Interstate 72 crosses Illinois, connecting central Illinois towns of Quincy, Jacksonville, Springfield, Decatur, and Champaign-Urbana. In September 2000, Interstate 72 was extended west into Missouri, providing Interstate access to Hannibal. Reports indicate that Interstate 72 from Hannibal, Missouri, east to Jacksonville, Illinois, are part of the "Free Fred McWhorter Highway" (spelling might not be correct), but this is not confirmed.4
Interstate 72 follows U.S. 36 from Hannibal east to Decatur.
AASHTO originally approved the numbering of Interstate 172 along what is now the Interstate 72 corridor between the Illinois 336 (current Interstate 172) east to Interstate 55 near Springfield. While AASHTO approved this routing on October 9, 1991, it was contingent upon Federal Highway Administration approval. The FHWA preferred to designate this route as Interstate 72. Due to this change, the Interstate 172 was moved to the Illinois 336 freeway around Quincy. AASHTO approved the extended Interstate 72 and new Interstate 172 on April 22, 1995.
Interstate 72 was completed between Springfield and Champaign in November 1976. Planned since the early 1960s, the Central Illinois Expressway portion of the route, from Interstate 55 west to Hull, opened to traffic on November 22, 1991.6 Signing of the route as Interstate 72 commenced within a week of April 27, 1995.7
Plans call for Interstate 72 to be extended west to Interstate 35 and eventually St. Joseph and Interstate 29 via U.S. 36. While parts of U.S. 36 west of Macon (Junction U.S. 63) are expressway or even freeway, the route between Macon and Hannibal is mostly two-lane, undivided, rural highway. In the late 1990s, there were no funds available to construct the freeway, so the original planned funding mechanism proposed by the U.S. 36/Interstate 72 Corridor Transportation Corporation was a one-cent sales tax for 30 years. With the passage of Amendment 3 (which ceased the diversion of highway funds to non-transportation departments) in November 2004, the Missouri Department of Transportation indicated it would use some of this money to fund a share of the U.S. 36 and Interstate 72 upgrade project.
The remaining balance of funds to construct the U.S. 36 four-lane expressway (with provisions for future upgrade to the Interstate 72 freeway) for the first 52 miles from Hannibal to Macon was made contingent on the passage of Proposition 36, which asked voters of five counties through which U.S. 36 travels to approve a a half-cent sales tax for 15 years. At a cost of $136 million, the upgrade of U.S. 36 between Macon and Hannibal would have been completed by 2009.1 The ballot measure was placed before voters on April 5, 2005.
Although approved by a better than two to one margin in four of the affected counties -- Marion, Monroe, Macon and Shelby -- the fifth county -- Ralls -- voted against the proposition. Since majority affirmative votes were required from each county for passage, the measure failed. As a result, officials feared that the upgrade to U.S. 36 could take years to be constructed, possibly until 2035 according to some estimates.2 However, due to the overwhelming popularity of improving the corridor, new plans emerged from the four counties that were in favor of the proposition as well as the U.S. 36/Interstate 72 Corridor Transportation Corporation and other stakeholders.3 Plans now call for U.S. 36 to be upgraded to a four-lane divided highway with provisions for interchanges in stages between November 2006 and December 2010. Funding would be derived from the half-cent sales tax in the four approving counties.5 An Interstate 72 upgrade would likely happen after the U.S. 36 widening is complete. For more information, visit U.S. 36 Project Information.
Hoosier Heartland Corridor
In addition, an eastern extension of Interstate 72 is also possible through a connection with Congressional High Priority Corridor 4 (Hoosier Heartland Corridor) if that route is constructed to Interstate standards. This route is Pictured on the official Indiana state map in 2004 as an improvement to Indiana 25 and U.S. 24, connecting Lafayette to Fort Wayne and Toledo, Ohio. Parts of U.S. 24 in Indiana and Ohio are planned to be freeway grade, while other sections will be expressway with at-grade intersections. However, future improvements to the route are possible.
For more on the Hoosier Heartland Corridor, visit the following pages:
Indiana 25 Corridor Study - the portion currently under construction is between Lafayette and Logansport. The remainder of the route from Logansport to Fort Wayne was completed between 1999 and fall 2000.
As part of the extension of Interstate 72 was the construction of the new Interstate 72 Mississippi River bridge -- called the Mark Twain Memorial Bridge -- which was dedicated on September 16, 2000. The following facts were based on information distributed by the "Hannibal Bridge Dedication Steering Committee":
Estimated cost: $51.45 Million.
Overall length: 4,491 feet; Overall Width: 85 feet and eight inches (including four twelve-foot travel lanes, ten-foot outside shoulders, six-foot inside shoulders, and a concrete traffic barrier in a three-foot wide median).
