From Miami north to Tampa, Interstate 75 parallels U.S. 41. U.S. 41 is a toll-free alternative to I-75 across the Everglades and through Big Cypress National Preserve, but with only two lanes and limited passing opportunities. Upon reaching the turnoff to Marco Island at SR 951, U.S. 41 becomes very congested and slow as it ascends the Gulf Coast of Florida. Since completion of Interstate 75 through Southwest Florida in the mid-1980s, through traffic has diverted from U.S. 41 to I-75. With the inland suddenly open for development as never before, I-75 fostered the construction of housing, shopping, and entire communities within the shadow of the freeway. Previously empty interchanges grew to include traveler services, malls, and condominiums. Traffic has increased between Naples and Tampa due to the explosive growth of this region, and much of the route carries at least six lanes now. A previous widening plan under consideration for Interstate 75 in Collier and Lee Counties north of SR 951 focused on financing expansion with toll (HOT) lanes. In 2005, state legislation approved the Southwest Florida Expressway Authority (now defunct) to oversee this future widening. And commonly known as the IROX project, the first 30 mile portion transformed Interstate 75 from four to six lanes between Collier County Road 846 (Immokalee Road) in North Naples to SR 884 (Colonial Boulevard) in Ft. Myers.
Until the completion of the freeway from Tampa to Naples in the mid-1980s south of the Tampa-St. Petersburg metropolitan area, Interstate 75 reached its southern terminus at the interchange of I-4 and I-275 in Downtown Tampa. Prior to its extension south of Tampa, I-4 continued southwest on current I-275 south to St Petersburg, where it ended near Downtown. So when it came time to extend Interstate 75, planners had a decision: should I-75 be routed through Tampa and St. Petersburg or keep it inland as a bypass of the metropolitan area? The initial decision was to route I-75 along the current alignment of I-275 through both Tampa and St. Petersburg, while an Interstate 75E was proposed to take the current alignment of I-75 east of the urban area. By 1973, the current configuration for I-75 was selected, and the freeway was completed east of Tampa Bay in 1986. Even so, the unmarked Florida state road designations allude to the former route of I-75, with SR 93 accompanying I-275 through St. Petersburg and Tampa and SR 93A overlaying I-75 around the east side of Tampa Bay.
Interstate 75 widens to eight lanes through the Brandon area east of Tampa due to commuter traffic. North of Tampa, I-75 becomes the main gateway corridor from the Midwest states to Florida. Traffic is funneled to I-75 via I-74 and I-64 from Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis, and Minneapolis. The I-75 mainline carries travelers from Detroit and Ontario. Many segments of I-75 are subject to delay as a result of the increased traffic related to the Christmas holidays and spring break.
The following are key dates in the history of Interstate 75 in Florida:8
- 1960 – The proposed segment of Interstate 75 from Alachua north to the Georgia State Line was shown for the first time on maps
- 1962 – Interstate 75 opened from Lake City to Genoa (first segment to open). I-75 under construction from Ellisville to Lake City and from Genoa to the Florida-Georgia State Line.
- 1963 – Interstate 75 under construction from Wildwood north to Lake City.
- 1965 – Interstate 75 under construction from I-4 in Tampa north to Chapman and from Wesley Chapel north to Wildwood.
- 1967 – Interstate 4 and I-75 interchange in Downtown Tampa (I-4/275 interchange today) was constructed. This interchange is today commonly known as Malfunction Junction.
- 1967 – Interstate 75 opened from Wesley Chapel to Wildwood.
- 1968 – All of Interstate 75 north of Tampa was opened except for the short segment in Tampa between the Hillsborough River and Fowler Avenue.
- 1969 – Interstate 75 was extended southwest along I-4 into St. Petersburg. I-75 had a new proposed routing up from Bonita Springs (north of Naples) to Rubonia. The Sunshine Skyway was also added to I-75.
- 1971 – Initial proposal to extend Interstate 75 south from Naples to Miami considered along U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) corridor and SR 836 (Dolphin East-West Expressway) in Miami. This proposed route was shifted to the Alligator Alley alignment in 1977. As a result of the truncation of I-4, I-75 was extended southwest through Tampa to St. Petersburg.
- 1972 – The southern terminus of Interstate 75 was at the junction with SR 689 (54th Avenue N and Haines Road) in St. Petersburg.
