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Interstate 43

Routing

Interstate 43 angles northeast from Beloit to Delavan, Elkhorn, Mukwonago and Milwaukee, then travels north along along the west shore of Lake Michigan to Kohler, Manitowoc before veering westward to Green Bay.

View of Leo Frigo Bridge from mouth of Fox River Photo taken by Peter Johnson (06/17/15).

Planned Improvements

Construction at Interstate 41 outside Green Bay is underway as part of the overall US 41 Project through Brown County. Work at the north end of Interstate 43 includes an upgrade of the substandard cloverleaf interchange into a high-speed directional T interchange. The southbound beginning of I-43 from I-41 will shift from a tight right-hand ramp onto a new directional ramp departing from the left. Work will also separate movements at the adjacent diamond interchange with U.S. 141 (Velp Avenue) and County Trunk Highway HS. Construction runs between September 2013 and December 2016.

Parallel U.S. Routes

Interstate 43 replaced U.S. 141 between Milwaukee and Green Bay. The route also doubles as U.S. 41 along the east-west leg of Interstates 894 and 41 in Milwaukee.

History

Interstate 43 was not an original 1956 Interstate Highway; it was commissioned in the 1970s along U.S. 141 as part of the Milwaukee-Green Bay Interstate Highway.1 Government planning maps of the Interstate Highway System from that era initially showed Interstate 43 as part of an extended Interstate 57, with presumably a long overlap along Interstate 94 from Chicago to Milwaukee (note that this overlap was never shown on any planning maps, so it would have been implied). Potential funding for the freeway in 1972 referenced the future Interstate as an extension of I-57 as well.5 The initial 82-mile route for I-57 was approved by the Federal Highway Administration in May 1973 between Saukville, northeast along U.S. 141, to Wisconsin 42, northwest of Sheboygan, and then northward to U.S. 151 outside Manitowoc. A northwesterly trajectory took I-57 from U.S. 151 to the planned Belleview interchange south of Green Bay. This route did not extend south of Saukville due to the controversial Cedarburg Bog area, with provisions made to tie the new I-57 in with the preexisting U.S. 141 freeway south of Saukville. The proposed new I-57 took it through Mequon and along the Wisconsin 57 corridor into Milwaukee otherwise.6

However, the Milwaukee-Green Bay Interstate was soon designated as a distinct route (numbered Interstate 43) and the southern terminus was located at the current junction between Interstates 94 and 794 (Marquette Interchange) in Downtown Milwaukee. The existing U.S. 141 freeway in north Milwaukee became part of I-43; the Interstate was then extended north toward Green Bay. Construction of this portion of the route was completed in 1981.1

Meanwhile, what was originally designated as Wisconsin 15 (via the Rock Freeway, which connected Beloit with Milwaukee) began construction in 1969 and was completed in 1976. Approximately ten years later, on November 24, 1987, the highway was added to Interstate 43. With this action, I-43 gained 72 miles to the southwest along Wisconsin 15 / Rock Freeway to Interstate 90 near the state line.1 Wisconsin 15 was decommissioned by this action. With the extension of Interstate 39 into Wisconsin on October 16, 1992, I-43 connected to I-39. Signs for Interstate 39 were mostly erected around 1996.

For more information, visit Chris Bessert's Wisconsin Highways: Interstate 43 page. This page also includes a discussion of the proposed location of the "Milwaukee to Green Bay Interstate Highway," including consideration for what is now Interstate 41 as a candidate for the path of I-43 in the early planning stages.