The Missouri approach consists of continuous composite prestressed concrete girders: two are 85 feet long, one is 170 feet long, and the second is 105 feet long.
The Illinois side consists of the same type of girders over wetlands: six are 220 feet long, 12 are 130.5 feet long, one is 151 feet long (steel plate girders), one is 218 feet long (steel plate girders), and one is 145 feet long (steel plate girders).
The new bridge is located halfway between the existing bridge (old U.S. 36) and the railroad bridge to the north. It is at River Mile 309.6.
11,000 vehicles traverse it daily.
The bridge is designed for seismic forces.
The main truss span is 89 feet wide and 640 feet long.
Even though the bridge is shown as a divided highway on the Rand McNally 2005 Road Atlas, it is a controlled access freeway, with interchanges at either end.
Western Terminus - U.S. 61 - Hannibal, Missouri
Perspective from Interstate 72 and U.S. 36 west
Westbound Interstate 72 approaches the exit for U.S. 61 (McMasters Avenue) and Business U.S. 36 (one-half mile). After this interchange, U.S. 36 continues westward to U.S. 24 near Withers Mill. This shield assembly is the final such assembly in Missouri (for now). Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (4/20/08).
A temporary Interstate 72 end sign is posted along U.S. 36 west after the U.S. 61 interchange. Photo taken by Jeff Royston (02/05/08).
Perspective from Interstate 72 and U.S. 36 east
Now traveling east on U.S. 36, the first exit of Interstate 72 eastbound is that of U.S. 61 and Business U.S. 36 for New London and Palmyra, county seats along the U.S. 61 corridor. There is an eastbound Interstate 72 shield on the onramp from U.S. 61 in addition to being on the mainline after this interchange. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (4/20/08).
The first reassurance shield for Interstate 72 and U.S. 36 east is posted after the U.S. 61 interchange. The next interchange is with Missouri 79. Photo taken by Jeff Royston (02/05/08).
Interstate 72 and U.S. 36 approach the Mark Twain Bridge, which carries the freeway over the Mississippi River. While still in Missouri, an advance sign for the next exit (Exit 1, Junction Illinois 106) is posted. From here, it is 98 miles east to the Illinois State Capital of Springfield and the six-mile overlap with Interstate 55. Photo taken by Jeff Royston (02/05/08).
Perspective from U.S. 61/McMasters Avenue north
Northbound U.S. 61 in Hannibal at U.S. 36 and Interstate 72 east. This junction is composed of a single point urban interchange (SPUI). Note there is only a shield for U.S. 36 at the eastbound on-ramp, but that Interstate 72 is clearly displayed on the overhead. U.S. 61 is the western terminus of Interstate 72, pending any future westerly extension of Interstate 72 at some point in the future. Photos taken by Jeff Royston (02/05/08) and Ben Prusia (07/08/02).
Perspective from U.S. 61/McMasters Avenue south
Southbound U.S. 61 in Hannibal meets U.S. 36 east/west and Interstate 72 east at this interchange. This junction is composed of a single point urban interchange (SPUI). Turn left to follow Interstate 72 and U.S. 36 east and Business U.S. 61 south to downtown Hannibal and all points in Illinois. To the west, U.S. 36 travels toward Monroe City and St. Joseph. Gradually, U.S. 36 is being upgraded to a four-lane, divided highway. Freeway standards will come later, as funding permits. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (04/18/08).
Perspective from Missouri 79/Mark Twain Avenue north (and Business U.S. 36 east and Business U.S. 61 north)
Northbound Missouri 79 approaches Interstate 72/U.S. 36 in Hannibal. This is not a terminus but instead is the only standalone interchange on Interstate 72 in Missouri (at Exit 157). Photo taken by Jeff Royston (02/05/08).
Missouri 79 sees its northern terminus at Interstate 72/U.S. 36 in Hannibal. This interchange is the only one for Interstate 72 between the terminus and the Mark Twain Bridge. Missouri 79 is part of the Mississippi River Road system, traveling southward from Hannibal all the way to Interstate 70 at Saint Peters. Photo taken by Jeff Royston (02/05/08).
The ramp from Missouri 79 north to Interstate 72 and U.S. 36 west is signed as part of the Great River Road and Business U.S. 36. Photo taken by Jeff Royston (02/05/08).
Historic Western Terminus - Interstate 55 - Springfield, Illinois
Perspective from Interstate 72 and U.S. 36 east
Northbound Interstate 55 and Eastbound Interstate 72/U.S. 36 approaching Junction Eastbound Interstate 72 and U.S. 36. This used to be the western terminus of Interstate 72 until it was extended westward to Hannibal, Missouri. Photo taken by Don Hargraves (02/14/03).
