An intrastate route, Interstate 45 joins Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast with the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex. Beginning on Galveston Island, IH 45 replaced U.S. 75 along the Gulf Freeway, a pre-Interstate era highway constructed between Galveston and Houston. Angling northwest, the freeway passes by NASA’s Johnson Space Center toward South Houston, Park Place and Downtown Houston.
Within central Houston, IH 45 briefly runs side by side with IH 10 and U.S. 90. This will further change with the North Houston Highway Improvements Project, which relocates IH 45 into dual freeway configuration with IH 69 / U.S. 59 along the Eastex Freeway along the east side of Downtown. IH 45 will also extend further adjacent to IH 10 north of Downtown before joining the North Freeway to Westfield, Spring, The Woodlands and other northern Houston suburbs.
Beyond Conroe, IH 45 transitions to a rural freeway through Sam Houston National Forest. Exiting the forest, the freeway shifts westward from Huntsville to Madisonville while remaining rural to Coriscana. U.S. 287 combines with the freeway between Corsicana to Ennis, where it branches northwest to Waxahachie, Mansfield and Fort Worth. With increasing industrial development, IH 45 proceeds from U.S. 287 to Ennis, Ferris, Wilmer and south Dallas.
IH 45 concludes at IH 30 and U.S. 75 (Central Expressway) by Deep Ellum and Downtown Dallas. The southern 1.427 miles of U.S. 75 double as unsigned IH 345. Exit numbers continue northward along the IH 345 segment to Spur 366 (Woodall Rogers Freeway), where they reset using a sequential system along the remainder of U.S. 75 northward.
Approved by the Texas State Highway Commission in 1962 with 286 miles, IH 45 was an original Interstate Highway.1 Authorized in 1956, the section of IH 45 in Navarro County near Corsicana represents the first Interstate Highway contract to be let in Texas.2 However, the U.S. 75 / Gulf Freeway portion of IH 45 predated the Interstate system, which opened in September 1948. The Gulf Freeway was fully signed as IH 45 in 1971 following a series of upgrades to Interstate standards.
Construction started on the North Freeway segment of IH 45 in Houston in December 1959. It was completed north to Spring by February 1963. Succeeding sections of IH 45 were completed in the 1960s, including the stretch from Conroe to Madisonville, the section from Madisonville to Centerville, and the bypass around Corsicana.
During the early 1970s, the section from Centerville to Buffalo opened. A 12 mile segment of IH 45 between Fairfield and Streetman in Freestone County opened to traffic on October 13, 1971. Remaining sections, including the relocated Central Expressway in Dallas and the portion of IH 45 connecting Buffalo, Richland and Fairfield, were built in the mid to late 1970s.3
Interstate 45 Extension
Despite the U.S. 75 extending north along a freeway to McKinney and U.S. 69 at Sherman, there are no formal plans to extend Interstate 45 northward from Dallas into Oklahoma. A section in the ISTEA (1991) legislation however indicated that U.S. 69 in the Sooner State would become part of the Interstate highway system once it was upgraded to Interstate standards. ISTEA Section 1074, Designation of United States Route 69, states:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, upon the request of the Oklahoma State highway agency, the Secretary shall designate the portion of United States Route 69 from the Oklahoma-Texas State line to Checotah in the State of Oklahoma as a part of the Interstate System pursuant to section 139 of title 23, United States Code.
A subsequent unrealized plan was to construct a new segment of the Oklahoma Turnpike along the U.S. 69 corridor.
North End – Dallas, Texas
Two lanes lower from the elevated roadway for IH 30 east to Mesquite and west to Arlington and Fort Worth. 08/06/19
North End Throwback
South End – Galveston, Texas
SH 87 links IH 45 and Galveston Island with the Bolivar Peninsula and Port Bolivar via a auto ferry. The state highway is part of a longer coastal route that formerly traveled to High Island and Sabine Pass. Beach erosion however, washed away the roadway between High Island and Sabine Pass. 08/02/19
- “From Anywhere to Everywhere: The Development of the Interstate Highway System in Texas.”
http://tti.tamu.edu/interstate_anniversary/white_paper/by Penny Beaumont, Rhonda Brinkmann, David Ellis, Chris Pourteau, and Brandon V. Webb, Texas Transportation Institute, page 29 and 34.
- Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System: Previous Interstate Facts of the Day by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
- Chapter 6 Excerpt: US 175, S.M. Wright and C.F. Hawn Freeways, Dallas-Fort Worth Freeways, 2014 ebook.
Page updated June 3, 2022.