the U.S. 74 intersection. Photo taken 11/11/06.
The first exit for Interstate 40 will be Exit 420A, Gordon Road, followed by Exit 420B, Junction U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 north to Castle Hayne. Photo taken 11/11/06.
After the junction with U.S. 74/Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 approach the junction with Interstate 40 at Exits 420A-B. The first ramp (Exit 420A) connects to east-west Gordon Road, while the second ramp connects to northbound U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132. The left lanes transition directly onto Interstate 40 west (north). Note the BEGIN Interstate 40 shield assembly in the background. Photo taken 11/11/06.
Perspective from Interstate 40 west
A BEGIN Interstate 40 west shield assembly is posted on northbound U.S. 117/North Carolina 132 immediately prior to Exit 420A, Gordon Road. This marks the western terminus of transcontinental Interstate 40. Photo taken 11/11/06.
Westbound Interstate 40 and northbound U.S. 117/North Carolina 132 reach Exit 420A, Gordon Road. Note the overhead pull through sign, which includes control cities for U.S. 17 north (Jacksonville) and Interstate 40 west (Raleigh). Compare this to the former pull through sign (see next photobox), when the control city for westbound Interstate 40 was Benson (near the junction with Interstate 95). Photo taken 11/11/06.
The second exit in this interchange complex for westbound Interstate 40 is the split with U.S. 117 and North Carolina 132 north. Back in 2001, the control city for Interstate 40 west was Benson, which is the town where Interstates 40 and 95 intersect. The large sign to the right used to display "Exit 420B, North Carolina 132 North," and now it features U.S. 117 as well as North Carolina 132. Photos taken by Mike Tantillo (10/01) and on 11/11/06.
Continuing west (north) on Interstate 40, this mileage sign provides the distance to Barstow, California, from Wilmington. A similar mileage sign is profiled at the western terminus as well. Photo taken 06/24/10.
Historic Eastern Terminus - Interstate 440 - Raleigh, North Carolina
These pictures show the end of Interstate 40 after it was extended east to Raleigh but before it was extended all the way Wilmington. It used to end at the Raleigh beltline, which is now Interstate 440. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (08/08/05).
Eastbound Wade Avenue reaches the transition ramp to eastbound (outer loop) Interstate 440 and south U.S. 1. This was the end of Interstate 40 until it was extended southeast to Wilmington. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (08/08/05).

Observations of the East End of Interstate 40 from 2002:

Mike Tantillo visited the eastern terminus of transcontinental Interstate 40 in October 2001. Interstate 40, a four-lane freeway entering the vicinity of Wilmington, arrives from the north rather than the west. Immediately to the west of Interstate 40 is parallel two-lane North Carolina 132. A bit further to the west is the former alignment of north-south U.S. 117, which parallels Interstate 40 between Wilmington and Faison (Exit 355). North Carolina 132 meets the older alignment of U.S. 117 a few miles north of Interstate 40's eastern terminus, at Castle Hayne.

At the eastern terminus of Interstate 40, Gordon Road runs east-west, crossing under the Interstate 40 mainline.....and the road that carries North Carolina 132 and the new U.S. 117 effectively ends at Gordon Road at a traffic light. Exit 420 off of eastbound Interstate 40 is signed "North Carolina 132 north, Gordon Road," and it is a "loop" that leaves Interstate 40 south of the overpass over Gordon Road, and the ramp ends at the North Carolina 132/Gordon Road intersection. To continue north on North Carolina 132, one would go straight, to go onto Gordon Road, and then turn right or left.

At the intersection of Gordon Road and North Carolina 132 (U.S. 117), if one heads straight south, that ramp carries the North Carolina 132 designation onto Interstate 40 east, although it is signed only as North Carolina 132 south.

Heading west (north) out of Wilmington on Interstate 40, there are two exits. Exit 420A is Gordon Road, and there is an entrance ramp from Gordon Road (and also North Carolina 132 southbound if those cars turn left onto Gordon at the intersection of Gordon and North Carolina 132). No traffic lights are at these two ramps. There is also a direct flyover, Exit 420B which leads to North Carolina 132 north. This lets North Carolina 132 traffic avoid turning left and then right onto and off of Gordon Road. Exit 420B comes after 420A, but before the on-ramp from Gordon Road.

Interstate 40 and North Carolina 132 (U.S. 117) are multiplexed technically for about 100 yards, before the end Interstate 40 sign eastbound, and the begin Interstate 40 sign westbound. North Carolina 132 continues into Wilmington as College Road, a four- to six-lane at-grade expressway ... with plenty of businesses and development.

About half a mile beyond the end of Interstate 40, motorists are given the option of turning right on Smith Creek Parkway towards the airport. Turning left at Smith Creek Parkway leads to U.S. 17 north, U.S. 74 east, and Wrightsville Beach. Continuing straight on North Carolina 132 leads to an interchange with U.S. 17/74 (Market Street). U.S. 17 south/U.S. 74 west leads to Downtown Wilmington, and North Carolina 132 continues south past the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and eventually to Carolina Beach and Kure Beach.