Southern Terminus - Interstates 39 and 90 - Beloit, Wisconsin
Perspective from Interstate 43 southwest
This mileage sign is posted on Interstate 43 south after the entrance ramp from the Exit 6 interchange with Wisconsin 140. Of interest is that the state of Wisconsin refers to all highways (whether they be county, Interstate, etc) as Highway on guide signage. Hence the junction with Interstate 90 is in six miles, even though signage leads one to believe it is a state or county highway. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (12/02).
Next up is the one and a half mile advance guide sign on Interstate 43 south for the pending terminus with Interstate 39-90 at Exits 1B-A. This signage predates the Interstate 39 extension into Wisconsin from Rockford, Illinois (and still has not been replaced or augmented with Interstate 39 shields as of 2007). Photo taken by Brian Dowd (12/02).
Now within one mile of the southern terminus of Interstate 43. The Interstate 39/43/90 interchange is just three miles north of the Illinois state boundary. Photos taken by Brian Dowd (12/02) and Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Prominent freeway ends signage advises motorists of the pending terminus of Interstate 43. Similar such signage can be found at the current southern terminus of Interstate 69 at Indianapolis. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
The southern terminus of Interstate 43 is the westbound beginning of Wisconsin 81. A pair of end shields and junction signage greet southbound motorists just outside of the Exit 1 interchange with Interstates 39/90. Wisconsin 81 is signed with a junction banner right next to Interstate 43's end shield. The shield assembly is actually a single sign panel. Interstate 39 was not signed at all in 2002, and by 2007, only a standalone shield with an alternate banner was posted (with no cardinal directions). Photo taken by Brian Dowd (12/02).
Exit 1B turns traffic back to the north via Interstate 90 west (and Interstate 39 north). Note that although Interstate 39 saw extension in 1999 into America's Dairyland, no Interstate 43 perspective signage refers to the overlap with Interstate 90. Interstate 39 remains unsigned at this interchange as of 2007. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
The freeway comes to an end at the Exit 1A cloverleaf ramp to Interstate 39 south/Interstate 90 east to Chicago and Rockford. As displayed in the above photograph, Wisconsin 81 continues westbound into the city of Beloit. There the highway intersects with the Interstate 39 counterpart, U.S. 51. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Perspective from Wisconsin 81 east
End signage for Wisconsin 81 exists along with the junction Interstate 43 and 90 shields. Note again that Interstate 39 is omitted. Interstate 43 commences beyond the next traffic light. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
After the END sign for Wisconsin 81, there is one more traffic signal before the Interstate 43 freeway begins. A shield assembly shows that the first right turn connects to Interstate 39 south and Interstate 90 east to Rockford, while the second right turn connects to Interstate 39 north and Interstate 90 west to Madison. Businesses at this interchange are located on the frontage road. Interstate 43 begins after the traffic signal. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Perspective from Interstate 43 northeast
Instead of replacing the overhead signs in the background (which only display Interstates 43 and 90), Wisconsin placed an Interstate 39 south standalone shield to point the way to its overlap with Interstate 90 east. The next photo shows the sign bridge in the background. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
The first exit on Interstate 43, found immediately after the frontage road traffic signal is Exit 1A, Junction Interstate 39-90 south to Rockford. This exit comes quickly after the traffic signal. Interstate 39 and 90 become the tolled Northwest Tollway and merge with U.S. 51 six miles to the south in Illinois, the Land of Lincoln. They split 20 miles to the south at the city of Rockford. From there, Interstate 39 and U.S. 51 travel jointly south to Bloomington-Normal along the Central Illinois Expressway, while Interstate 90 turns southeast toward Chicago via the Northwest Tollway. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Similar to the southbound/eastbound ramp to Interstates 39 and 90, an Interstate 39 north standalone shield points the way to the cloverleaf ramp to Interstate 39 north and Interstate 90 west to Janesville. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
A cloverleaf ramp represents Exit 1B to Interstate 39 north/Interstate 90 west. The two highways jointly travel to the rapidly growing city of Janesville before reaching Wisconsin's capital city of Madison in 45 miles and Interstate 94 for a triplex in 47 miles. Interstate 43 north reaches Exit 1B to Interstate 90 west (and Interstate 39 north) to Madison. Interstate 43, meanwhile, begins the 60-mile journey to northeast to Milwaukee, Wisconsin's largest city. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
The first northbound Interstate 43 reassurance shield was signed alone in 2002, but a companion Alternate Interstate 39 shield was posted alongside it by 2007. It is unclear why Interstate 39 requires an alternate route or why Interstate 90 does not have an alternate route, but it is likely due to construction activities. The guide sign in the background is for Exit 2/County Highway X/Hart Road, 0.75 miles to the east. Photos taken by Brian Dowd (12/02) and Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Perspective from Interstate 39 north/Interstate 90 west
Now traveling north on Interstate 39 and west on Interstate 90, this two-mile advance sign for Interstate 43 and Wisconsin 81 is found just north of the Illinois 75 interchange just north of the Illinois-Wisconsin State Line. Note the use of the increasingly commonplace crown shield for Interstate 43 in Wisconsin. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Passing by the Wisconsin Welcome Center is this Wisconsin Welcomes You sign. The next exit is for Interstate 43 north to Milwaukee (Exit 185B) followed by Wisconsin 81 west to Beloit (Exit 185A). Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
