Interstate 71

The final miles of Interstate 71 in Cleveland are urban, with this double-deck section at the merge point between Ohio 176 (Jennings Freeway) and I-71, just before the interchange with Interstates 90 and 490 southwest of Downtown Cleveland. Ohio 176 occupies the lower deck, while I-71 travels on the upper deck. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (07/03/06).


Interstate 71 constitutes a two-state route from Louisville, Kentucky northeast to Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland in Ohio. I-71 has more miles to the east of Interstate 75 than it does to the west of I-75.

The route of I-71 through northern Kentucky takes the freeway through hilly terrain to the south of the Ohio River. Wide medians and steep hillsides are encountered along the route. One such stretch in Carroll County, south of the Kentucky River, is where a tragic bus crash occurred on May 14, 1988. 27 people died when a wrong way drunk driver collided with a church bus. Signs are posted at the site in each direction.

North of Walton, Interstates 71 and 75 combine through the south suburbs of Cincinnati through Florence, Erlanger and Fort Mitchell. The pair reach urban Covington and cross the Ohio River along the double decked Brent Spence cantilever Bridge. A replacement of the 1963-opened bridge is planned, with construction starting in 2017.

Within the Buckeye State, Interstate 71 turns east between the Ohio Riverfront and Downtown Cincinnati before veering northward along a winding route to Norwood, Kenwood and Blue Ash. Leaving the Cincinnati suburbs, I-71 turns easterly again across a mixture of agricultural and forest land toward the Columbus metropolitan area.

Entering the suburbs of Columbus at Grove City, Interstate 71 curves northward to parallel the Scioto River ahead of Downtown. The freeway combines with I-70 across the river along the southern periphery of the central business district before resuming a northward course to the east of Downtown. This stretch is slated for improvements due to the weaving traffic patterns of the I-71 mainline. Interstate 71 otherwise continues north through the capital city to exit it near Worthington and Westerville.

Beyond Columbus, Interstate 71 again resumes with rural environs north to Berkshire where it bends northeast for the Cleveland area. Bypassing Mansfield to the east, I-71 traverses a swampy area by Charles Mill Lake ahead of Ashland. Remaining rural, the freeway extends northeast to meet the west end of I-76 near Westfield Center and south end of I-271 outside Medina.

The outer suburbs of Cleveland ensue along the northward drive by Brunswick and Strongsville, with I-71 passing by Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport (CLE) along an increasingly urban route at Brook Park. The final stretch of I-71 takes the route east from the airport area through west Cleveland and northern Brooklyn. The route overtakes the north end of the Jennings Freeway (Ohio 176) before ending at Interstates 90 and 490 and the Innerbelt.

High Priority Corridor

Interstate 71 in Ohio is part of High Priority Corridor 78.

Parallel/Historic U.S. Routes

Interstate 71 largely follows U.S. 42 from Louisville to Cleveland. U.S. 25 and 127 tie into the corridor where I-71 overlaps with I-75, and U.S. 22 parallels I-71 northeast from Cincinnati to Wilmington in Ohio. North from Wilmington, U.S. 62 accompanies the freeway corridor into Downtown Columbus, where U.S. 23 ties in and runs just west of I-71 through to Orange.

Planned Improvements


In Louisville, Kentucky, major improvements and upgrades are planned for the interchange between Interstates 64, 65, and 71 at the "Spaghetti Junction" (Kennedy Interchange) as part of the larger Ohio River Bridge Project. While this project primarily focuses on the construction of a new Interstate 265 bridge ("West End Bridge") and doubling capacity of the Interstate 65 Downtown Crossing by building a parallel span for northbound traffic, the improvements planned for the Interstate 64, 65, and 71 interchange are significant. Improvements cited from the project webpage include:1

  • 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

Construction commenced on the Downtown Crossing project in July 2013. Work runs through 2016.


In Columbus, the Ohio DOT previously proposed a pair of plans to deal with worsening congestion in Downtown. One option was to reroute Interstate 70 south of its current alignment between Exit 98/U.S. 42 and near Milepost 106. In this plan, Interstate 70 would take a new alignment at Exit 98, connecting to Interstate 71 and Ohio 104 south of Downtown and southeast of Cooper Stadium. From there, I-70 would take over Ohio 104, and a new connection would be constructed in the vicinity of U.S. 33 (Exit 105) that would link the new I-70 to the existing I-70. In exchange, the existing route of Interstate 70 between Exits 98 and 105A, including the notorious interchange with I-71, would be replaced with a 35 mph boulevard.