- 1973 – Interstate 75 in St. Petersburg opened from 38th Avenue N to 54th Avenue N. Shortly thereafter, the I-75 designation was shifted to the bypass route, while I-275 replaced I-75 on the city route.
- 1977 – Proposed route of Interstate 75 from Naples to Miami shifted to the two-lane Alligator Alley (Everglades Parkway). Signs for I-75 were placed on the Alligator Alley. Another new proposed route for I-75 linked Golden Gate to Bonita Springs.
- 1978 – Interstate 75 under construction from Estero to Tropical Gulf Acres.
- 1979 – Interstate 75 opened from Estero to Bayshore and under construction from (1) near Opa-locka to near Andytown (U.S. 27), (2) SR 951/Golden Gate north to Estero, and (3) from Tropical Gulf Acres to U.S. 301 near Ellenton.
- 1980 – Interstate 75 opened (1) from Bayshore to Harbour Heights and (2) North Port to Ellenton. Interstate 75 under construction from Ellenton to SR 672.
- 1981 – Interstate 75 opened from County Road 846 north to U.S. 301. I-75 is under construction from U.S. 301 north to I-275 at Lutz.
- 1982 – Interstate 75 opened from Ellenton to CR 672.
- 1983 – Interstate 75 opened from CR 672 to U.S. 301 near Temple Terrace.
- 1984 – Interstate 75 opened (1) from SR 820 to County Road 818 and (2) from Bruce B. Downs Boulevard north to Interstate 275 near Lutz.
- 1985 – Interstate 75 opened from CR 672 north to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, thus linking the northern and southern sections of I-75 and completing the Tampa Bay Bypass.
- 1986 – Interstate 75 opened from SR 826 (Palmetto Expressway) in Hialeah north to U.S. 27 at Andytown. A connection to Interstate 595 began construction. The only remaining unfinished part of I-75 was the Alligator Alley corridor.
- 1989 – Construction begins to upgrade the Alligator Alley from a two-lane highway to a four-lane freeway.
- 1990 – The improved Interstate 75 (Alligator Alley) opened from Andytown west to Big Cypress.
- 1992 – Interstate 75 (Alligator Alley) opened from Big Cypress west to SR 29.
- 1993 – Interstate 75 (Alligator Alley) opened from SR 29 to SR 951 near Golden Gate. I-75 is now complete from SR 826 (Palmetto Expressway) in Hialeah north to the Georgia-Florida State Line, which includes both its original, planned route and the 1971 southerly extension to the Miami metropolitan area.
Georgia Guide and History
In southern Georgia, Interstate 75 had several business loops that served cities such as Valdosta, Tifton, and Cordele. These business connections lead to U.S. 41 through these towns. At Macon, Interstate 75 meets Interstate 16, which connects Savannah to Atlanta. The Interstate 475 bypass is worthwhile for saving a few miles between Florida and Atlanta.
All of Interstate 75 between the Florida state line and Macon carries six overall lanes. The stretch between Exit 18 (SR 133) and the Crisp/Dooly County Line near Milepost 106 was expanded as part of a $776-million project constructed between 1996 and April 8, 2011.2 Work added lanes on the inside of the freeway right of way with a concrete barrier median separating traffic. Many overpasses were also raised to current Interstate standards.
Further north at the city of Macon, Interstate 75 again faces construction. Beginning at Hardeman Avenue and concluding at Pierce Avenue, the north-south route will see reconstruction and widening. This includes improvements to the western terminus interchange of Interstate 16 at Exit 165. Planning to improve the deficiencies at this interchange have been underway since the early 1980s. These processes initially culminated with the agreement of the preferred alternative at a Public Information Meeting held on October 24, 2000. 3.3 miles of the freeway was expanded leading northwest from Macon by November 2013,3 but continued delays pushed back road work at I-16 to Fall 2016. See the Georgia I16/I75 Project web site for more details.
Continuing northward, Interstate 75 maintains six lanes to the metro Atlanta area, where the freeway swells with 16 overall lanes along side I-85 on the Downtown Connector. Traffic and capacity issues plague the Atlanta metropolitan area routine and improvement projects are always ongoing or in development. One such plan was the “Freeing the Freeways” mega project. Split in a series of projects strung out between 1976 and 1994, work along I-75 rebuilt the freeway from the Downtown Connector northwest to the Perimeter Highway (Interstate 285) from 1982 to 1987. Redesign of the Downtown Connector, including an overhaul of the junction with Interstate 20, followed between 1985 and 1988.