This overpass was under construction in 2002 and is complete as of 2007. Northbound Interstate 39-90 approaches the joint termini of Interstate 43/Wisconsin 81 (Exits 185B-A), one mile. This is the first Wisconsin interchange of the two Interstates. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Use Interstate 43 north to Clinton (via Exit 6, Junction Wisconsin 140) and Delavan (via Exit 17, Junction County Route X or Exit 21, Junction Wisconsin 50). The northbound control city is Milwaukee, and the seat of Walworth County is Elkhorn. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
The northbound beginning of Interstate 43 departs via Exit 185B at this sign bridge on Interstate 39 north/Interstate 90 west. Interstate 43 serves the towns of Delavan, Elkhorn, and Waukesha on its northeasterly trek toward Milwaukee. The next Interstate junction of Interstate 43 is in 60 miles at Interstate 894. There the two highways share six miles on the southside of Milwaukee. Photos taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07) and Jim Teresco (07/01).
Continuing north, this Exit 185A overhead is posted on Interstate 39/90 north at Junction Wisconsin 81 west. To get to Beloit College, use Exit 185A to Wisconsin 81 west/Milwaukee Road. From Interstate 39/Interstate 90, Wisconsin 81 enters Beloit, serving downtown, before heading west to serve the southwest Wisconsin cities of Monroe, Darlington, Platteville, and Lancaster before ending at the Mississippi River in the Iowa border town of Cassville. The border city of Beloit is home to 35,775 residents as of the 2000 Census. Meanwhile, Interstate 39 north/Interstate 90 west continue in a northwesterly trajectory to serve the fast growing city of Janesville before encountering the capital of Wisconsin, Madison, and merging with westbound Interstate 94. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (12/02).
Perspective from Interstate 39 south/Interstate 90 east
Traveling south on Interstate 39 and east on Interstate 90, this mileage sign provides the distance to the exits serving the city of Beloit, Wisconsin. Located on the Wisconsin-Illinois state line, Beloit's exits include two in Wisconsin (Junction County Route S and Exits 185A-B, Junction Wisconsin 81 and Interstate 43) and one (Exit 1, Junction Illinois 75) in the state of Illinois. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Shortly thereafter is the one-mile advance guide sign for Exit 185B/A to Interstate 43 north and Wisconsin 81 west. This is the first time that Interstate 43 is mentioned on Interstate 39 south and Interstate 90 east. Note that Interstate 90 exit numbering conventions superseded the relatively new Interstate 39 extension. Sixty-five miles of Interstate 43 freeway separate Exit 185B from the city of Milwaukee. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Entering the Exit 185 cloverleaf interchange on Interstate 39 south/Interstate 90 east, the first ramp connects to Exit 185A (Junction Wisconsin 81 west). This state highway enters downtown Beloit before skirting along the southern reaches of Wisconsin westward to Cassville along the Mississippi River. One third of a mile separates Interstate 30/90 from the northbound beginning of Interstate 43 at this point. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
A full guide sign sits in place of the Exit 185B gore point sign at the Interstate 43 northbound cloverleaf. Interstate 43 sees its first interchange (Exit 2) at County Route X in one mile to the northeast of here. Photos taken by Brian Dowd (12/02) and Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Northern Terminus - U.S. 41-141 - Howard, Wisconsin
Perspective from Interstate 43 north
Shortly after Exit 189, Atkinson Drive/Hurlbut Drive is this signage for the penultimate exit from Interstate 43 north. The next interchange is with Atkinson Drive, followed by the junction with U.S. 41-141. The tied arch bridge in the background is Interstate 43's high-level bridge over the Fox River. Called the Leo Frigo Memorial (Tower Drive) Bridge,2 it carries Interstate 43 approximately 120 feet above the high water level of the Fox River, which allows for large ships to pass under the freeway. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Ascending up the Leo Frigo Memorial (Tower Drive) Bridge over the Fox River on Interstate 43 north, the view from is spectacular. From here, one can see downtown Green Bay, Lake Michigan/Green Bay, and Lambeau Field (home of the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League). However, the bridge is the location of suicide attempts, and some are requesting a fence be erected on the bridge to prevent jumps, especially after a high-profile suicide attempt from July 2004.3 Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Nearing the top of the bridge, this sign finally mentions that this is, indeed, the bridge over the Fox River. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
The superstructure of the tied arch Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge becomes evident at the crest, which is high above the Port of Green Bay and the Fox River far below. From here, Interstate 43 north descends toward the final two exits at Adkinson Drive and Junction U.S. 41-141. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Northbound Interstate 43 reaches Exit 189, Atkinson Drive (second to last exit), which connects Interstate 43 to downtown Green Bay. From here, the two northbound lanes of Interstate 43 will be funneled onto U.S. 41-141 (which is also Future Interstate 41) to Appleton and Marinette. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
The last North I-43 reassurance sign posted after Atkinson Avenue. Photo taken by Peter Johnson (06/17/15).
One mile ahead of U.S. 41 & 141 along Interstate 43 north. Use U.S. 41 (Interstate 41) south to Appleton. U.S. 141 travels north to Iron Mountain, Michigan, and U.S. 41 follows the shoreline of Green Bay north to Marinette and Menominee, Michigan. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
