Interstate 65 connects the Deep South with the Midwest, providing a north-south connection from the ports of the Gulf of Mexico to the ports of the Great Lakes. Alabama's main street, I-65 begins in the "Port City" of Mobile and runs northeast through wide swaths of pine forest to the capital of Montgomery. Beyond there, I-65 continues northward to the economic hub of the state in Birmingham before reaching the Huntsville area between Madison and Decatur. North of Huntsville and Interstate 565, I-65 passes through 120 miles of the Volunteer State with a direct line through Nashville.
Within the Tennessee capital city, Interstate 65 changed alignments in 2000 to overtake the former Interstate 265 along the west side of the central business district. Beyond there, I-65 shares a short overlap with Interstate 24 in north Nashville before angling northeast toward the Bluegrass State.
Traveling through Kentucky, Interstate 65 ventures across hilly terrain through to Bowling Green and Elizabethtown. The freeway passes to the east of Fort Knox en route to Shepherdsville and the south suburbs of Louisville. I-65 bisects Kentucky's largest city before crossing the Ohio River into the Falls City area of southern Indiana.
Leaving the Ohio Valley, Interstate 65 flattens out across agricultural areas by the smaller cities of Seymour, Columbus and Franklin while en route to Indianapolis. I-65, like I-70, travels through the heart of Indianapolis as Interstate 465 encircles the Circle City along a 57.5-mile beltway. Traveling northwest, I-65 again transitions into a rural freeway to Lebanon, Lafayette and Crown Point. The northernmost reaches of the freeway serve the industrial city of Gary in the eastern Chicago metropolitan area.
Within Louisville, Kentucky, the Ohio River Bridge Project presently underway focuses on I-65 in addition to the East End Bridge for Interstate 265. Included in the work is the construction of a second Ohio River Bridge for I-65, the Downtown Crossing. The new cable-stayed bridge will double capacity, shifting northbound traffic away from the current cantilever bridge. Additional work focuses on improvements to the Kennedy Interchange, where Interstates 64, 65 and 71 come together outside Downtown. Improvements cited from the project web page include:4
Increased capacity for the ramp system
A new interchange design at Mellwood Avenue and Interstate 64
A new partial interchange at Interstate 71 and Frankfort Avenue/Ohio Street
Realignment of Interstate 64 between Interstate 65 and Interstate 71 to a new alignment south of the existing alignment
Extension of Witherspoon Street one mile to Frankfort Avenue/Ohio Street
In December 2006, costs were estimated for the improvements slated for Interstate 64, Interstate 65, and Interstate 265 in Louisville. Reaching over 60% of initial estimates, the cost for two new Ohio River Bridges and the reconstruction of the downtown "Spaghetti Junction" interchange between Interstates 64, 65, and 71 was estimated to be $3.9 billion. The components of this major construction initiative were as follows:5
Interstate 265 Connector/East End Bridge - Cost: $1.29 billion with a forecast completion of 2013.
Interstate 65 Downtown Louisville Bridge Replacement - Cost: $868.4 million with a forecast completion of 2019.
Interstate 64, 65, and 71: Reconstruct "Spaghetti Junction" - Cost: $1.74 billion with a forecast completion of 2024.
Design of the new bridges and confirmation of this schedule of construction was to be completed by early 2007. Funding was a major concern, and lack of funding pushed back the construction phase. However efficiencies in design and construction and inflation savings efforts accelerated the time table, and ground breaking for the Downtown Crossing took place on June 18, 2013 at Waterfront Park in Louisville.6 The new six-lane northbound span for Interstate 65 will be completed in December 2016.
Interstate 65 in Alabama opened in segments between December 10, 1959 and December 19, 1985. The first stretch to open was an eight-mile segment north of Birmingham that replaced U.S. 31 near Warrior. Rounding out work was the 14-mile portion between Lewisburg and Warrior.
Widening of Interstate 65 from four to six lanes between Exits 10 to 13 in Alabama was completed in 2003. A $110-million project completed between 2006 and December 21, 2010 modernized and widened I-65 between Exits 168 and 173 through Montgomery. South of Birmingham in suburban Shelby County, Interstate 65 again widens to six lanes with an expansion project between Exits 242 and 250 completed in December 2011. Work further north expanded the freeway to eight lanes within the vicinity of Interstate 22, with construction of a multi-level stack interchange there underway to October 2015.
