Interstate 135 in Kansas is one of the longest three-digit Interstates in the country. It follows U.S. 81 from Wichita north to Salina in central Kansas. Interstate 135 is cosigned with U.S. 81 in its entirety, with the exception of the approach to the tolled Kansas Turnpike/Interstate 35 south of Wichita. The older sections of U.S. 81 through cities are signed as Business U.S. 81 (not Business Loop I-135, which is typical in Kansas).
The section of Interstate 135, U.S. 81, and Kansas 15 that straddles a canal (drainage ditch) through metropolitan Wichita is known as the Canal Route. Seven miles long, the Canal Route has a flood control basin and drainage ditch network that feeds into the canal in the middle of the freeway. Photo taken 10/20/03.
In 1968, the first section of Interstate 35W (now Interstate 135) around McPherson was under construction. Most of Interstate 35W (135) was under construction during the early 1970s. Constructed between 1971 and 1979 at a cost of $32 million, the seven-mile Canal Route on Interstate 135 (35W) in metropolitan Wichita (from just north of the Interstate 35/Kansas Turnpike and Interstate 235 interchange north to near Exit 9, 21st Street) straddles a flood control drainage canal, a series of paved ditches dividing the two directions of traffic. Some of the technical issues encountered on this section of Interstate highway include three interchanges (including the junctions with Interstate 35 and Interstate 235 as well as U.S. 54-400/Kellogg Street), four pedestrian bridges, and a crossover bridge. As of 2006, the Canal Route averages 92,500 vehicles each day. Interstate 35W was renumbered as Interstate 135 on September 13, 1976 (approved by AASHTO on July 13, 1976). In December 1979, Interstate 135 was completed and fully opened to traffic.1
High Priority Corridor
Interstate 135 in its entirety, along with the route served by U.S. 81 and U.S. 77 north to Sioux City, Iowa, is part of High Priority Corridor 23: Interstate Route 35 Corridor.
Southbound Interstate 135 sign bridge for Exits 1B/A, the last exits before the terminus at Interstate 35, the Kansas Turnpike. U.S. 81 departs from Interstate 135 after sharing 94 mile overlap. The highway continues southward towards Wellington along the western side of the Kansas Turnpike. The original surface street alignment of the highway followed Broadway through downtown Wichita. Photo taken by Ben Prusia (03/02).
End Interstate 135 sign bridge approaching Interstate 35 and the Kansas Turnpike. Exit 1A is the last chance for motorists to depart before Interstate 135 merges with the Kansas Turnpike. 47th Street eastbound passes underneath the turnpike as it travel towards McConnell Air Force Base. One may recognize the military facility from overplayed video of an April 1991 F4 tornado that struck there and the Andover community. Photo taken by Richie Kennedy (03/01).
A second perspective of the Interstate 135 terminus and end signage. No control points are displayed for the Interstate 35 signage. Oklahoma City, which uses Wichita as northbound control destination for Interstate 35, is 147 miles to the south. Photo taken by Jeff Morrison (12/25/01).
Ben Prusia offers his view of the End Interstate 135 sign bridge Pictured in the above two photoboxes. Photo taken by Ben Prusia (03/02).
Advance guide signage from Exit 42/Interstate 135 northbound from Interstate 35/Kansas Turnpike northbound. The exit features a shield configuration similarly found on the Pennsylvania turnpike for interchanges. That meaning Interstate 235 and U.S. 81, although not directly linked to the Kansas Turnpike, are displayed as if they are. Exit 56 of Interstate 476 comes to mind, as the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike guide signage for the Allentown exit displays Interstate 78/U.S. 22/Pennsylvania 309, while the interchange directly connects with just U.S. 22, the Lehigh Valley Thruway. Photo taken 10/20/03.
The first exit of Interstate 135 - Exit 1AB serves U.S. 81 and Exit 1C for Interstate 235 north. Downtown Wichita is just five miles to the north. Photo taken 10/20/03.
This is the half-mile advance signage on northbound Interstate 35/Kansas Turnpike. Photo taken 10/20/03.
Split of Interstate 135 north from Interstate 35. At this point, Interstate 35 turns northeastward towards Emporia, Topeka, and Kansas City. Interstate 135 bee-lines northward to Newton before curving northwest to Interstate 70 at Salinas. It was this alignment that originally saw Interstate 135 with Interstate 35W signage. Photo taken 10/20/03.
Perspective from Interstate 135 north
This toll barrier is located on the connecting ramp from the Kansas Turnpike to northbound Interstate 135/U.S. 81. Photo taken 10/20/03.