  1. "I-40 east lane opens." News and Observer, September 2, 2003.
  2. "Hall of Fame Drive/Interstate 40 Project," Tennessee Department of Transportation, August 2003.
  3. "I-40 Crosstown History." Oklahoma DOT.
  4. "ODOT, partners celebrate approval of Crosstown project." Oklahoma DOT. May 13, 2002.
  5. "Officials review I-40 reversal plan." The News & Observer (Raleigh), September 15, 2003.
  6. "I-40 in El Reno gets face lift." Oklahoma DOT Public Affairs Media Advisory, August 13, 2002.
  7. "I-40 victims' memorial to be dedicated." Oklahoma DOT Public Affairs Media Advisory, May 22, 2003.
  8. "I-40 Bridge Opened to Traffic 7-29." OKLAHOMA DOT PUBLIC INFORMATION.
  9. Prince, Adam; Personal Email, 01/04/04
  10. Price, John; Personal Email, 12/10/04
  11. Lansford, John; "Wilmington Proposes Extending I-40," post to Misc.Transport.Road newsgroup; 12/26/04; based on article appearing in the Wilmington Star-News
  12. Tennessee Interstate System at 50: Facts and Trivia
  13. 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.
  14. Celebrate the Interstate: America's Interstate Highway System Turns 50! by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
  15. Skiles, Kent; Personal Email "AARoads feedback: I-40 In Little Rock," 12/09/06

Page Updated August 19, 2012.


State California
Mileage 154.61
Cities Barstow, Needles
Junctions Interstate 15
State Arizona
Mileage 359.48
Cities Kingman, Flagstaff, Winslow, Holbrook
Junctions Interstate 17
State New Mexico
Mileage 373.51
Cities Gallup, Grants, Albuquerque, Tucumcari
Junctions Interstate 25
State Texas
Mileage 177.10
Cities Amarillo
Junctions Interstate 27
State Oklahoma
Mileage 331.73*
Cities Elk City, Clinton, Weatherford, El Reno, Oklahoma, City, Henryetta
Junctions Interstate 44, Interstate 35/235, Interstate 35, Interstate 240
State Arkansas
Mileage 284.69
Cities Fort Smith, Russellville, Morrilton, Conway, Little Rock, Forrest City, West Memphis
Junctions Interstate 540, Interstate 540, Interstate 430, Interstate 30, Interstate 440, Interstate 55, Interstate 55
State Tennessee
Mileage 455.28
Cities Memphis, Jackson, Nashville, Lebanon, Cookeville, Crossville, Knoxville, Newport
Junctions Interstate 240, Future Interstate 69, Interstate 240, Interstate 440, Interstate 65, Interstate 65, Interstate 24, Interstate 24, Interstate 75, Interstate 140, Interstate 75/640, Interstate 275, Interstate 640, Interstate 81
State North Carolina
Mileage 419.40
Cities Asheville, Morganton, Hickory, Statesville, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Burlington, Durham, Raleigh, Smithfield, Wilmington
Junctions Interstate 26/240, Interstate 240, Interstate 77, Future Interstate 74, Future Interstate 285, Future Interstate 840, Future Interstate 73, Interstate 85, Future Interstate 785, Future Interstate 840, Interstate 85, Interstate 540 (Future Interstate 640), Interstate 440, Interstate 440, Future Interstate 640, Interstate 95, Future Interstate 140
TOTAL 2,555.80
Source: December 31, 2014 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
* - 1.53 miles on I-35
Interstate 40 Annual Average Daily Traffic

State Location AADT Composite Year
California Barstow 17,300 2002
California Essex 11,900 2002
Arizona Kingman 27,075 2001
Arizona Flagstaff 30,733 2001
Arizona Lupton 10,818 2001
Tennessee Memphis 130,190 2002
Tennessee Jackson 38,800 2002
Tennessee Nashville 167,990 2002
Tennessee Knoxville 150,020 2002
Tennessee Newport 24,310 2002
Source: Caltrans, Traffic Operations Program - Traffic and Vehicle Data Systems [2002]
2001 Arizona Interstate Annual Average Daily Traffic (AZDOT)
Traffic Flow Maps - Tennessee Roads and Streets 2002 (TDOT)
Complete Interstate 40 AADT data.
Nearing the SkyDance pedestrian bridge along the 2012-relocated Interstate 40 westbound, south of Oklahoma City. Photo taken 05/06/12.
A $670-million project started with design work in 2002 and ground breaking in 2005. The roadwork shifts Interstate 40 onto a new alignment five blocks to the south from the 1965-built Crosstown viaduct. Work continues on to 2014.
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