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Interstate 44

 

Routing

A diagonal east-west route, Interstate 44 links Texas and Missouri through the cities of Wichita Falls, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Joplin, Springfield, and St. Louis. While the route is toll-free in Texas and Missouri, a good portion of Interstate 44 in Oklahoma follows the turnpike system. This includes the H.E. Bailey, Turner, and Will Rogers Turnpikes. The remainder of Interstate 44 in Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri is toll-free.

Parallel and Historic U.S. Routes

Between Wichita Falls and Lawton, the highway follows U.S. 277-281. From Lawton northeast to Oklahoma City, Interstate 44 follows U.S. 62-277. From Oklahoma City northeast to St. Louis, Interstate 44 replaced famous U.S. 66, although much of that route survives as Oklahoma and Missouri 66. Most of the Missouri business routes follow old U.S. 66.

Termini

The western terminus was originally at the junction between Interstate 35 and Interstate 44 at the western terminus of the Turner Turnpike north of Oklahoma City. However, Interstate 44 was extended southwest to Wichita Falls in the 1980s. A new freeway (Kell Freeway) was completed in 2007 to link the western terminus of Interstate 44 with a new alignment of U.S. 82.

I-44 west at I-70 - St. Louis

Interstate 44 east leads directly into Interstate 70 west at the end of the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo taken by Chris Kalina (03/08/14).

The eastern terminus was officially located at the Illinois/Missouri state line on the Poplar Street Bridge (Interstates 55/64/70 and U.S. 40 overlap). That changed in 2013 when AASHTO approved a northern extension of I-44 from the Poplar Street Bridge (PSB) over former I-70 to the new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge. Opened on February 9, 2014, the new Mississippi River bridge shifts Interstate 70 northward onto a new alignment away from the Poplar Street Bridge and trenched freeway stretch by the Gateway Arch. Interstate 44 overtakes the below-grade freeway that I-70 followed from the PSB northward to the Stan Musial Bridge west end at Tucker Boulevard.

Future Aspirations: Western Extension

There currently aren't any short-term plans for a western (or southern) extension of Interstate 44 from Wichita Falls. However, proponents have suggested that a freeway or tollway be constructed south from Wichita Falls to at least Abilene and perhaps farther south to provide an alternate route to Interstate 10. Currently, there are no plans to extend Interstate 44.

Future Aspirations: Creek Turnpike

The SAFETEA-LU of 2005 added the Creek Turnpike as a future segment of the Interstate Highway System. However, no numerical designation was assigned. This route could become part of Interstate 44 or a new route, such as Interstate 644. The language is found in Section 1908(a)(1), INCLUSION OF CERTAIN ROUTE SEGMENTS ON INTERSTATE SYSTEM AND NHS:

    CREEK TURNPIKE, OKLAHOMA.-The Secretary shall designate as part of the Interstate System (as defined in section 101 of title 23, United States Code) in accordance with section 103(c)(4) of such title the portion of the Creek Turnpike connecting Interstate Route 44 east and west of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

As such, the Creek Turnpike is signed with Joplin and Oklahoma City for long-distance travelers along I-44 headed through Tulsa.

History

In Texas, Interstate 44 was not an original Interstate Highway, and it was approved by the Texas State Highway Commission in 1982 with 14 miles.2 This addition allowed the freeway to continue southwest from Oklahoma City to Wichita Falls via Lawton along the Oklahoma Turnpike system.3

In Oklahoma, the H.E. Bailey Turnpike segment from Lawton to Oklahoma City opened on April 23, 1964. It was not designated as Interstate 44 until the Interstate highway was extended southwest to Wichita Falls in 1982. The section of Interstate 44 from the north end of the H.E. Bailey Turnpike north to S.W. 29th Street opened to traffic as part of Interstate 240 Oklahoma in April 1976.4

To the northeast, Interstate 44 follows the Oklahoma Turnpike System toward Missouri. The Turner Turnpike, which carries Interstate 44 from Oklahoma City to Tulsa, opened to traffic in 1953 (thus predating the Interstate Highway System). After skirting downtown Tulsa to the south, Interstate 44 joins the Will Rogers Turnpike for the rest of the way to Missouri. The Will Rogers Turnpike was built around the same time as the Turner Turnpike, and it thus predates the Interstate Highway System. Interstate 44/Will Rogers Turnpike features one of the largest McDonald's restaurants in the world, at the location of the former Glass House Restaurant where it crosses over the Interstate near the city of Vinita. The Vinita Service Plaza closed on June 4, 2013 for rennovation and reconstruction. The recognizable bridge and arch will be retained during the one-year $14.6-million project.5