Northbound Interstate 55 and Eastbound Interstate 72/U.S. 36 at Junction Eastbound Interstate 72 and U.S. 36. Note the Illinois 54 exit; Illinois 54 is the original routing of U.S. 54, back when it used to extend all the way to Chicago. Currently, U.S. 54 ends at its junction with Interstate 72/U.S. 36 near Pittsfield, Illinois. Photo taken by Don Hargraves (02/14/03).
These are the first reassurance shields along eastbound Interstate 72 and U.S. 36 after the exit from Interstate 55. Photo taken by Don Hargraves (02/14/03).
This picture shows the first signage for the last exit along eastbound Interstate 72 as it approaches Junction Interstate 57 just west of Champaign-Urbana. Taken in mid-February, this photo shows the snow and cold of a typical Midwestern winter day. Photo taken by Don Hargraves (02/14/03).
Eastbound Interstate 72 approaching Junction Interstate 55, one mile. The signage also points the way to eastbound Interstate 74 for travelers wishing to continue east en route to Indianapolis. Photo taken by Don Hargraves (02/14/03).
This sign, located along eastbound, shows that Interstate 72 ends in three-quarters of a mile; however, traffic may continue on the highway to reach downtown Champaign and the University of Illinois. Photo taken by Don Hargraves (02/14/03).
Eastbound Interstate 72 approaching Junction Southbound Interstate 57, one-half mile. Interstate 57 southbound leads into the southern reaches of Illinois, finally departing the state at Cairo. Although the control city designation is Memphis, Interstate 57 does not extend far enough south to reach Memphis. It ends at its junction with Interstate 55 near Charleston, Missouri. Photo taken by Don Hargraves (02/14/03).
The interchange between eastbound Interstate 72 and Interstate 57 is a cloverleaf, with the first exit leading to southbound Interstate 57. The loop ramp exit ahead leads to northbound Interstate 57 and eastbound Interstate 74. Straight ahead, the freeway continues for a short distance before reaching Illinois 10 in the city of Champaign, serving the University of Illinois. Interstate 72 comes to its end at this interchange, but there is no END shield assembly present. Photo taken by Don Hargraves (02/14/03).
The last eastbound Interstate 72 exit is that of Exit 182B/Interstate 57 north outside the city of Champaign. The freeway of Interstate 72 does however continue a short distance into the city itself as University Avenue. The next northbound interchange of Interstate 57 is with Interstate 74 in two miles. First photo taken by Don Hargraves (02/14/03) and second photo taken by Chris Curley (07/00).
Perspective from Interstate 57 north
The first ramp in the cloverleaf interchange between northbound Interstate 57 and Interstate 72 is for eastbound University Avenue, so named for its routing toward the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. The second ramp is for the connection from northbound Interstate 57 to westbound Interstate 72. Photo taken by Joel Wade (12/12/04).
Northbound Interstate 57 reaches the loop ramp exit for westbound Interstate 72 to Decatur and Springfield. Photo taken by Joel Wade (12/12/04).
Perspective from Interstate 57 south
This upcoming exits mileage sign provides the distance to the next four interchanges on Interstate 57 south. All four of these exits serve the Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area: Exit 240, Market Street (two miles); Exit 238, Olympian Drive (four miles); Exit 237, Junction Interstate 74 (five miles); and Exit 235, Junction Interstate 72 west and University Avenue east. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Amber Mason (04/06/08).
Signage for Interstate 72 first appears on southbound Interstate 57 at the Interstate 74 cloverleaf interchange at Exits 237B-A. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Amber Mason (04/06/08).
After Interstate 74, the next exit along Interstate 57 south is Exits 235B-A, Junction Interstate 72 west to Springfield and University Avenue east to Champaign and the University of Illinois. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Amber Mason (04/06/08).
Advance guide signage on Interstate 57 southbound, one-half mile from the westbound beginning of Interstate 72. The interchange between the two Interstates and University Boulevard is a full cloverleaf. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Amber Mason (04/06/08).
Interstate 72 westbound begins at the Exit 235B off-ramp from Interstate 57 south. Interstate 72 reaches Decatur in 40 miles and Springfield in 80 miles. Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Amber Mason (04/06/08).
Immediately thereafter, southbound Interstate 57 reaches Exit 235A, University Avenue east to Champaign and the University of Illinois. This interchange is also a cloverleaf (similar to the Interstate 74 interchange). Photo taken by Chris Lokken and Amber Mason (04/06/08).
Perspective from Interstate 74 west
Interstate 74 westbound at the Exits 179B-A cloverleaf interchange with Interstate 57. This Interstate junction is two miles to the northeast of the eastern terminus of Interstate 72, and thus receives mentioning on the Interstate 57 southbound panel. This set of signs retains button copy lettering and is original. Photo taken by Michael Summa (1979).