The arrival of the Summer Olympic Games in 1996 in Atlanta was preceded by the restriping of Interstate 75 to accommodate HOV lanes between May 1995 and May 1996. The HOV aspect of I-75 and other Atlanta area freeways restricted travel in the left-hand lane to HOV-2 eligible motorists. Lanes were enforced 24 hours a day.
Some HOV lanes in the Atlanta were converted to HOT Lanes and more conversions are planned in the future. The success of the I-85 Express Lanes from Atlanta northeast to I-985 spearheads the drive to convert more lane miles into managed lanes along Interstate 75, more of I-85 and possibly I-285. As such, work between October 2014 and December 2016 adds two reversible HOT lanes (I-75 Express Lanes) to Interstate 75 from Georgia 155 (McDonough Road) north to Georgia 138 (Stockbridge Highway). The Northwest Corridor project will add Express Lanes between Akers Mill Road to Hickory Grove Road in addition to HOT lanes along I-575. Totaling 29.7 miles of managed lanes, construction may be complete by 2018.
As a numbering side note, Atlanta is one of a small number of cities that carry two I-x5 interstate highways within its borders. Other examples of this include Interstate 35E and Interstate 45 in Dallas and Interstate 5 and Interstate 15 in San Diego.
Leaving Atlanta, Interstate 75 leads northwest toward Chattanooga, still parallel to U.S. 41. The entire stretch maintains at least six lanes. The last section of Interstate 75 to open between Tampa, Florida, and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, was a section four miles north of Marietta, Georgia. It opened on December 21, 1977.9
Tennessee Guide and History
Once at Chattanooga, Interstate 75 changes direction from northwest to northeast. U.S. 41 departs toward Nashville and Chicago, while I-75 picks up U.S. 11. Here, I-75 provides the connection between Interstate 59 and Interstate 81, both of which parallel the U.S. 11 corridor. Interstate 75 meets Interstate 40 near Eaton Crossroad, and they merge for their journey toward Knoxville with up to eight overall lanes. Within Knoxville, Interstate 75 ran through Downtown along I-40 to Interstate 275 north from 1958 to 1982. The route shifted to the Knoxville bypass (I-640) when it was completed to alleviate Interstate 40 by Downtown.
Some of the most beautiful mountain scenery along Interstate 75 can be found north of Knoxville en route to Kentucky at Jellico. This stretch of freeway parallels U.S. 25W.
A feasibility study proposed in 2002 and dubbed the “Interstate 175 Corridor,” focused on a parallel corridor to Interstate 75 in Kentucky and Tennessee between Chattanooga and Lexington. The unfunded concept paralleled Interstate 75 to the west, perhaps along the U.S. 27 or 127 corridors. It never gained traction.
Kentucky Guide and History
Although Interstate 75 closely parallels U.S. 25 from Knoxville to Cincinnati, it does not take long for the route to be completely absorbed by the Interstate. U.S. 25 comes to its end at the Ohio state line as it crosses the Ohio River with U.S. 42 and U.S. 127. All of former U.S. 25 has been transferred to local control or made into a secondary state route from Cincinnati north to Detroit, excepting Ohio 25 between Bowling Green and Toledo and U.S. 24 between Toledo and Detroit. The decommissioning of U.S. 25 by 1974 is a philosophical difference: Some states prefer to keep the parallel U.S. highway designated, while others prefer to eliminate them as the Interstates were constructed. Good examples of this are former U.S. 25 and former U.S. 21 in Ohio.