The relocation of Interstate 44 east of Tulsa at the junction with the Creek Turnpike (designated a future Interstate corridor) and U.S. 412 was approved by AASHTO on May 30, 2003. This included a new alignment for I-44 leading due south directly to the Creek Turnpike at U.S. 412. The angled portion of the Will Rogers Turnpike to OK 66 at U.S. 412 was abandoned, though ramps still link OK 66 east from I-44 east and from OK 66 west to I-44 west.

A $6.3 million widening in the city of Tulsa expanded Interstate 44 from four to six lanes between 41st and 31st Streets from September 2002 to August 2003. Next in line (proposed for 2006) was the $13.6 million widening to extend the six-lane portion from 41st Street to Yale Avenue (Exit 229).1

Western Terminus - U.S. 277/287 - Wichita Falls, Texas
Perspective from Interstate 44 west
The last westbound (southbound) exit of Interstate 44. Exit 1 takes traffic to U.S. 82 west/U.S. 277 south to the cities of Lubbock and Abilene. Everything past this interchange is considered U.S. 281 (not Interstate 44). Photo taken by Justin Cozart (09/02).
Perspective from U.S. 277-281 north
Approaching the beginning of Interstate 44 in Wichita Falls. The start of the highway is another mile to the northwest. Photo taken by Jeff Royston (12/00).
Perspective from Downtown Wichita Falls
Interstate 44 shield associated with the U.S. 277/281/287 duplex. A new viaduct is visible, which is part of a project that now links Interstate 44 with the U.S. 82/287 freeway south of downtown. Photo taken by Jeff Royston (12/00).
Eastern Terminus - Illinois/Missouri State Line - St. Louis, Missouri
Perspective from Interstate 44 east
First sign of the pending terminus with Interstate 55 on Interstate 44 eastbound, one and a half miles to the west. Exit 288 for Grand Avenue departs from the right in this scene. Photo taken by Rich Piehl (11/00).
End signage for Interstate 44, one quarter mile to the east of the sign bridge in the above photograph. The sign changed between 2000 and 2008. Officially however, Interstate 44 continues in an unsigned capacity to the Missouri/Illinois state line over the Mississippi River/Poplar Street Bridge. Photos taken by Jeff Morrison (04/19/08) and Rich Piehl (11/00).
The last two exits for Interstate 44 eastbound before terminating at Interstate 55 are that of Exit 289/Jefferson Avenue and Exit 290B/18th Street. The 18th Street off-ramp takes traffic to Lafayette Avenue. The ramp is part of the defunct Missouri 755 freeway that was to have looped on the west side of downtown Saint Louis between Interstates 44/55 and Interstate 70. Photos taken by Jeff Morrison (04/19/08) and Rich Piehl (11/00).
Interstate 44 concludes its three state journey as Exit 290A (Lafayette Avenue, former 18th Street exit) and Exit 290B (Junction Interstate 55) depart towards their respective directions while the mainline transitions onto Interstate 55 northbound. The Poplar Street Bridge and Interstates 64/70 and U.S. 40 are located a mile or so to the north. Photos taken by Jeff Morrison (04/19/08) and Rich Piehl (11/00).
Perspective from Poplar Street Bridge (Interstates 55, 64, 70/U.S. 40)
This is the first sign bridge on the Poplar Street Bridge, still in Illinois. This sign bridge lacks the assigned 40C exit number for the Interstate 44/55 exit. There is no Exit number applied to the departure of Interstate 70/Memorial Drive. As you cross the Missouri state line on the Poplar Street Bridge, the travel lanes segregate for their respective routes (Interstate 64/U.S. 40, Interstate 44/Interstate 55, and Interstate 70). Photo taken by AARoads (10/16/04).
The two left lanes continue west on Interstate 64 and U.S. 40, while Interstate 55 has an exit only from the number three lane and Interstate 70 has an exit only from the number four lane (right lane). Interstate 64 carries the through traffic. Interstate 44 is listed as being signed along with Interstate 55, and this sign panel now has its appropriate exit number. It is interesting to see the extra supports behind the guide sign panels. They may stem from a different sign configuration that predated the Missouri signage replacement project of 2000. Also of worth mentioning, is that the Interstate 64 exit numbers count the mileage to Interstate 70 in Wentzville along the Boone Expressway even though Interstate 64 ends somewhere between the Missouri River and Missouri 94 in Weldon Spring. Photo taken by AARoads (10/16/04).