Another option, presented in November 2003, proposed separating through traffic on Interstates 70/71 from Downtown-bound traffic. According to the Columbus Dispatch article, "the plan would eliminate highway lane changes by dedicating three lanes of traffic to I-70, two lanes to I-71 and creating collector-distributor streets above the highway for motorists getting to and from two sets of Downtown ramps."

As the study progressed between 2002 and 2004, various options were considered, eliminated or adopted for further consideration. According to the I-70/I-71 South Innerbelt Corridor Study, construction of one of three possible alternatives (involving the location and layout of the collector distributor lanes) would begin in 2008 and end in late 2010. Design of the project began in 2005.2

Now named the Columbus Crossroads project, work to unravel the weave of Interstates 70 and 71 is included in the larger umbrella of projects that included rebuilding the junction between I-71 and Interstate 670 to the north. The I-670 project was completed in November 2013 and Phase 2 of the project, including work at the east junction between I-70 and 71, is scheduled to start in 2017. Construction on Phase 4B (I-70/71 South Innerbelt) may commence in 2023 when funding is expected.


Kentucky's portion of Interstate 71 was built between November 1965 and July 1969.3

Interstate 71 in Ohio was established in 1962; the freeway was completed through the state by 1975. Within Columbus, Interstate 71 originally included portions of present-day Interstate 670 north of Downtown and the Ohio 315 freeway west of Downtown. That dual configuration between that alignment and the route along I-70 and east of Downtown was removed in 1976.4 Northward in Cleveland, earlier proposals extended Interstate 71 along the Innerbelt to Ohio 2 / Cleveland Memorial Shoreway. This alignment appears on the 1961 Ohio Official Highway map and on the following Cleveland city map from 1966:

