Interstate 65 connects the Deep South with the Midwest, providing a north-south connection from the ports of the Gulf of Mexico to the ports of the Great Lakes. Alabama’s main street, I-65 begins in the “Port City” of Mobile and runs northeast through wide swaths of pine forest to the capital of Montgomery. Beyond there, I-65 continues northward to the economic hub of the state in Birmingham before reaching the Huntsville area between Madison and Decatur. North of Huntsville and Interstate 565, I-65 passes through 120 miles of the Volunteer State with a direct line through Nashville.
Within the Tennessee capital city, I-65 changed alignments in 2000 to overtake the former Interstate 265 along the west side of the central business district. Beyond there, I-65 combines with Interstate 24 along a short overlap in north Nashville before angling northeast toward the Bluegrass State.
Traveling through Kentucky, Interstate 65 ventures across hilly terrain to Bowling Green and Elizabethtown. The freeway passes to the east of Fort Knox en route to Shepherdsville and the south suburbs of Louisville. I-65 bisects Kentucky’s largest city before crossing the Ohio River into the Falls City area of southern Indiana.
Leaving the Ohio Valley, Interstate 65 flattens out across agricultural areas by the smaller cities of Seymour, Columbus and Franklin while en route to Indianapolis. I-65, like I-70, travels through the heart of Indianapolis as Interstate 465 encircles the Circle City along a 57.5-mile beltway. Traveling northwest, I-65 again transitions into a rural freeway to Lebanon, Lafayette and Crown Point. The northernmost reaches of the freeway serve the industrial city of Gary in the eastern Chicago metropolitan area.
Ohio River Bridges
Within Louisville, Kentucky, the Ohio River Bridge Project focused on I-65 in addition to the East End Bridge for Interstate 265. The project included the addition of the Downtown Crossing, a second bridge for I-65 across the Ohio. Accommodating northbound traffic, the new cable-stayed bridge doubled capacity, with the original John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge redesigned for southbound only use. Additional work focused on improvements to the Kennedy Interchange, where I-64, I-65 and I-71 come together outside Downtown. Improvements cited from the project web page include:4
- 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 I-65 and I-71 to a new route south of the existing one
- Extension of Witherspoon Street one mile to Frankfort Avenue/Ohio Street
In December 2006, costs were estimated for the improvements slated for I-64, I-65, and I-265 in Louisville. Reaching over 60% of initial estimates, the cost for two new Ohio River Bridges, and the reconstruction of the Downtown “Spaghetti Junction” interchange between I-64, I-65, and I-71, was estimated to be $3.9 billion. The components of this major construction initiative were as follows:5
- Interstate 265 Connector/East End Bridge – Cost: $1.29 billion with a forecast completion of 2013.
- Interstate 65 Downtown Louisville Bridge Replacement – Cost: $868.4 million with a forecast completion of 2019.
- I-64, I-65, and I-71: Reconstruct “Spaghetti Junction” – Cost: $1.74 billion with a forecast completion of 2024.
Design of the new bridges and confirmation of this schedule of construction was to be completed by early 2007. Funding was a major concern, and lack of funding pushed back the construction phase. However efficiencies in design and construction and inflation savings efforts accelerated the time table, and ground breaking for the Downtown Crossing took place on June 18, 2013 at Waterfront Park in Louisville.6
As announced on November 30, 2015, the new six-lane northbound span was officially named the Abraham Lincoln Bridge8. A public bridge walk was held on the cable stayed bridge five days later where an estimated 50,000 attended. Opening of the bridge to traffic followed late on December 6, 2015. It carried four northbound lanes temporarily as crews shifted southbound motorists onto the span later that month. The new 2,100-foot bridge carried dual traffic to fall 2016 as construction rehabilitated the adjacent cantilever span (JFK Bridge) for the southbound only conversion.9
Five of the six southbound lanes across the Ohio River opened to traffic along he rehabilitated John F. Kennedy Memorial Bridge bridge on October 10, 2016.10 All lanes and ramps on both spans and approaches were open by mid-November 2016, with the ramp from I-65 south to I-64 opened on November 14.11 All electronic tolling (AET) was implemented on the crossing on December 30, 2016.
The north tower of the Abraham Lincoln Bridge during the public bridge walk held on December 5, 2015. Photo taken by Tom Reaugh.
Interstate 65 parallels U.S. 31 for much of its route, with the exception of the stretch northwest of Indianapolis, where it parallels U.S. 52 (Indianapolis to Lafayette) and U.S. 231 (old U.S. 152 from Lafayette to Crown Point) and Mobile County, Alabama where it aligns west of U.S. 43 from Satsuma to Mobile.
Warrior. Rounding out work was the 14-mile portion between Lewisburg and Warrior.
Widening of Interstate 65 from four to six lanes between Exits 10 to 13 in Alabama was completed in 2003. A $110-million project completed between 2006 and December 21, 2010 modernized and widened I-65 between Exits 168 and 173 through Montgomery. South of Birmingham in suburban Shelby County, Interstate 65 again widens to six lanes with an expansion project between Exits 242 and 250 completed in December 2011. Work further north expanded the freeway to eight lanes within the vicinity of Interstate 22, with construction of a multi-level systems interchange there underway to October 2015.
Construction started in August 2010 expanded Interstate 65 between North Birmingham and Fultondale, Alabama. The project added c/d roadways to both directions of the freeway to connect with I-22 at the directional T interchange pictured here. I-22 was completed on June 20, 2016. 10/08/16.
The first section of Interstate 65 to open in Tennessee was located at the Tennessee-Alabama line, and it opened to traffic on November 15, 1958. The 1.8-mile stretch cost $1.3 million to construct over an 18-month period (starting in May 1957).
Within the Volunteer State, Interstate 65 underwent reconstruction and expansion north of the central business district of Nashville between early 2001 and late 2004. Constructed in 1968, I-65 was expanded to six lanes from Exits 87 to 90 (Briley Parkway) and eight lanes from Briley Parkway (SR 155) to Vietnam Veterans Boulevard (Exit 95). Work included the installation of sound barriers and the introduction of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technologies.3
Interstate 65 between Elizabethtown and Louisville opened on August 1, 1956 as the tolled Kentucky Turnpike. Tolls were levied along the 39-mile road until June 30, 1975, when bonds that financed its construction were paid off.
Within the Hoosier State, Interstate 65 was fully completed when the stretch in downtown Indianapolis opened to traffic in 1976.6