The Poplar Street Bridge (westbound Interstate 64-70/U.S. 40 and southbound Interstate 55) leaves the Land of Lincoln and enters the Show Me State. Officially, Interstate 44 begins here, at the state line. Shortly after this sign demarking the border as the bridge crosses the Mississippi River, a welcome sign is posted alongside the bridge. Photo taken by AARoads (10/16/04).
Welcome to Missouri, the Show Me State. The five routes (Interstate 44, 55, 64, and 70 and U.S. 40) divide shortly after this sign as the Poplar Street Bridge enters the City of St. Louis. Photo taken by AARoads (10/16/04).
Although obscured by traffic in the EXIT ONLY lanes, this is where Interstate 70 leaves the quadplex and heads northward towards Lambert-St. Louis Airport and beyond to Kansas City. Note the lack of more "local" control cities in this area, especially considering the use of the airport as at least some sort of secondary control city on the Interstate 70 panel. Beyond the gore, the split of Interstate 70 West and Memorial Drive can be seen. Memorial Drive runs parallel to Interstate 70 passing by the Gateway Arch and connecting to the downtown areas of the city. This exit is due to be closed (if) when the new Mississippi River Bridge gets built. The section of Interstate 70 between this point and the intersection with the proposed cable stayed bridge will take on a slightly extended (and slightly wrong way) Interstate 44. Photo taken by AARoads (10/16/04).
After traffic continuing west on Interstate 70 departs, westbound Interstate 64 and south/westbound Interstate 44-55 split Missouri on Interstate 64/U.S. 40 west is for Interstate 55. Since Interstate 44 will branch off of Interstate 55 just a mile south of here, Missouri adds Interstate 44 to the guide sign for completeness. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (06/29/02).
Perspective from Interstate 70/Mark McGwire Expressway west
The ramp continuing onto westbound Interstate 70 splits here (the exit shown in the previous photobox can be seen to the left of this photo). The right lane exits only to Memorial Drive to the Gateway Arch/Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the St. Louis Convention Center, and Mississippi River waterfront. The left lane carries the mainline of Interstate 70 northwest through downtown St. Louis toward Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. Photos taken by AARoads (10/16/04).
Westbound Interstate 70 and the ramp to Memorial Drive split ahead. From here, Interstate 70 merges onto the freeway that carries connecting traffic from eastbound Interstate 44 and northbound Interstate 55. Photo taken by AARoads (10/16/04).
The Gateway Arch dominates the view as Interstate 70 enters a below-grade section near downtown St. Louis. Photo taken by AARoads (10/16/04).
Westbound Interstate 70 merges with incoming traffic from northbound Interstate 55 and eastbound Interstate 44. The freeway remains below grade for a short distance, then rises once it departs the downtown area. Photo taken by AARoads (10/16/04).
The below-grade section of Interstate 70 adjacent to downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch is narrow, with only two lanes in each direction. If Interstate 44 is extended north to the proposed new Mississippi River bridge, it will follow this section of freeway north until the depressed section ends. Photo taken by AARoads (10/16/04).
Westbound Interstate 70 emerges from the below-grade section of freeway. At some point northwest of here, the proposed new Mississippi River bridge would connect to Interstate 70. Once that bridge is complete, Interstate 44 is proposed to be re-routed through the depressed section until it meets the relocated Interstate 70. Photo taken by AARoads (10/16/04).
Perspective from Interstate 55 south
South of the Poplar Street Bridge on Southbound Interstate 55 this sign greets drivers to the split-off for Interstate 44 West toward Tulsa. Note that the cardinal direction for Interstate 55 is above the shield while for Interstate 44 it is placed to the right. Sign shop fun at its best. The exit for 7th Street leads to St. Louis' Soulard neighborhood south of Interstate 55. A great open air market can be found just south of the freeway. Photos taken by Brian Dowd (09/27/02 and 09/28/02).