The first section of Interstate 65 to open in Tennessee was located at the Tennessee-Alabama line, and it opened to traffic on November 15, 1958. The 1.8-mile stretch cost $1.3 million to construct over an 18-month period (starting in May 1957).
Within the Volunteer State, Interstate 65 underwent reconstruction and expansion north of the central business district of Nashville between early 2001 and late 2004. Constructed in 1968, Interstate 65 was expanded to six lanes from Exits 87 to 90 (Briley Parkway) and eight lanes from Briley Parkway (Tennessee 155) to Vietnam Veterans Boulevard (Exit 95). Work included the installation of sound barriers and the introduction of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technologies.3
Interstate 65 between Elizabethtown and Louisville opened on August 1, 1956 as the tolled Kentucky Turnpike. Tolls were levied along the 39-mile road until June 30, 1975, when bonds that financed its construction were paid off.
Within the Hoosier State, Interstate 65 was fully completed when the stretch in downtown Indianapolis opened to traffic in 1976.
Parallel/Historic U.S. Routes
Interstate 65 parallels U.S. 31 for much of its route, with the exception of the stretch northwest of Indianapolis, where it parallels U.S. 52 (Indianapolis to Lafayette) and U.S. 231 (old U.S. 152 from Lafayette to Crown Point) and Mobile County, Alabama where it aligns west of U.S. 43 from Satsuma to Mobile.
A two-mile guide sign precedes the Exit 1 six-ramp partial-cloverleaf interchange with U.S. 90 (Government Boulevard) along Interstate 65 south for Interstate 10. ALDOT typically posts two-mile advance signs for Interstate to Interstate junctions. Photo taken 06/05/06.
Interstate 65 southbound gains a fourth lane from the U.S. 90 eastbound on-ramp through to Interstate 10. A diagrammatic overhead outlines the configuration to I-10 where three lanes default onto westbound to Biloxi, Mississippi and two onto eastbound for Pensacola. Photo taken 07/17/07.
The final southbound reassurance shield of Interstate 65 resides between U.S. 90 and the Halls Mill Road overpass. Photo taken 10/28/03.
Florida and Mississippi are used for the control points of Interstate 10 east and west at the south end of Interstate 65. Regular control cities for Interstate 10 are Pensacola for eastbound and Pascagoula for westbound. Photo taken 07/17/07.
Ramps for Interstate 65 to Interstate 10 are assigned Exit number zero, but only at the directional interchange itself. Interstate 10 continues east six miles to downtown Mobile and the George Wallace Tunnel and west 20 miles to the Mississippi state line. Photo taken 07/12/05.
A short distance east of the collector/distributor return from Alabama 193 (Exit 17) is the two-mile guide sign for Interstate 65 north (Exit 20) on Interstate 10 east. Photo taken 11/21/14.
Attached to the Riviere Du Chien Road overpass is the first of two diagrammatic overheads for the Interstate 65 northbound beginning (Exit 20). The forthcoming directional interchange includes left-hand movements to and from Interstate 10 east. Photo taken 04/20/12.
A two-lane ramp carries motorists onto Interstate 65 north toward Montgomery, Birmingham and Atlanta via Interstate 85 north. Photo taken 04/20/12.
Exit 20 departs Interstate 10 east for Interstate 65 north. Ramps from Interstate 10 combine with four overall lanes through to U.S. 90 (Government Boulevard). I-65 remains with six lanes through to Saraland as it doubles as a commuter route through the Mobile area. Photo taken 04/20/12.
Two miles east of the directional interchange with Interstate 65 north on Interstate 10 west. Photo taken 05/19/14.
Interstate 10 eastbound maintains three overall lanes through the Exit 20 split with Interstate 65 north. Photo taken 05/19/14.
Two lanes prepare to depart Interstate 10 west for Interstate 65 north. Beyond U.S. 43 (Exit 19), the freeway turns northeastward across the Mobile and Tensaw Rivers on a rural drive 171 miles north to Montgomery. Photo taken 05/19/14.
