The longest route within the Interstate Highway System, I-90 serves major northern cities such as Seattle, Chicago, Cleveland, Buffalo and Boston. Regional cities along the transcontinental route from the Pacific Northwest to the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains include include Spokane, Billings, Sheridan, Rapid City and Sioux Falls. The freeway traverses several mountain passes along the northern tier and can be closed during extreme storms during the winter months.
I-94 combines with I-90 east across southern Wisconsin. The two merge at a rural exchange outside the city of Tomah and lead 63 miles east to Wisconsin Dells and I-39 south of Portage. I-39 joins the two routes south 29 miles to the capital city of Madison, where Interstate 94 branches east toward Milwaukee. I-39/90 remain paired southward to Janesville and Rockford, Illinois.
East from Rockford, Illinois to Boston, Massachusetts the majority of Interstate 90 follows toll roads. Some sections of these toll roads predated the 1956 Interstate Highway Act. Tolled sections of I-90 in Illinois include the Jane Addams (Northwest) Tollway; between Beloit, Wisconsin and O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and the Chicago Skyway, between I-94 and the Indiana State Line. Interstate 90 combines with I-80 across northern Indiana along the Indiana East/West Tollway. This toll road connects the Chicago area with Hammond, Gary and South Bend.
Entering Ohio west of Toledo, I-80/90 continue east along the Ohio Turnpike to Elyria. They separate there with I-80 staying on the toll road south of Cleveland and I-90 winding northeast through Sheffield and Avon toward Downtown Cleveland. I-90 straddles the south shore of Lake Erie from Cleveland to Ashtabula and Erie, Pennsylvania.
Crossing into New York, I-90 transitions onto the Erie Section of the New York Thruway system. The toll road extends northeast to Buffalo, where I-90 becomes a toll free route through the urban area. East from I-290 and Buffalo, Interstate 90 follows the New York Thruway mainline by Rochester and to Syracuse, Utica and Schenectady.
I-90 loops east from the Thruway mainline through Albany, reconnecting with the toll road on the Berkshire Section linking I-87 with the Massachusetts State line. The remainder of I-90 lines the tolled Massachusetts Turnpike (Mass Pike) spanning the width of the Bay State. The Mass Pike connects Springfield, Worcester and Boston.
Interstate 90 in the Seattle metropolitan area is part of High Priority Corridor 35: FAST Corridor.
Parallel U.S. Routes
From Seattle east to Billings, Interstate 90 replaced U.S. 10. From Billings southeast to Buffalo, Wyoming, I-90 parallels U.S. 87, then follows U.S. 14 from Buffalo east to Wall, South Dakota. At Wall, I-90 replaced U.S. 16 east all the way to Tomah, Wisconsin. From Tomah southeast to Chicago, Interstate 90 more or less follows U.S. 14 again, but it picks up U.S. 20 at Rockford. I-90 and U.S. 20 remain parallel to each other from Chicago east to Boston, with some proximity to U.S. 6 in Ohio.
A partnership between the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and several conservation groups to invest in wildlife corridors and protected habitats for species native to the Cascade Mountains resulted from the project to expand capacity along Interstate 90 between Hyak and Eaton. These wildlife structures allow for continuous range for a variety of animals that may migrate over the freeway. For more information on the wildlife overpasses, visit Interstate 90 Wildlife Bridges.10
Work on the three phase project commenced in Spring 2009 on Phase I, Hyak to Keechelus. Wrapping up in Fall 2018, this work involved adding a new lane per direction, bridge and culvert replacement, pavement replacement and improving sharp curves. Phase II ran between Summer 2015 and Fall 2018, affecting a two mile stretch from Keechelus Dam to the Stampede Pass interchange.
Future work on Phase III, scheduled for construction between Summer 2001 and Fall 2025, improves the easternmost six miles of the project area with widening, pavement replacement and truck climbing lanes. Phase IV follows from Summer 2026 to Fall 2029. It adds an additional lane per direction, replaces the concrete pavement, adds wildlife crossings and a chain-up area, and straightens portions of the roadway.
Rapid City Area
Several modifications were made to Interstate 90 from Rapid City east to Box Elder. Road work finished in 2009 realigned a portion of the freeway near Blackhawk, consolidating a split interchange with Sturgis Road (old U.S. 14 & SD 79) and removing an S-curve along the mainline. Further southeast, the tri-level stack interchange between I-90 and I-190 was redesigned into a trumpet interchange, removing left-hand ramps along westbound. Additionally the trumpet provides enough separation from the adjacent SPUI at Haines Avenue (Exit 58).
Further east at Exit 60, the wye interchange from I-90 west to U.S. 16 west was eliminated and replaced with a new SPUI at Business Loop I-90 (East North Street). A third area SPUI was built in place of the diamond interchange (Exit 61) at the next eastbound exit with U.S. 16 Truck and South Dakota 79 south as well.