Another perspective of the three-quarter mile advance sign bridge on Interstate 55 south for Interstate 44 west. T-town is approximately 387 miles to the southwest of this location. Photo taken by Rich Piehl (11/00).
Second diagrammatic guide sign for the Interstate 55 south/Interstate 44 west interchange. Not an uncommon practice for MoDOT district 6, since this is the only exit going southbound on Interstate 55 in the 207 mile, this exit is numbered as exit 207, although Interstate 44 West is actually exit 207B. In the background past the pedestrian walkway you can see a "Historical U.S. Route 66" trailblazer. Interstate 44 through St. Louis County roughly traces one of the mother route's paths throughout the metropolitan area. Photos taken by Brian Dowd (09/27/02 and 09/28/02).
A third view of the diagram overhead for the Interstate 55 south/Interstate 44 west split. Exit 290B for Gravois Avenue/12th Street is a cloverleaf ramp that is situated just past the Interstate 44/55 split gore. Photo taken by Rich Piehl (11/00).
This sign bridge at the gore for the exit of Interstate 44's eastern beginning. Interstate 44 heads toward South St. Louis County, Rolla, Springfield, Joplin on its way to the control city of Tulsa. In the background the flyover ramp that carries Interstate 44 Eastbound traffic to Interstate 55 Northbound can be seen. The two lanes of traffic on Interstate 55 Northbound and the two lanes leading from Interstate 44 Eastbound have about a mile to funnel into the extreme right lane to exit onto the Poplar Street Bridge (what fun!). Photos taken by Brian Dowd (09/28/02) and Rich Piehl (11/00).
Perspective from Interstate 55 north
First signs of Interstate 44 from Northbound Interstate 55. These signs are typical Missouri centerline advance exit signs. Compliant to the MUTCD, since the Interstate 44 exit is a left exit a yellow advisory "EXIT LEFT" notation is added. Photos taken by Brian Dowd (09/27/02).
Seen in the background of the above photo, this is the first diagrammatic sign for the Interstate 44/Lafayette Street Exit. Had it been completed, the Lafayette Street Exit would have led to the abandoned Missouri 755 project, which would have allowed the connections from Interstate 64 to Interstate 44/55 and Interstate 70 that do not exist today. The only alternative to continuing northbound on Interstate 55 for Interstate 64 and 70 is to drive along surface streets. Note that there is no distance on this guide sign to the upcoming exit. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (09/27/02).
This photograph shows the same sign bridge displayed in the above photograph. The difference is that the extra bracketing was trimmed away from above the guide sign and that the signage lighting assemblies were removed completely. This trend is not unique, as when the state of Georgia replaced all of its aging signage during the great exit renumbering, all overhead sign lighting fixtures were removed in a similar fashion. Photo taken by Rich Piehl (11/00).
Not of any significance to this interchange being the Interstate 44 terminus, the exit tabs on the two guide signs are misplaced. The Gravois Avenue tab should be right aligned since it is a right-hand exit and the Interstate 44/Lafayette Street sign should be left aligned since it is a left-hand exit. The missing control cities should be "Tulsa" for Interstate 44 West and "Downtown/Illinois" for Interstate 55 North. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (09/27/02).
Same signage as in the above photograph. Again the extra bracketing from the previous signage and lighting fixtures/brackets were removed in the intervening two years between the time of the two photographs. Photo taken by Rich Piehl (11/00).
A bright September Friday rush hour was the scene for this picture taking day. The 20 MPH advisory posted for the Interstate 44 Westbound exit is warranted due to the almost 180 degree orientation of the roadway. This ramp merges traffic into the left lane of Interstate 44 with the two right-hand lanes entering from Interstate 55 southbound. The exit gore sign should probably display "203 B-C" as the exit number since it serves both ramps. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (09/28/02).
Perspective from Interstate 70 eastbound
