Interstate 80 is a major transcontinental corridor connecting California and New York City. From the city of San Francisco to a few miles west of the Hudson River in northern New Jersey, I-80 traverses various terrain and 11 states. Its highest point is located at Sherman Hill Summit in Wyoming between Laramie and Cheyenne at an elevation of 8640 feet. The highest point of Interstate 80 east of the Mississippi is near Milepost 111 in Pennsylvania.
Although Interstate 80 begins at U.S. 101 in San Francisco, original plans called for the route to continue west through Golden Gate Park to the Pacific Ocean near the famous Ocean Beach area. This plan was halted due to community opposition.
In the east, I-80 ends at Interstate 95 along the Teaneck Township and Ridgefield Park line in New Jersey. There was some debate as to whether or not I-80 ends at the Hudson River or at Interstate 95. Coincidentally, the exit numbering for Interstate 95 in the Garden State approximates what the I-80 numbering would be if it continued east to the George Washington Bridge. However, that numbering is actually based upon the distance of I-95 had the Somerset Freeway between Trenton and New Brunswick been completed as planned.
High Priority Corridor
Interstate 80 in New Jersey is part of High Priority Corridor 63: Liberty Corridor.
Parallel U.S. Routes
Interstate 80 largely replaced its companion U.S. routes in the West and parallels them in the East. Between San Francisco and Park City, Interstate 80 replaced U.S. 40. Sections of original U.S. 40 are still in use as local county roads in California, while many segments of U.S. 40 in Nevada were directly replaced by I-80. Today, U.S. 40 begins eastward from an interchange with I-80 in Park City. Between Park City and Echo Junction, I-80 replaced U.S. 189 (and U.S. 530 before it). East from Echo Junction to Evanston and southwestern Wyoming, I-80 overlaid the historic route of U.S. 30S. U.S. 30 accompanies the cross country route east from Granger Wyoming to the Midwestern U.S.
U.S. 30 is the Lincoln Highway through Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. It closely parallels Interstate 80 in Wyoming and Nebraska, combining with the freeway in the least populated areas (such as the cosigned portion between Granger and Walcott in Wyoming, a distance of 170 miles). Once at Grand Island, Nebraska, U.S. 30 shifts away from the freeway to the north of Lincoln and Omaha; Interstate 80 instead follows U.S. 34 between Grand Island and Lincoln and U.S. 6 from Lincoln to the Quad Cities via Omaha and Des Moines. Additionally U.S. 6 merges with I-80 several times through Iowa, and it closely parallels the freeway through Illinois before joining it again in Lansing.
U.S. 30 and I-80 meet again at Joliet, Illinois. Having avoided Des Moines and the Quad Cities, U.S. 30 heads southeast to avoid Chicago. U.S. 30 continues on this trajectory en route to Fort Wayne, Indiana and Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; it does not intersect I-80 again. Interstate 80 instead remains close to U.S. 6 and U.S. 20 as they skirt the southern edge of the Great Lakes. I-80 is tolled through Indiana and Ohio, so the parallel U.S. 6 and U.S. 20 provide free alternate routes.
Bypassing Cleveland to the south, Interstate 80 leaves both U.S. 6 and U.S. 20, as they follow I-90. Leaving the Ohio Turnpike at North Jackson, I-80 briefly parallels U.S. 62 through Sharon. Continuing east past Youngstown, I-80 follows a path that was not previously tread by a U.S. route. This solo route continues for the most part across Pennsylvania on what was designated the Keystone Shortway, with the exception of U.S. 322 from Clarion to State College and a brief merge with U.S. 220 near State College. Finally entering New Jersey, I-80 picks up U.S. 46, a route which is almost entirely located within New Jersey — it never went any farther west than PA 611 (former U.S. 611). U.S. 46 parallels the freeway east to I-95 at Ridgefield Park.
Interstate 80 Split Routes
No other Interstate highway had as many split routes as I-80. No fewer than five suffixed routes split from I-80 at varying intervals prior to 1980; none of these split routes remain today. These routes included:
- I-80N from Portland, Oregon, to Echo Junction, Utah (now Western Interstate 84)
- I-80S from Denver, Colorado, to Big Springs, Nebraska (now Western Interstate 76)
- I-80N from Interstate 29 to I-80 north of Council Bluffs, Iowa (replaced by Interstate 680 and I-880)
- I-80S from Norwalk, Ohio, to Camden, New Jersey (the portion between Norwalk and Westfield Center was not constructed; the rest is became Eastern Interstate 76)
- I-80N from Norwalk, Ohio, to northwest of Youngstown, Ohio (parts of which are Interstate 480)
Long-range plans originally called for the expansion of Interstate 80 in Nebraska to three lanes from Lincoln west to near Kearney. The project schedule was divided into phases: Phase 1 – between Omaha and Lincoln originally slated for completion by 2012 (final work at Exit 395 wrapped up Spring 2016); Phase 2 – between Lincoln and York originally proposed for completion by 2022; Phase 3 – between York and Grand Island originally proposed for completion by 2028; and Phase 4 – between Grand Island and Minden interchange (Exit 279, N-10) near Kearney originally proposed for completion by 2037.13 Work west of NW 56th Street and Lincoln was not highlighted on the previous Nebraska Department of Roads – I-80 Six Lane Expansion web page as of 2016.