The parclo cloverleaf interchange at Exit 66 closed on October 1, 2003. This closure coincided with the summer 2003 opening of a new parclo interchange (Exit 67) at nearby Liberty Boulevard. Liberty Boulevard, which links I-90 to the Ellsworth A.F.B. main gate, and the new Exit 67 were constructed after successful lobbying by local officials. The move was made to address concerns about commercial development in the “accident-potential zone” to the south of the Ellsworth runway.2
Jane Addams (Northwest) Tollway
I-39 and I-90 combine along the Jane Addams Memorial [Northwest] Tollway between the Illinois-Wisconsin State Line and east side of Rockford. A portion of this stretch, from Rockton Road south to the split with I-39, was expanded to six overall lanes with advance work commencing in 2007. Widening was finished from Rockton Road (Exit 3) to the South Beloit Toll Plaza in 2008 and along eastbound from the toll plaza to U.S. 20 Business (State Street). Completion of the project by November 24, 2009 focused on the westbound lanes from the South Beloit Toll Plaza north to Rockton Road and along both roadways south from State Street to Newburg Road.21
The Cherry Valley Interchange project, which started in 2008, involved reconstructing the connection between Interstate 90 (Jane Addams Memorial Tollway) and I-39 in Rockford. The project was completed on November 13, 2010.20
This $89-million project was made possible as a result of Illinois Tollway’s $6.3 billion Congestion-Relief Program – Open Roads for a Faster Future announced in 2005. The work redesigned the interchange with new ramps, including a high-speed connection from I-39 north to I-90 west. The original trumpet interchange at Cherry Valley opened in 1972 with the U.S. 20 bypass.20
The Chicago Skyway, a toll facility operated by the City of Chicago, carries Interstate 90 over industrial areas and the South Side of Chicago. The elevated toll road connect with the Dan Ryan Expressway (Interstate 94) south of Downtown. 09/02/05
The Chicago Skyway is a steel cantilever bridge that connects the Dan Ryan Expressway (I-94) with the Indiana Toll Road (Interstate 90) in Illinois. Dominating the southeastern skyline of Chicago, the 7.8-mile Skyway was constructed in the 1950s and opened in April 1958 to cross over steel mills, railroads, homes and the Calumet River. The bridge did not carry as much traffic as initially anticipated, but the growth of casinos in Northwestern Indiana increased traffic counts. In 1999, city of Chicago administrators determined that the Chicago Skyway was never officially incorporated into the Interstate Highway System.6 This may have been due to the fact that the Skyway was not up to current Interstate standards. As a result of this determination, all Interstate 90 reassurance shields have an additional “TO” banner affixed above them.
The elevated roadway underwent a reconstruction project between 1999 and November 2004.5 Prior to the completion of this project, the road was falling apart. With completion of the new Skyway deck, ramps, and three continuous, through lanes of travel, it is possible that the Skyway is closer to meeting Interstate standards. Of course, the Chicago Skyway is one of several Interstate Highways that are not up to the latest Interstate standards such as I-278 in New York. As a result of this finding, one could claim that Interstate 90 has a gap, but to the average driver, it is not noticeable.
Following reconstruction of the Chicago Skyway, the Chicago City Council voted to lease the bridge to a private company, the Skyway Concession Company, LLC (SCC), for 99 years. The agreement started in January 2005, infusing the city of Chicago with $1.83 billion from SCC. In exchange, SCC collects toll proceeds and provides for administration, toll collection, maintenance, and operations of the Skyway. The City of Chicago, meanwhile, continues to provide police to patrol the freeway. This arrangement was the first of its kind in the country.
Indiana Toll Road
Through Indiana, Interstate 90 follows the Indiana Toll Road in its entirety. Authorized for construction in 1951, the Toll Road was constructed and fully open to traffic by 1956, the same year in which the Interstate Highway System was authorized by the federal government. The Toll Road was later added to the Interstate Highway System after it was completed. In 2006, the state of Indiana approved leasing and privatizing the Indiana Toll Road. A bid for this lease came in at $3.85 billion by the same Spanish-Australian consortium that leased the Chicago Skyway from the city of Chicago. The project was awarded to ITR Concession Company LLC (ITRCC) for a term of 75 years.
Governor Mitch Daniels negotiated the lease, and the state House of Representatives approved the lease on February 1, 2006. The Senate approved the lease as part of the governor’s “Major Moves” program. By the middle of March 2006, Major Moves was law. ITRCC assumed operations on June 29, 2006. Funds generated by this lease were used for various transportation projects around the state12,13,14, including construction of new Interstate 69 between Evansville and Bloomington.
ITRR filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on September 22, 2014 on more than $6 billion in debt. IFM Investors announced on March 11, 2015 they they entered a $5.725 billion purchase and sale agreement of ITRR and the remaining 66 years of the lease. The Australian based group closed on their purchase of ITRR on May 27, 2015. IFM plans on investing $260 million in capital improvements to the Indiana Toll Road to 2020.11
The 1959-opened Innerbelt Freeway viaduct carrying Interstate 90 from Downtown to Tremont in Cleveland as seen from Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field), home of the MLB Cleveland Indians. This span was fully demolished on July 12, 2014. Photo by Jim Teresco (08/01).