Highway Guides

Southern Terminus - Interstates 64/65 - Louisville, Kentucky
Perspective from Interstate 71 south
The close proximity of the southern terminus to Interstate 65 allows for an independent ramp from Interstate 71 of Interstate 64 for Interstate 65. This photograph is taken within the final mile of the Interstate. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (05/26/03).
The downtown Louisville skyline comes into view as Interstate 71 prepares to split for ramps to Interstate 64 and 65. Interstate 64 enters the terminus interchange from the southeast, paralleling the Ohio River as it travels through downtown en route to New Albany, Indiana. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (05/26/03).
A pair of end Interstate 71 shields are posted just before the freeway partition into Exits 1A and 1B. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (05/26/03).
The other end shield posted across the travel lanes of Interstate 71. Milepost 0.2 is also posted at this location. Downtown Louisville is two miles to the west via Interstate 64 at this point. Photo taken by H.B. Elkins (5/99).
The split of Exits 1A and 1B. Two lanes are allocated for Interstate 65. Exit 1A departs for Interstate 64 westbound to New Albany, Evansville, and Saint Louis. There is no access to Interstate 64 eastbound due to the orientation of the highway with regards to Interstate 71. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (05/26/03).
Perspective from Interstate 64 east
Traveling east on an elevated viaduct adjacent to the Ohio River, eastbound Interstate 64 approaches the junction with Interstate 65 and Interstate 71. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/19/05).
The left two lanes exit to Interstate 65, while the right two lanes continue east on Interstate 64 to north Interstate 71. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/19/05).
Interstate 65 splits off from eastbound Interstate 64 here. Use Interstate 65 north to Indianapolis and south to Nashville. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/19/05).
Signage for the split between Interstate 64 east and Interstate 71 immediately follows the ramp to Interstate 65. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/19/05).
Eastbound Interstate 64 reaches Exit 6, Junction Interstate 71 north to Cincinnati. Interstate 64 continues east to Lexington. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/19/05).
Next Three Interstate Junctions for Interstate 64 west
Interstate 264 4 miles at west Louisville, KY
Interstate 265 7 miles at New Albany, IN
Interstate 164 99 miles at Elberfeld, IN
Perspective from Interstate 65 south
Southbound Interstate 65 in Clarksville, Indiana. The one mile guide sign for Interstate 64 and the southern terminus of Interstate 71 is posted. The interchange with these freeways is located at the south end of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge over the Ohio River. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (05/26/03).
Crossing over the Ohio River on Interstate 65 south. The interchange with Interstates 64/71 north is posted as Exit 137. No exit tabs however, are displayed in Indiana of that designation. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (05/26/03).
Caution sign for the Interstate 64/71 north off-ramp to Interstate 65 southbound motorists. The interchange is sandwiched between downtown Louisville and the Ohio River. The tight quarters and independent ramps to Interstate 64 and 71 north delineate slower speeds. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (05/26/03).
The Kentucky/Indiana state line occurs on the northern banks of the Ohio River. This photo shows the southbound welcome sign and exit-only Exit 137 overhead for Interstates 64/71. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (05/26/03).
Midway across the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge is another set of guide signs for the pending Exit 137 junction. Control cities feature Lexington for Interstate 64 east and Cincinnati for Interstate 71 north. Both freeways overlap with Interstate 75 at their respective control points. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (05/26/03).
This view of the above Pictured Interstate 64/71 guide sign is missing the Exit-Only portion of the overhead. Saint Louis, Interstate 64 westbound control city, is 256 miles to the west. Photo taken by Jeffrey Napier (07/02).
Departing the John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge into Louisville, Kentucky, Interstate 65 southbound motorists are quickly faced with the Exit 137 departure of Interstate 64 and Interstate 71 north. Photo taken by Jeffrey Napier (07/02).
The Interstate 65 mainline departs to the left as this photograph shows a closer view of the Exit 137 sign bridge for the pending Interstate 64/71 ramp partition. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (05/26/03).
One lane is allocated for Interstate 64 west and Interstate 64 east/Interstate 71 north. The skyline of Louisville comes into view to the right. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (05/26/03).
A second view of the Exit 137 ramp split from Interstate 65 south. A sign bridge is visible to the left and represents where the Interstate 65 mainline is with respect to this location. Photo taken by Jeffrey Napier (07/02).
Continuing on the ramp to Interstate 64 east and Interstate 71 south is this sign bridge. These ramps are independent of the Interstate 64 mainline and are actually located within the median of the east and westbound travel lanes. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (05/26/03).
Interstate 71 northbound begins as traffic branches away from Interstate 64 east. The northbound control city of Cincinnati is 97 miles to the northeast. Lexington is situated 110 miles to the east. Photo taken by Chris Patriarca (05/26/03).