The new I-43 north to I-41 South ramp. A directional T interchange is replacing the old folded diamond interchange. Photo taken by Peter Johnson (06/17/15).
Traffic splits between I-41 South and U.S. 41/U.S. 141 north. The bridge to the right is the new I-43 north to US 41/141 north ramp. Photo taken by Peter Johnson (06/17/15).
Historical Perspective from Interstate 43 north
This sign bridge was next in line for Interstate 43 north traffic. One lane was allocated for each direction of U.S. 41-141. Note how U.S. 141 south was omitted from the southbound sign. This was due to U.S. 141 south exiting almost immediately after Interstate 43's northern terminus. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
A pair of END shields for Interstate 43 were posted just beyond the Military Avenue overpass. The scene is now where the southbound flyover to Interstate 41 & U.S. 41-141 departs. Photos taken by Jeff Royston (10/00) and Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Traffic for U.S. 41 and U.S. 141 north to Marinette and Iron Mountain, Michigan departed at Exit 192A. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Continuing on the ramp to U.S. 41 and U.S. 141 south was this reassurance shield assembly (similar to how IowaDOT signs the Interstate to Interstate connections). A tight curve was just ahead. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
A tight loop ramp connected Interstate 43 north with U.S. 41-141 south. This movement was replaced by a high speed flyover. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Perspective from U.S. 41-141 south
One mile north of Interstate 43 south along U.S. 41-141 southbound. Interstate 43 serves the immediate waterfront area of Green Bay before encircling the east side, while Interstate 41 & U.S. 41 stays on the west side of the city. U.S. 141 leaves U.S. 41 shortly after this interchange to serve Downtown Green Bay via surface streets. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Traffic was reminded of Interstate 43's connection to Wisconsin 54 and Wisconsin 57 to the northeast of Downtown Green Bay for Door County traffic interests from U.S. 41-141 south. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Traffic departed U.S. 41 & 141 for the southbound beginning of Interstate 43 at Exit 171. Originally a rather tight ramp facilitated movement to I-43 (hence the 30 mph sign). I-41 & U.S. 41 connects Green Bay with the Fox Valley Cities of Appleton and Oshkosh. I-43 provides the quicker connection to Milwaukee from Green Bay and thus gets it for the control point. Interstate 43 also serves Sheboygan and Manitowoc. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
After traffic from Interstate 43 north merges onto Interstate 41 & U.S. 41-141 south, Exit 170 quickly departed for Velp Avenue. U.S. 141 heads to Downtown Green Bay via Velp Avenue and Main Street before ending at I-43 just southeast of Green Bay. Previously, U.S. 141 continued south to Milwaukee, but it was replaced by Interstate 43 during the 1970s as the freeway was constructed. U.S. 141 was retracted out of Milwaukee to Grafton in 1977, Port Washington in 1979, Sheboygan in 1980, and Bellevue (current southern terminus) in 1981.4 Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Perspective from Interstate 41 & U.S. 41 north
Traveling north on Interstate 41 & U.S. 41 as it passes through the Velp Avenue interchange, the next exit is Exit 171, Interstate 43 south to Milwaukee. This was the first mention of the interchange with I-43's northern terminus on U.S. 41 north. U.S. 141 north has yet to merge in. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
If traffic that is heading for Door County on U.S. 41 north originated north of Wisconsin 172, this sign helps guide them onto Interstate 43 south to the Wisconsin 54/57 interchange. Sturgeon Bay is the county seat of Door County, while Algoma is a Lake Michigan city located at Wisconsin 54's eastern end in northern Kewaunee County. An on-ramp carrying U.S. 141 north merged onto the U.S. 41 freeway on the right. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Perspective from Interstate 41 & U.S. 41-141 north
This sign bridge was located at the split of traffic between I-41 & U.S. 41-141 north and Interstate 43's southbound beginning. I-43 serves Downtown Green Bay before reaching Wisconsin 54 and Wisconsin 57, which provide an easy link to Door County. Otherwise, Interstate 43 turns to the south towards Sheboygan and Milwaukee. Meanwhile, U.S. 41 and U.S. 141 head north via a freeway to Abrams before separating to head to Marinette (U.S. 41) and Iron Mountain, Michigan (U.S. 141).
This loop ramp was replaced by a new directional ramp during road work between 2013-16. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Perspective from Interstate 43 south
The first mileage sign on Interstate 43 southbound. The next two exits on I-43 serve the immediate Downtown and port areas of Green Bay. The third, Wisconsin 54 and Wisconsin 57, provides a link to Door County, one of Wisconsin's more famous tourist areas. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Continuing southeast, the first interchange on southbound Interstate 43 is for Atkinson Drive. This road provides a link to the Port of Green Bay as well as a link to the central business district via U.S. 141 (Velp Avenue). Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Beyond Exit 189 and Atkinson Drive, a second mileage sign is posted on the approach to the Leo Frigo Memorial (Tower Drive) Bridge over the Fox River. The tied arch structure is in the background. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).
Interstate 43 crosses over the tall Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge. The bridge typically defines the separation between the Fox River to the south and Green Bay to the north. The Port of Green Bay sits below the bridge, and slips for ships can be seen from the bridge. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Sage Sulenta (04/14/07).