Interstates 71 & 75 between Fort Wright and Covington opened to traffic in fall of 1962. Known as “Death Hill” locally, the three-mile section of freeway lowers from a 370 foot hill near the city of Park Hills to the Ohio River at the Brent Spence Bridge. Numerous fatalities were recorded on this stretch through 1968 due to substandard design including a steep grade and weaving traffic at the Jefferson Avenue interchange coupled with a dangerous S-curve. Speed limits were lowered and median barriers were added to the roadway by 1977, but the accident rate remained high.10
A new design for the Death Hill section of I-71 & 75 was chosen by state highway officials in spring 1981 and a $46.5 million contract was awarded to rebuild the roadway on December 28, 1989. The project involved raising the base of the hill by 20 feet to improve the grading, adding a truck climbing lane to southbound, removing the interchange at Jefferson Avenue in Covington, and straightening out the 1962-built S-curve. Work encountered numerous delays due to environmental issues, a union worker strike and the replacement of bad concrete among other items. Crews finished the highway project on September 1, 1994, nearly two years after the original completion date and $4 million over budget.10
Brent Spence Bridge
The Brent Spence Bridge, opened in 1963, is a double-decker bridge that crosses the Ohio River between Covington, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio. In early 2004, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet introduced six alternatives for the Brent Spence Bridge, which is in need of expansion in order to accommodate the increasing traffic flow:7
- Construct new Interstate 75 bridge to the west of the existing Brent Spence Bridge and leave Interstate 71 on the Brent Spence Bridge. With this option, Interstate 71 and Interstate 75 would not be merged for any distance in Ohio, and the Brent Spence Bridge (Interstate 71) would be restriped for three lanes in each direction with full emergency shoulders.
- Construct two new bridges, one for Interstate 75 (to the west of the existing bridge) and one for Interstate 71 in place of the existing Brent Spence Bridge if it is determined that the existing Brent Spence Bridge cannot be reconstructed/rehabilitated to modern Interstate safety standards.
- Build new Interstate 75 bridge to west of Brent Spence Bridge and create an interchange with connections from the new bridge to both Interstate 75 and Interstate 71 in Ohio. The Brent Spence Bridge would remain in place, carrying Interstate 71 and local traffic only.
- Construct a new Interstate 71-75 bridge with ten lanes in place of the Brent Spence Bridge, which would be demolished.
- Remove Brent Spence Bridge and replace it with two bridges side-by-side, one for through Interstate 75 traffic and the other for through Interstate 71 and local traffic.
- Construct a new bridge for both Interstate 71-75 to the west of the existing Brent Spence Bridge, and retooling the Brent Spence Bridge for local traffic only.
The new bridge would be built west of the existing Brent Spence Bridge in order to avoid an electrical substation and historic Longworth Hall. These alternatives, released as part of a $2 million study, would take over a decade to construct once funding is made available. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet hoped to refine its list of alternatives to two choices in 2005. Since Kentucky owns the bridge, it was thought the state would bear most of cost.7 More recent news on the bridge indicates that tolling may be necessary to secure funding and shorten the time table needed to replace the span. Details and the potential time line on the project found at the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor web site.
Ohio Guide and History
North from Cincinnati, an Ohio Department of Transportation project known as the “Thru the Valley Project” or North-South Transportation Initiative, focused on growing congestion along Interstate 75 from Ohio 561 north through Warren County. 2003 estimates were $1.56 million for the project, which included an option for new light rail, with $1 billion allocated to the stretch through Hamilton County.1,4 Preliminary studies and design work commenced in May 2004 to widen and reconstruct the freeway between Paddock Road and Interstate 275.
The roadways of Interstate 75 separate by up to a half mile through Lockland, Ohio. Southbound travels below grade at Exit 12 between Wyoming Avenue and Lock Streets. This view looks from the Wyoming Avenue overpass at the Cooper Avenue off-ramp. Photo taken November 8, 2009.
Due to cost increases and rising inflation, work on the Thru the Valley Project was split into eight phases in 2009. Phases 1 through 3, included portions of I-75 between Shepherd Lane (Exit 13) and Glendale-Milford Road (Exit 14) and I-75 at Ohio 126 (Ronald Reagan Highway), were underway with property acquisition by 2016. Property acquisition for Phase 8 started in summer 2016 and will start for Phases 4, 5 and 6 in 2017. When completed, Interstate 75 expansion will bring the freeway to eight overall lanes, with added auxiliary lanes where needed.
From south to north, the Thru the Valley Project phases are as follows:12
- Phase 3 – reconstruct the freeway between the Mill Creek bridge and the trumpet interchange with Ohio 126 (Ronald Reagan Highway) and add a fourth lane in each direction. Costing between $39-49 million, with work scheduled between spring 2020 and fall 2021.
- Phase 4 – replace the railroad bridge over I-75 southbound and realign Exit 10 to Galbraith Road. Costing between $22-32 million, work starts in spring 2020 and runs through fall 2021.
- Phase 6 – add a fourth lane to Interstate 75 northbound while reconstructing the roadway from Galbraith Road to Shepherd Lane (Exit 13). Add a new ramp from Ohio 126 west to I-75 north. Construction on the $90-100 million project to commence in spring 2022 and be completed in the fall 2024 time frame.