A second perspective of the Interstate 64 east/71 north ramp split. The first interchange of Interstate 71 is with Zorn Avenue, two miles to the northeast. Photo taken by Jeffrey Napier (07/02).
Next Three Interstate Junctions for Interstate 65 south
Interstate 264 6 miles at south Louisville, KY
Interstate 265 12 miles south of Louisville, KY
Interstate 24
overlap begin
170 miles at Nashville, TN
Perspective from Interstate 65 north
The first indication of the junction with Interstate 71 as seen on northbound Interstate 65 is at the Exit 136C offramp to Muhammad Ali Boulevard. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Amber Mason (04/07/08).
The left lanes continue north on Interstate 65 to New Albany and Indianapolis. The two right lanes prepare to depart to Interstate 64 and Interstate 71 north. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Amber Mason (04/07/08).
Northbound Interstate 65 reaches Exit 137, Junction Interstate 64 west to St. Louis, Interstate 64 east to Lexington, and Interstate 71 north to Cincinnati. The bridge that carries Interstate 65 over the Ohio River is visible immediately after the offramp. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Amber Mason (04/07/08).
At the gore point for Exit 137, this view shows the transition ramp and split to Interstate 64 west and Interstate 64 east and Interstate 71 north. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Amber Mason (04/07/08).
After the offramp to Interstate 64 and Interstate 71, northbound Interstate 65 crosses the Ohio River into Indiana. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Amber Mason (04/07/08).
Next Three Interstate Junctions for Interstate 71 north
Interstate 264 5 miles east of Louisville, KY
Interstate 265 9 miles northeast of Louisville, KY
Interstate 75
overlap begin
77 miles at Walton, KY
Northern Terminus - Interstate 90 - Cleveland, Ohio
Perspective from Interstate 71 north
Traveling north on Interstate 71, the final two exits on northbound are Exit 247A, West 47th Street and Clark Avenue and Exit 247B, Junction Interstate 90 east and Interstate 490 west. Photo taken by Tim Kubat (April-June 2006).
Shortly thereafter is the first overhead sign for Interstate 490, which is a short, east-west connector from Interstate 71 east to Interstate 77, offering relief to Interstate 90/Inner Belt Freeway. Photo taken by Tim Kubat (April-June 2006).
The right lane becomes exit only for the connection to Interstate 90 west and Interstate 490 east. Photo taken by Tim Kubat (April-June 2006).
An overhead sign for lane allocation for the interchange with Interstate 90 and Interstate 490 is posted ahead; the right lanes will exit onto Interstate 90 west and Interstate 490 east. Photo taken by Tim Kubat (April-June 2006).
Northbound Interstate 71 reaches Exit 247A, West 47th Street and Clark Avenue and Exit 247B, Junction Interstate 90 east and Interstate 490 west. The left two lanes will merge onto Interstate 90 east, while the right lanes enter a collector-distributor ramp system for Exits 247A-B. Photo taken by Tim Kubat (April-June 2006).
Continuing north on Interstate 71, this view of dual freeway is afforded at the Clark Avenue overpass. Signage for Exit 247B, Junction Interstate 90 east and Interstate 490 west can be seen on the collector-distributor lanes. Photo taken by Tim Kubat (April-June 2006).
After the merge with Ohio 176/Jennings Freeway and end of the double-deck section, Interstate 71 has less than a half mile of extant freeway before meeting its end at Interstate 90 southwest of downtown Cleveland. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (06/18/06).
Now traveling north on Interstate 71, this overhead sign assembly is the final one along northbound Interstate 71. Shortly after this sign, Interstate 71 north merges onto Interstate 90 east. For Interstate 90 east, use the left lanes; for downtown Cleveland and Junction U.S. 422 and Ohio 14 via Exits 171A-B. Interstate 71 north ends here, just shy of downtown Cleveland. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (06/18/06).
Next Three Interstate Junctions for Interstate 71 south
Interstate 480 10 miles in south Cleveland, OH
Interstate 80 15 miles at Strongsville, OH
Interstate 271 28 miles at Weymouth, OH
Perspective from Interstate 90 west
Sign bridge on westbound Interstate 90 at the northern terminus of Interstate 77. Interstate 71 advance signage is posted here in anticipation of the southbound beginning of that route. Photo taken by Kevin Vance (01/02).
Interstate 71 and 90 sign bridge on Interstate 90 westbound, as seen from Jacobs Field, home of the Major League Baseball Cleveland Indians. Photo taken by Jim Teresco (08/01).
A look of the above Pictured sign bridge from the Interstate 90 westbound mainline. The bridge on which Interstate 90 travels here crosses the Cuyahoga River. The southbound beginning of Interstate 71 is just 0.75 miles to the south. Photo taken 05/25/02.
The southerly orientation of Interstate 90 at this point allows the freeway to default onto Interstate 71 south. Because of this, Interstate 90 is forced to exit from itself. Each freeway receives at least two lanes of travel at the upcoming split. Photo taken 05/25/02.
Interstate 71 southbound begins its journey to the capital city of Columbus. Interstate 90 again turns to the west en route to the suburbs of Lakewood and Rocky River. There is no access from Interstate 90 west to Interstate 490 east at this junction. Photo taken 05/25/02.
Next Three Interstate Junctions for Interstate 90 west
Interstate 80
overlap begin
28 miles west of Elyria, IN
Interstate 280 99 miles north of Lemoyne, OH
Interstate 75 106 miles at Perrysburg, OH


  1. Kentucky-Indiana Bridges
  2. "Plan takes I-70 out of Downtown." Columbus Dispatch, February 7, 2004.
  3. - Interstate 71
  4. Route 71 - The Unofficial Ohio State Highways Web Site (John Simpson).

Page Updated June 25, 2015.

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