The Council Bluffs Interstate System Improvement Program reconfigures the concurrent section of I-29 and I-80 through Council Bluffs, Iowa and I-80 northeast to Exit 8 with U.S. 6 (Kanesville Boulevard). Work separates the two freeways onto a dual freeway. The West and East System Interchanges joining the two routes were redesigned to eliminate of all left side movements with new high speed flyovers. Four local interchanges along Interstate 80 were also redesigned. Prior work between 2008 and 2012 expanded the Missouri River Bridge to seven lanes with the option to restripe the bridge to accommodate ten overall lanes
Phase I of the East System Interchange was completed from July 2014 to March 2016. Phase II, including I-29 at the U.S. 275/Iowa 92 interchange and the West System Interchange, was finished between May 2017 and October 2018. Phase III, which completes work at the East System Interchange, runs through September 2021. Further east, construction for the Madison Avenue Interchange is scheduled between November 2021 and May 2024.
Within San Francisco, the western terminus of Interstate 80 was originally proposed to be at Interstate 280 (which was briefly considered as part of Interstate 480) in Golden Gate Park. The Western Freeway (I-80) would have originated at U.S. 101 / Central Freeway and traveled west toward the park, straddling Fell Street and Oak Street along the way. Once at the park, the freeway would have entered a major interchange with I-280, making an odd case where a parent route would have ended at one of its child routes. However, that situation never came to pass. The freeway was never built as a result of substantial protests, and the western terminus of Interstate 80 was retracted to U.S. 101 / Central Freeway.
The westernmost alignment proposed for Interstate 80 across San Francisco in 1960. I-480 was envisioned as an urban loop extending west from the Embarcadero double deck freeway to the Presidio and south to I-80.
Since the Central Freeway viaduct was mostly torn down, I-80 now ends at the series of U.S. 101 exits near Van Ness Avenue. This terminus is somewhat in dispute; some say that Interstate 80 actually ends at the Embarcadero exit. See the AARoads Guide for Interstate 80 in California for more history and information.
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was dedicated on January 14, 1939.9 The bridge initially carried U.S. 40-50 across the bay; it was later redesignated as part of Interstate 80.
The first iteration of the Yolo Causeway, which carries Interstate 80 over the Yolo Bypass west of Sacramento and east of Davis, was completed in 1916. This causeway was the first highway project in the state of California to be financed with the sale of highway bonds; it has been expanded since the original facility opened.
Development of large sections of the U.S. 40 freeway (now I-80) between San Francisco and Reno occurred by 1947, excepting certain sections (including much of the route in the mountains). The first Interstate in California to open using funds designated by the Federal Highway Act of 1956 was Interstate 80. In the Sierra Nevada northeast of Sacramento, U.S. 40 was converted into Interstate 80 between 1960 and 1964. The first 50 miles were built in 1960, and the ten-mile stretch over Donner Summit and through the Truckee River Canyon to the city of Truckee was constructed in 1964.8
San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridge, opened to traffic on November 12, 1936 as the route for both U.S. 40 and 50, carries Interstate 80 across San Francisco Bay. The span consisted of three segments: the western suspension bridge with four towers, the Yerba Buena Tunnel on Yerba Buena Island, and the eastern cantilever through truss bridge. Earthquake retrofitting between 1994 and 2004 reinforced the suspension bridge west from Yerba Buena Island, bringing the span to current specifications. The eastern span was not reinforced and instead was replaced during an 11-year construction project commencing in 2002. The new Bay Bridge, a single-anchored suspension bridge with a lone tower, opened to traffic on September 2, 2013. This span accommodates side by side traffic rather than a double deck like its predecessor. It ties into a new causeway from the east and includes a bike/pedestrian path to Yerba Buena Island. The old bridge closed on August 28, 2012 and dismantling efforts continue into 2016.