The northbound beginning of Interstate 135 sees Exit 1A/B immediately after the Kansas Turnpike Exit 42 toll booth. U.S. 81 is quickly siphoned from its surface street routing onto Interstate 135, and continues northward in tandem with the route to Salinas. U.S. 81 was only routed onto 47th Street from Broadway to quickly have it merge onto the Interstate. Photo taken 10/20/03.
The first signage for the junction with Interstate 70 on Interstate 135/U.S. 81 north appears on this mileage sign prior to the Kansas 140/State Street interchange (Exit 93). Photo taken 10/17/04.
Northbound Interstate 135/U.S. 81 reaches Exit 93, Junction Kansas 140/State Street (Former U.S. 40). Use State Street east to Salina; use Kansas 140 west to Bavaria and Brookville. Photo taken 10/17/04.
The next exit along northbound Interstate 135/U.S. 81 is Exit 95, Junction Interstate 70 and U.S. 40 west to Hays, Colby, and Denver and east to Topeka and Kansas City. Photo taken 10/17/04.
This is the final reassurance shield assembly for northbound Interstate 135/U.S. 81 before the northern terminus at Interstate 70/U.S. 40. Photo taken 10/17/04.
Transcontinental Interstate 70 meets Interstate 135 at a cloverleaf interchange. The first ramp connects to Interstate 70/U.S. 40 east (Exit 95A), followed by a loop ramp to Interstate 70/U.S. 40 west (Exit 95B). U.S. 81 continues north as a freeway en route to Minneapolis and Concordia before entering Nebraska north of Belleville. Photo taken 10/17/04.
Exit 95A/B is the last interchange for Interstate 135 northbound. The freeway which Interstate 135 and U.S. 81 use however, continues northward another 18 miles as solely U.S. 81. Pictured is the eastbound Interstate 70 ramp/Exit 95A for Manhattan and Topeka. Although not displayed on these panels, U.S. 40 overlaps with Interstate 70 throughout central Kansas. Photo taken 10/17/04.
A second perspective of Interstate 135 northbound at Exit 95A/Interstate 70 east. For eastbound travelers, 105 miles of Interstate 70 distance Interstate 135 between Interstate 470 and the state capital of Topeka. Photo taken 10/17/04.
The final off-ramp of Interstate 135 northbound. Exit 95B loops motorists to the west for Interstate 70 towards the city of Hays (pop. 20013). Roughly 420 miles of Interstate 70 separate Salina with Denver, Colorado. U.S. 40 continues with Interstate 70 another 174 miles westward to Exit 76 at Oakley. Photo taken 10/17/04.
Perspective from U.S. 81 south
Mileage sign on U.S. 81 southbound. This is the first mentioning of Interstate 135. Salina, now devoid of any U.S. routes, is situated three miles south of the Interstate 135 terminus interchange. Photo taken by Ben Prusia (10/16/02).
One-mile guide sign for Interstate 70 on U.S. 81 southbound. Note that the Interstate 135 exit numbering convention is now in place. This is not the case for Indiana 57 as it transitions into Interstate 164 southbound near Evansville. The exits for that route are not numbered in other words. Photo taken by Ben Prusia (10/16/02).
Interstate 135 southbound comes to life as U.S. 81 enters the Exit 95 cloverleaf interchange with Interstate 70. U.S. 81 will continue southward with Interstate 135 throughout except the final approach of Interstate 135 to the Kansas Turnpike (Interstate 35). Photo taken by Ben Prusia (10/16/02).
Sixteen years before, U.S. 81 south at the Interstate 135 beginning. U.S. 40 was not ignored on the Exit 95A/B panels at this time, as Interstate 70 saw closer control cities of Russell for westbound (situated at U.S. 281/Exit 184) and Salina to the east. Notice also that the Interstate 135 pull-through panel included Wichita as the control city and that all three signs retained lighting assemblies. Photo taken by Michael Summa (1986).
Perspective from Interstate 70 west
U.S. 40 appears on Interstate 70 west guide signage at the Interstate 135 south/U.S. 81 Exit 250 cloverleaf. The northbound control point of U.S. 81 is the Cloud County seat of Concordia, a town probably known more for severe weather reports than for anything else. Photo taken by Dale Sanderson (10/02).
The previous set of guide signs at Exit 250B of Interstate 70/U.S. 40 westbound. Note the older Florida style U.S. shields for 40 and 81. The northbound control city is Minneapolis. It is not one of the Twin Cities, but the Ottawa County Seat 20 miles the north. It is also the site where the current U.S. 81 freeway concludes. As was the case with the 1986 photograph above, Interstate 70 saw Russell as a control city instead of Hays. Photo taken by Michael Summa (1982).