- Phase 5 – rebuild the southbound lanes of I-75 from Shepherd Lane to Galbraith Road (Exit 10), adding a new lane and constructing a collector distributor road for new ramps with parallel Anthony Wayne Avenue and Galbraith Road. Costing between $63-73 million, work starts in spring 2020 and runs through the fall 2021 time frame.
- Phases 1 & 2 – expanded I-75 to eight overall lanes during reconstruction from Shepherd Lane (Exit 13) north to Glendale-Milford Road (Exit 14). Reconstruct the interchange with Shepherd Lane and realign Neumann Way to the east of Interstate75. The $87-97 million project breaks ground in summer 2017 and runs to spring 2020.
- Phase 8 – adding capacity to the diamond interchange (Exit 15) with Sharon Road and Chester Roads, work also adds a fourth lane to I-75 in each direction while reconstructing the mainline from Glendale Milford Road north to Kemper Road (just south of I-275). Construction on the $35-45 million phase is projected for spring 2020 to fall 2021.
Construction funding was not allocated for any of the phases beyond 1 & 2 as of June 2016. So time tables are subject to change.
The Downtown Dayton Sub-Corridor project began in October 2007 between Edwin C. Moses Boulevard near Exit 52B (U.S. 35) and Keowee Street, near Exit 54B (Ohio 4). The long term project separated into three phases:
Phase 1A included reconstruction of the interchange between I-75 and Ohio 4 to eliminated a sharp curve, rebuilding ramps or closing ramps and replacing left-hand exits with right-side ones. Work included upgrading the Main Street exit and expanding the freeway mainline to six continuous lanes. The $122 million project ran through fall of 2011.
Phase 1B commenced in March 2010. It expanded I-75 to six overall lanes between Edwin C. Moses Boulevard (Exit 51) and the viaduct over 5th Street (Ohio 4) and rebuilt a portion of the four-level interchange with U.S. 35. The $58 million element of the project was completed in fall 2013.
Costing $126 million, Phase 2 connected the previous project areas by expanding Interstate 75 to three continuous lanes per direction. Crews also reconstructed 12 bridges and eliminated additional left-hand entrances and off-ramps. Work ran from spring 2013 to a project completion ceremony held on September 22, 2016. Follow up work continued on U.S. 35 at the exchange with I-75. Separate but nearby projects replace bridges for I-75 at Edwin C. Moses Boulevard and Wagoner Ford Road (Exit 57).11
Under a 10-year $5 billion transportation improvement plan announced August 6, 2003, by Governor Bob Taft, Interstate 75 was expanded from four to six lanes between Interstate 475 (Exit 205A) and 280 (Exit 208) and between 14th Street and Anthony Wayne Trail near downtown Toledo. Additionally the Interstate 75 and 475 interchange (Exit 205A) was reconstructed and improved. A three year six cent hike to the state motor fuels tax helped cover the costs of these projects.5
Michigan Guide and History
Leaving the Buckeye State, Interstate 75 approaches the Detroit metropolitan area. Construction completed in July 2009 reconstructed the interchange with Interstate 96 as part of the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project. The work improved the connection between Interstate 75 and the Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. Interstate 96 eastbound was extended beyond its current terminus at I-75 to the bridge into Canada, while the westbound connection remains incomplete due to a jurisdictional dispute between the Detroit Bridge Company and MDOT. This project began on February 25, 2008.
Interstate 75 leaves Downtown Detroit with a northerly trek toward the Upper Peninsula via one of the country’s longest suspension bridges, the Mackinac Bridge. The Mackinac Bridge is symbolic for connecting the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan. Spanning the Straits of Mackinac, this toll bridge crosses over waters that freeze in the coldest winters. The left lane of the bridge is steel grating rather than concrete. Mackinac Island, home of famous Mackinac Island fudge, can be reached by ferry from either Mackinaw City or St. Ignace.
The northern terminus of Interstate 75 is at the Port of Entry in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Beyond the Easterway Avenue interchange (Exit 394), the freeway narrows to two lanes to cross the International Bridge. The tolled arched truss bridge opened to traffic on October 31, 1962, linking Sault St. Marie Michigan with Sault St. Marie, Ontario. A two-year long International Bridge Toll Plaza project replaced conventional toll booths with a new enhanced toll collection system. The $8.9-million project commenced in May 2014.