First signs of Interstate 44 from Eastbound Interstate 70. The center sign is for through traffic along Interstate 70; note that Interstate 44 is noted along with Interstate 55 for the left lanes. Photo taken by Don Hargraves (02/14/03).
Eastbound Interstate 70 approaching Junction Interstates 44, 55, and 64 as well as U.S. 40. The St. Louis Arch rises dramatically from along the Mississippi River banks to dominate the skyline of St. Louis, with bridges visible in the background. The freeway here is elevated on a viaduct, as evidenced by the expansion joints in the roadway. Photo taken by Don Hargraves (02/14/03).
Eastbound Interstate 70 narrows as it reaches the interchange. Note that the roadway is now below grade, and this section of is refereed to as the "depressed section." The left lane leads to westbound Interstate 44 and southbound Interstate 55. Compare the existing sign bridge with the older, button copy sign bridge from 1981. Photos taken by Don Hargraves (02/14/03) and Michael Summa (1981).
Just like westbound Interstate 10 in downtown San Antonio, here eastbound Interstate 70 exits off its freeway along a one-lane ramp for through traffic. The two left lanes take travelers onto southbound Interstate 44-55. Brian Dowd adds, "The freeways at that area are really setup as two 'through' freeways, with some ramps exchanging between the two. Interstate 70 Eastbound/Interstate 55 Southbound is considered one freeway and Interstate 64/U.S. 40 (with its counterparts in Illinois) being the second freeway. Traffic reporters always refer to the traffic pattern as the 'Northbound I-55 exit ramp to the Poplar Street Bridge' or the 'Eastbound I-70 exit ramp to the Poplar Street Bridge' even though technically what 'through' traffic going through the area is exiting." Photo taken by Don Hargraves (02/14/03).
Historical Eastern Terminus - Interstate 35 - north of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Perspective from Interstate 35 north
Prior to the 1980s extension of Interstate 44 southwest to Oklahoma City, Lawton, and Wichita Falls, Interstate 44 used to end at Interstate 35 Exit 138 north of Oklahoma City. Today, Exit 138 serves as the interchange with Interstate 44/Turner Turnpike east and the John Kilpatrick Turnpike west. Photo taken by AARoads (10/20/03).
Instead of signing the advance exit sign as "Junction Interstate 44," it is instead listed as "Turnpikes." Photo taken by AARoads (10/20/03).
Northbound Interstate 35 and eastbound Interstate 44/Oklahoma 66 reach Exit 137, N.E. 122nd Street. The next exit is Exit 138A, Junction Interstate 44/Turner Turnpike east, followed by Exit 138B, Kilpatrick Turnpike. Photo taken by AARoads (10/20/03).
The Kilpatrick Turnpike acts as a belt route around the northern and western quadrants of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Photo taken by AARoads (10/20/03).
Interstate 44 east turns onto the Turner Turnpike en route to Tulsa, Joplin, Springfield, and St. Louis. The freeway follows the Historic U.S. 66 corridor. Photo taken by AARoads (10/20/03).
Northbound Interstate 35 and eastbound Interstate 44 split at Exit 138A. This used to be the western terminus of Interstate 44 before it was extended southwest via former Interstate 240 (440), the H.E. Bailey Turnpike, and U.S. 277-281 to Wichita Falls, Texas. Photo taken by AARoads (10/20/03).

Sources:

  1. "Section of I-44 in Tulsa set to open over a month early." Oklahoma DOT Public Affairs Media Advisory, August 01, 2003.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 34.
  4. Celebrate the Interstate: America's Interstate Highway System Turns 50! by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
  5. OK Turnpike Authority shutting down McDonald's over I-44 for remodel, likely open in 2013. KJRH, March 26, 2013.

Page Updated March 11, 2014.

 
Mileage

State Texas
Mileage 14.77
Cities Wichita Falls
Junctions None
State Oklahoma
Mileage 328.53*
Cities Lawton, Chickasha, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Vinita, Miami
Junctions Interstate 240, Interstate 40, Interstate 35, Interstate 35, Interstate 244, Interstate 244
State Missouri
Mileage 290.49
Cities Joplin, Springfield, Lebanon, Rolla, Sullivan, St. Louis
Junctions Future Interstate 49, Interstate 270, Interstate 55, Interstate 64/Interstate 70
TOTAL 633.79
Source: December 31, 2013 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
* - 4.37 miles on I-35
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