Sources:

  1. Wisconsin Highways: Highways 40-49, Chris Bessert.
  2. State of Wisconsin Statutes: Chapter 84, State Trunk Highways (Federal Aid) - Section 84.1033 states as follows: "Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge. No later than 6 months after May 9, 2002, the department shall designate and mark the bridge on I 43 across the Fox River in the city of Green Bay as the "Leo Frigo Memorial Bridge" in recognition and appreciation of Leo Frigo, a civic and philanthropic leader in the Green Bay area whose legacy includes one of the largest food pantry programs in the nation for feeding the hungry."
  3. "Local Trooper is National Hero." WBAY-TV (Channel 2) Green Bay, July 19, 2004.
  4. U.S. Highway 141 by Robert V. Droz.
  5. "I-57 Fund Extension Appears Probable." The Milwaukee Journal, October 7, 1972.
  6. "Route Approved for I-57." The Milwaukee Journal, May 18, 1973.
  7. "Final investigative report from Leo Frigo Bridge sagging released." Fox 11 News, May 18, 2015.
  8. Wisconsin Highways: Highways 140-149, Chris Bessert.

Page Updated June 30, 2015.

Mileage

State Wisconsin
Mileage 191.55
Cities Beloit, Delavan, Milwaukee, Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Green Bay
Junctions Interstate 39/Interstate 90, Interstate 894, Interstate 94/Interstate 894, Interstate 94/Interstate 794
Source: December 31, 2014 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
I-43 south approaching the top of Leo Frigo Bridge in Green Bay. Photo taken by Peter Johnson (06/17/15).
The Lego Frigo Bridge spans the Fox River near its mouth on Green Bay. A portion of the arch bridge sagged on September 25, 2013, leading to a three-month plus emergency closure for repairs. WisDOT indicated that soil conditions corroded steel pilings, causing one to buckle and a pier to sink. Measures were taken during the $15 million repair project to prevent corrosion for a 75 year period..
The initial stretch of what would eventually become a part of Interstate 43 appears on this 1962 map of Milwaukee.
The first portion of U.S. 141 upgraded to the North-South Freeway in Milwaukee ran north from Wisconsin 190 (Capitol Drive) to County Trunk Highway PP (Good Hope Road). This stretch was completed in 1963.8
Interstate 43 debuted on the 1975 edition of the Rand McNally North American Road Atlas.
Interstate 43 was posted in 1975 along the U.S. 141 freeway from Interstate 94 in Milwaukee to Wisconsin 23 at Sheboygan. U.S. 141 was truncated northward to Grafton by 1977.8
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