Interstate 29 serves the Upper Midwest and Great Plains region between Kansas City and Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The freeway parallels the Missouri River between Kansas City and Sioux City, Iowa before straightening out along a northerly heading to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Fargo, North Dakota.
The southernmost 5.5 miles of Interstate 29 runs alongside I-35 north from the Alphabet Loop encircling Downtown Kansas City. I-35 branches eastward to Claycomo and Liberty while I-29 turns west toward Kansas City International Airport (MCI) and a short overlap alongside I-435, the Kansas City Beltway.
Leaving the Kansas City area, I-29 bee lines north along low rolling hills to St. Joseph, where an urban loop, I-229 serves Downtown while I-29 bypasses the city to the east. U.S. 71 leaves the I-29 corridor north of St. Joseph while I-29 bends northwest to Mound City and southwest Iowa parallel to the Missouri River.
While never entering the state of Nebraska, bridges across the Missouri join the I-29 corridor with Nebraska City and Plattsmouth on the northern drive to Council Bluffs. Once in Council Bluffs, I-29 takes a dog leg alongside I-80 west before following an S curve northward to Interstate 680. I-680 previously combined with Interstate 29 for ten miles to Loveland. The overlap was dropped with the renumbering of the eastern branch of I-680 (former I-80N) as Interstate 880 in November 2019.
Shifting westward again toward the Missouri River, I-29 traverses flat areas while en route to Sioux City. The freeway hugs the east banks of the river by Downtown, with I-129 providing a western link to South Sioux City, Nebraska. Just north of there, I-29 crosses into South Dakota.
Interstate 29 turns again at Junction City along the northward course to Sioux Falls in southeastern South Dakota. I-229 forms an urban loop east to Downtown while I-29 stays to the west through suburban areas between Tea and Renner. A handful of east and westerly shifts occur along the route between Sioux Falls and Brookings, home of South Dakota State University.
Interstate 29 at U.S. 12 near Summit, South Dakota. The drive north from Watertown to Sisseton traverses hilly terrain punctuated by glacial lakes along the Coteau des Prairies plateau. 06/17/15
Traveler services decrease in frequency as I-29 advances from Brookings north northwest to Watertown. The long exit less stretches and generous sight lines justify the 80 mile per hour speed limits along the freeway to the North Dakota state line. The landscape remains similar through southeastern North Dakota.
I-29 transitions from rural to suburban and urban settings northward into Fargo, the largest city in North Dakota. 2018 traffic counts recorded by the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) topped out at 77,610 vehicles per day (vpd) along the section just north of I-94. North of the metropolitan area, the rural freeway reduces to 13,570 vpd, and only increases to 17,675 vpd through Grand Forks, the last regional city along the route. Traffic counts along I-29 trickle to below 5,000 vpd beyond Drayton and just 2,870 at the Canadian border north of Pembina.
Construction through 2022 rebuilt Interstate 29 from south of Council Bluffs and the interchange with U.S. 275/Iowa 92 north to Council Bluffs ahead of 25th Street. Work modernized the freeway built in the 1960s by eliminating left side ramps, separating the overlap with Interstate 80 into a dual freeway, and adding capacity. The Council Bluffs Interstate System Needs Study by the city of Council Bluffs and the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency between 1997 and 1999 determined that I-29 was outdated, did not meet modern design standards or operational criteria and was over capacity. Iowa DOT started the Council Bluffs Interstate System Improvement Program in 2002 to address the issues raised by the study. Initial work commenced in 2006 with a lane addition along the concurrent I-29 south and I-80 east section.
Major work reconfigured the West System Interchange, where I-29 and I-80 converge just east of the Missouri River and the East System Interchange, where the two split for Des Moines and St. Joseph respectively. Construction at the West System Interchange was completed in July 2017, while efforts at the East System Interchange continued through June 2020.
Eliminating weaving traffic patterns, a revamp of the I-29/80 overlap separated both routes into a dual, divided freeway. Additional construction improved the geometry of the interchanges with Nebraska Avenue (Exit 52), the South Expressway Street (Exit 3) and U.S. 275/Iowa 92 (Exit 47). Phase II construction was completed by January 2019. Work on Phase III got underway in August 2019 and finished in June 2021.
Construction programmed for November 2020 to July 2023 at the West Broadway Interchange with Interstate 480 replaces left exit ramps along I-29 northbound, adds access to Broadway (old U.S. 6) and reconfigures ramps at Avenue G, N 35th Street and 9th Avenue. Construction got underway in April 2021 and runs through August 2024.
The I-29 Improvement Project, upgrading the freeway through Sioux City, Iowa, was completed in 2019. Split into three segments, construction along Segment 1 commenced in August 2010, with work on Segment 3, a reconstruction of the northbound lanes to the South Dakota state line, completed in 2012. This phase included six-laning the freeway and improving ramps at the interchanges with Singing Hills Boulevard and Interstate 129. Started in Spring 2012, Segment 2 widened I-29 to six overall lanes and upgrading several interchanges through the Downtown area.
Prior work identified in a 1997 needs study for I-29 included changes at the diamond interchange (Exit 141) with Sergeant Bluff Road. This was completed in 2003. The I-29 Sioux City corridor planning study commenced in 2004, leading to initial construction in August 2008 at the Riverside Boulevard interchange. That exchange was converted from a trumpet to a diamond interchange.9
The Official Route Numbering for the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways adopted on August 14, 1957 included separate routes for what is now Interstate 29. I-29 was numbered along the southern segment of the route between Kansas City and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The northern portion from Fargo, North Dakota to the Canadian border was numbered Interstate 31. Interstate system additions approved on October 18, 1957 included 230 miles of freeway linking the two routes.1
Correspondence between R.E. Bradley, Chief Engineer for the North Dakota State Highway Department and the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) on February 18, 1958 addressed the numbering:
In accordance with a recent Bureau of Public Roads circular memorandum all Federal-aid Interstate projects are to be numbered to show their location on the Interstate system.
In order to comply with this memorandum it is necessary that an Interstate route number be assigned the segment recently added from
Fargo, North Dakota to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This segment was not included in the official route numbering as adopted by the American
Association of State Highway Officials August 14, 1957. I wish to call your attention to the fact that the number from Sioux Falls to Kansas
City is Interstate route 29. The segment from Fargo, North Dakota to the Canadian border is Interstate route 31. It would seem logical to
extend Interstate route 29 from Sioux Falls to Fargo and continue to the Canadian border.