Westbound Interstate 10 at Exit 20 and I-65 north. The bulk of traffic utilizing this ramp is local. The northbound freeway travels through the Mobile area accompanied by commercialized frontage roads. Photo taken 05/19/14.
Historical Perspective from Interstate 10 westbound
The original sign and lane configuration of Interstate 10 west at Interstate 65 north (Exit 20). The control city of Montgomery is posted on a greenout, likely added after the Interstate 65 bridges over the Mobile River Delta were completed in 1980. Photo taken by Michael Summa (1989).
Button copy signs for Interstate 10 west at Interstate 65 remained in service until 1996. By 1993, the westbound mainline of I-10 was expanded to three lanes at I-65. Vidcap taken 07/23/93.
Next Three Interstate Junctions for Interstate 10 West
Interstate 65 parts ways with Exit 259B for Interstates 80-94 & U.S. 6 east to their split at Lake Station. Interstate 80 joins Interstate 90 to South Bend and Toledo, Ohio while Interstate 94 curves northward to St. Joseph, Michigan. I-65 concludes in two miles at Interstate 90 (Indiana Toll Road). Photo taken 11/05/09.
Traveling a viaduct above a Norfolk Southern Railroad line and parallel Central Avenue, Interstate 65 motorists are advised of the final two exits: Exit 261 to 15th Avenue in Gary and Exit 262 for Interstate 90 (Indiana Toll Road). Photo taken 11/05/09.
The first of two end signs posted for Interstate 65. The freeway concludes one half mile north of the Exit 261 partial-cloverleaf interchange with 15th Avenue. Photo taken 11/05/09.
Exit 261 leaves Interstate 65 north, leaving motorists with two final options. Forthcoming Exit 262 provides direct access to Interstate 90 west to Hammond and Chicago and east to South Bend and Toledo, Ohio. Traffic otherwise ends at U.S. 12 & 20 (Dunes Highway) opposite Taylor Road. Photo taken 11/05/09.
Interstate 65 ends sign posted at the Exit 262 off-ramp. Exit 262 constitutes a wye interchange linking Interstate 65 with the toll plaza and access road from adjacent Dunes Highway to the Indiana Toll Road. This interchange, constructed between 2003 and 2004, replaced an at-grade intersection. Photo taken 11/05/09.
Beyond the ramp to Interstate 90, Interstate 65 concludes at a traffic light with U.S. 12 & 20 (Dunes Highway) and Taylor Road. Downtown Gary lies to the west and Aetna in east Gary to the east. Taylor Road ties in from an industrial site to the north. Photo taken 11/05/09.
Historical Perspective from Interstate 65 Northbound
This photo shows the prior configuration of Interstate 65 north at 15th Avenue, back when a traffic signal governed the transition from Interstate 90 to Interstate 65 south. Photo taken by Jeff Royston (11/01).
Combination of the exit gore for the Interstate 90/Indiana Toll Road exit and the former traffic signal in the middle of the Interstate 90 to Interstate 65 interchange. This traffic signal was removed in 2003-2004 and replaced with an interchange. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (06/15/02).
Perspective from Interstate 65 Southbound
The first southbound shield of Interstate 65 immediately follows the highway commencing south of U.S. 12 & 20 (Dunes Highway). A right-hand turn lane however departs next for a business before the official freeway beginning. Photo taken 11/05/09.
Historical Perspective from Interstate 65 Southbound
Southbound view of Interstate 65 at the former stoplight that governed the movements between the freeway end and Indiana Toll Road (Interstate 90). This signal was removed in 2003-04 and replaced with an interchange. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (06/15/02).
Here is an even closer view at the former intersection. In the background visible is the guide sign for Interstates 80/94 and U.S. 6. In Lake County, Interstate 65 is designated the Casimir Pulaski Memorial Highway. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (06/15/02).
Skewed in the above photograph, this guide sign was situated behind the No Left Turn sign, facing traffic departing from Interstate 90 to Interstate 65 south. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (06/15/02).