The last section of transcontinental Interstate 80 to be completed in any state was the segment west of Salt Lake City, Utah, between Redwood Road and 5600 West. This section was dedicated and opened to traffic on August 22, 1986, and it was the first transcontinental Interstate highway to be completed from coast to coast.7
Interstate 80 traverses the wide open expanse of the Great Salt Lake Desert between Wendover and Knolls, Utah. A 36.6 mile exit less stretch ensues west from Old Highway 40 in this scene. Photo taken July 3, 2016.
For a history of the completion of Interstate 80 in Wyoming, visit Interstate 80 – Wyoming.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony preceded a motorcade led by Governor Frank Morrison on August 12, 1961 to celebrate the completion of Interstate 80 between Omaha and Lincoln. The 52-mile stretch was dedicated at the Greenwood interchange.14 The final link of Interstate 80 in Nebraska to open was the section around Sidney, on October 19, 1974.7
Interstate 80 was widened from four to six lanes between Lincoln and Omaha. The 45-mile project extended from just west of Northwest 48th Street in West Lincoln (Exit 395) to the Nebraska 370 interchange in West Omaha (Exit 439). The project began in 2002 and was vastly completed on November 8, 201315, with the exception of eastbound lanes at Lincoln and the diverging diamond interchange (DDI) project at NW 48th Street (Exit 395). This work followed previous projects in the late 1990s and early 2000s that widened I-80 to six lanes between Nebraska 370 and Interstate 680, and to ten lanes between I-680 and Interstate 480.1
In early 2006, widening to six lanes was completed from Ruff Road (Milepost 429) to Nebraska 370 (Milepost 439). Expansion followed between the Nebraska 66/Mahoney State Park Interchange (Exit 326) and Ruff Road (Milepost 429). This included rebuilding/widening of the long twin I-80 bridges over the Platte River near milepost 427. As of December 2006, the new three-lane westbound bridge over the Platte River was under construction while traffic was maintained on the old twin two-lane bridges just to the south. The new eastbound span later opened on January 4, 2008, nine months ahead of schedule, as part of an overall eastbound lane opening between Mahoney State Park and Ruff Road. Removal of the old bridges and side work continued to fall 2008. The $45-million project to replace the Platte River bridges started in August 2002.16
Meanwhile, widening to six lanes through northwest of Lincoln between the U.S. 77 South / Beatrice Interchange (Exit 397) and the Interstate 180/U.S. 34 Interchange (Exit 401) was slated for completion in early 2007. Just east of here, widening/rebuilding of the mainline commenced in early 2007 for the section between Interstate 180 and the U.S. 77 North/56th Street Interchange (Exit 405). However, the actual interchange between Interstate 80 and Interstate 180 was not rebuilt until late in the overall project (2010-2012).12 Widening of I-80 between Exits 420 (Greenwood) and 426 was completed in July 2012.17
The DDI at NW 48th Street was built as part of I-80 expansion west from U.S. 77 (Exit 397) to NW 56th Street. The $30-million project runs from 2014 to 2016.18
Interstate 80 across Omaha, from Harrison Street (near Exit 442) to the Iowa state line, was rebuilt over a ten year period starting in the spring of 1989. The $325-million overhaul included expanding I-80 from six to ten lanes between I-680 and I-480, correcting flaws with the original design of the interchange at Interstate 480 and the Kennedy Freeway (where the I-80 mainline narrowed to a single lane), rebuilding the I-80 and 680 interchange with c/d roadways to separate local traffic and other system wide improvements. Work was completed two months ahead of schedule in August 1999 with the final segment involving I-80 east and west of the 60th Street interchange (Exit 450).20,21,22
1956 plans for Interstate 80 provided for a route to traverse the Platte River across most of Nebraska, but did not specify whether the corridor would travel to the north or south of the waterway. The Iowa Highway Commission meanwhile opted for the I-80 mainline to run west from near Minden to the I-29 corridor at Loveland. Commissioners touted benefits to the Sioux City area while officials further south in Council Bluffs and Omaha were vehemently opposed, citing the need for improved connectivity to the growing Union Stock Yards in South Omaha. Adding to the debate was the north Omaha area and operators of the Mormon Bridge, which touted stimulating the Florence area and increasing revenue for the toll bridge.
Advocates pushing for the Council Bluffs and metropolitan Omaha corridor appealed to the federal government with the “Neola Diagonal,” the angled alignment I-80 takes today southwest from Neola to I-29 at Council Bluffs. Federal officials initially regarded the Diagonal as a secondary route, while Iowa and Nebraska continued to argue over the path of the main route. The Iowa Highway Commission won out temporarily, as it opted to route I-80 to Loveland and construct it ahead of the secondary route. The Loveland section opened in December 1966 as Interstate 80N. The Neola Diagonal was completed three years later as the I-80 mainline.23