Perspectives from U.S. 12/20 east
U.S. 12 & 20 exit downtown Gary and combine from the one-way street couplet of 4th & 5th Avenues to form the Dunes Highway eastward. Industrial frontage lines the highway tandem east to the signalized intersection with Taylor Road north and Interstate 65 south. Photo taken 09/03/05.
Historical Perspective from Interstate 90 eastbound
U.S. 12 & 20 (Dunes Highway) westbound leaves the Aetna community of east Gary and approaches the trumpet interchange for Interstate 90 (Indiana Toll Road). The sign bridge displaying advance overheads for Interstate 65 south and the toll road was removed. Photo taken by Brian Dowd (12/26/02).
Perspectives from Interstate 90/Indiana Toll Road west
One mile east of the Exit 17 interchange complex with Interstate 65 south and U.S. 12 & 20 (Dunes Highway) near the 15th Avenue overpass in Gary. The capital city of Indianapolis can be found 139 miles to the southeast. Photo taken 09/02/05.
Interstate 90 (Indiana Toll Road) curves northwesterly on the half mile approach to Exit 17. Exit 17 serves both Interstate 65 south to Lafayette and U.S. 12 & 20 through Gary. Photo taken 09/02/05.
15th Avenue passes over Interstate 65 at the Exit 17 trumpet interchange. Originally the movement to Interstate 65 south included a left-hand turn onto the beginning freeway. Interstate 65 continues two miles to Interstates 80-94 & U.S. 6. Photo taken 05/09/10.
Perspective from Interstate 90/Indiana Toll Road east
There are three interchanges along the Indiana Toll Road that serve the city of Gary. This upcoming exits sign features all three, of which include the northern terminal interchange of Interstate 65 in 4.50 miles. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (05/26/03).
One mile west of the Exit 17 trumpet interchange for Interstate 65 south and U.S. 12 & 20 (Dunes Highways). An access road joins Interstate 90 with Dunes Highway. Photo taken 11/04/11.
Turning southward on the half mile approach to Exit 17 for Interstate 65 south along Interstate 90 (Indiana Toll Road) east. U.S. 12 & 20 combine along Dunes Highway from Downtown Gary east to Aetna through the Interstates 65 and 90 confluence. East of Exit 17, the two highways part ways with U.S. 12 taking a northerly route through East Chicago, Gary, Portage, Burns Harbor as U.S. 20 parallels a short distance to the south. Photo taken 11/04/11.
Exit 17 departs Interstate 90 east to a toll plaza and the ramp split for Interstate 65 south to Indianapolis and U.S. 12 & 20 in Gary. Photo taken 11/04/11.
After departing from the Indiana Toll Road, traffic is offered the choice of continuing straight to U.S. 12 & 20 or exiting to the right for Interstate 65 southbound. Traffic for Interstate 65 will loop underneath I-90 and join I-65 southbound at 15th Avenue. A trumpet interchange otherwise facilitates movements to U.S. 12 & 20 (Dunes Highway) ahead. Photo taken by Don Hargraves (09/23/02).
Following the ramp from the Indiana Toll Road to Interstate 65, motorists split into ramps for the freeway mainline south to Lafayette and the 15th Avenue off-ramp to Gary. Photo taken by Dave Sudhoff (05/21/05).
The Nashville skyline comes into view along the overlap of Interstates 24 east & 65 south at Exit 87. Photo taken 11/07/11.
Prior to 2000, Interstates 24 & 65 continued together through to Interstate 40, where I-24 turned east and I-65 turned west. The relocation of I-65 over I-265 to the west was undertaken in an effort to partition some of the through traffic around downtown Nashville.
Birmingham area - 1974 Alabama Official Highway Map
The 11.7 mile stretch of Interstate 65 between Hoover south to Alabaster, Alabama was completed on May 20, 1981. That opening was followed by the 14-mile portion from Lewisburg to Warrior, Alabama on December 19, 1985.
Interstate 65 corridor north of Indianapolis - 1970-71 Indiana Official Highway Map
North of incomplete portions of Interstate 65 through the Circle City, I-65 was also nearing completion in 1974 from Lebanon north to U.S. 24 near Remington. U.S. 52 remains along its four-lane alignment parallel to this stretch today.