Interstate 94 is a lengthy route connecting the High Plains, Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions. It originates in Billings, Montana splitting with Interstate 90 and following the Yellowstone River northeast to Glendive before curving eastward to Wibaux and Beach, North Dakota. The freeway crosses the width of North Dakota, traversing the hills of Little Missouri National Grassland to the wide open plains from Dickinson east to Bismark and Fargo.
Fargo is the largest city in North Dakota, and I-94 expands to six lanes as it passes south of Downtown. The freeway crosses the Red River into Morehead, Minnesota where it turns southeast toward Fergus Falls, St. Cloud and ultimately the Twin Cities. Once at Maple Grove, a suburb of Minneapolis, I-94 splits with Interstate 494, the southwest beltway of the Twin Cities, for an increasingly busy route east to I-694 and south into Minneapolis. As I-94 encircles Downtown Minneapolis, the freeway utilizes a cut and cover tunnel both just south of I-394 and west of the 90 degree turn toward Interstate 35W. A brief side by side route occurs with I-35W ahead of their respective crossings of the Mississippi River.
Continuing east from Minneapolis, Interstate 94 heads toward Downtown St. Paul and the confluence with Interstate 35E and split of U.S. 52 south. The freeway leaves the urban area via Maplewood and Oakdale to cross the St. Croix River into Wisconsin. Much of the drive through western areas of America’s Dairyland is rural, as I-94 turns southward again at Eau Claire to combine with I-90 at Tomah and I-39 at Portage. The three routes combine 29 miles southward to Madison.
I-94 takes a 90-degree route east from the Wisconsin capital city to Milwaukee and south by Racine and Kenosha to northern Illinois. The route combines with Interstate 43 from I-794 at Downtown Milwaukee to the south end of I-894, the Milwaukee bypass. Interstate 41 overlaps with I-94 south from there to Exit 1 at Rosecrans, Illinois.
Through the Chicago area, Interstate 94 follows the Tri-State Tollway south to both I-294 and the Edens Spur. The tolled spur links the Tri-State Tollway with the Edens Expressway, which Interstate 94 takes south to its merge with Interstate 90 along the Kennedy Expressway. The Kennedy carries both to the Chicago Loop, where the Dan Ryan Expressway and Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) come together. The 15.39-mile overlap between I-90/94 concludes at the Dan Ryan interchange with the Chicago Skyway in south Chicago. I-90 angles southeast on the toll road to Calumet City, Indiana, while I-94 remains southward along the Dan Ryan to I-57 and the Bishop Ford Freeway.
Following the Bishop Ford Freeway, Interstate 94 heads south to South Holland and Lansing, where the freeway resumes an eastward course along side I-80 on the Kingery and Frank Borman Expressways through northwest Indiana. The 18.53-mile overlap with I-80 ends at Lake Station where Interstate 80 departs for I-90 east along the Indiana Toll Road toward Toledo, Ohio and I-94 shifts northward along the periphery of Lake Michigan to Michigan City and Benton Harbor, Michigan.
A 275-mile route in Michigan sees Interstate 94 turn east at the split with I-196 for Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Jackson and Ann Arbor. The freeway shifts southward on the approach to Detroit, passing by Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) at Romulus along the Detroit Industrial Freeway. Joining the Edsel Ford Freeway at Dearborn, Interstate 94 angles northeast through Detroit to the Grosse Pointe cities and a northern turn to Macomb County. A rural stretch awaits drivers along I-94 northward from New Baltimore off Anchor Bay to Port Huron and the merge with Interstate 69. I-69/94 combine for 3.7 miles to the international boundary along the Bluewater Bridge east to Sarnia, Ontario.
High Priority Corridor
Interstate 94 from Chicago to Port Huron is part of High Priority Corridor 18: NAFTA Superhighway.
Parallel U.S. Routes
Interstate 94 replaced U.S. 10 from Billings east to Fargo and U.S. 52 (former U.S. 10S) between Fargo and Minneapolis. From Minneapolis southeast to Madison, Wisconsin, I-94 follows U.S. 12, and it replaced U.S. 16 from there east to Milwaukee. At Milwaukee, Interstate 94 turns south to merge with or parallel U.S. 41. Once in Indiana and continuing east, it parallels U.S. 6 and U.S. 12-20. Northeast of Indiana, when I-94 enters Michigan, the freeway replaced the original alignment of U.S. 12. (U.S. 12 was rerouted onto former U.S. 112.) U.S. 12 ends in Detroit, and Interstate 94 replaced U.S. 25 from there northeast to its terminus at Port Huron, Michigan.
A $810-million project improved the Marquette Interchange, where I-43, I-94, I-794 converge in Milwaukee, between Spring 2005 and December 31, 2008. Originally constructed between 1964 and 1968 and opened in December 1968 for a cost of $33 million, traffic counts at the Marquette Interchange increased to over 300,000 vehicles per day, more than double what was intended.2 Road work redesigned the interchange to utilize entrance/exit points only from the right side of the freeway, have longer merge lanes, and reduce impact to neighboring communities.
Between 2004 and 2007, the Dan Ryan Expressway section of I-90/94 was upgraded. Over 300,000 vehicles used the Dan Ryan Expressway daily, and these improvements were designed to enhance mobility, including:5
- Repave the expressway, including certain access roads between 13th Street and Interstate 57
- Eliminate exits to 43rd Street, 51st Street, 59th Street and 76th Street
- Add additional local lane on expressway (no additional express lanes)
- Add new transition ramp from westbound Interstate 90/Chicago Skyway to northbound I-90/94
- Relocate the transition ramp from southbound Dan Ryan Expressway to eastbound Interstate 90/Chicago Skyway
- Install collector sewers to avert flooding during heavy rainstorms
Work was formally completed, though landscaping and side work continued into 2008, on the Dan Ryan Expressway project after a ribbon cutting ceremony held on October 25, 2007 at the 39th Street on-ramp to the outbound Dan Ryan. The two year project rebuilt the freeway mainline with 14 inches of continuous steel reinforced concrete. It added an additional travel lane in each direction, lengthened on and off-ramps, improved drainage, added high-mast lighting, incorporated aesthetic improvements, and redesigned and rebuilt the interchange with the Chicago Skyway. 28 east-west bridges over the Dan Ryan were also rebuilt.6
A similar project was underway with the reconstruction of the Kingery Expressway in Illinois and the Borman Expressway in Indiana. For the Kingery Expressway (I-80/94 and U.S. 6), construction ran from January 2005 to July 2007. Improvements included:7
- Revision and reconstruction of the interchange joining I-80, I-94, I-294 and IL 394
- Expansion to eight through lanes for through traffic on Interstate 80
- Reduction of weaving through reconfigured interchanges
- Installation of sound walls, replacement lighting, and landscaping
In Indiana, the Frank Borman Expressway carries I-80/94 and U.S. 6 through Hammond and Gary. As part of the “Major Moves” state-wide funding, a $300-million project upgraded the freeway from the state line east to Interstate 65 between 2004 and summer 2011. Work added lanes in both directions, reconfigured several interchanges and rebuilt the junction with I-65 with a new flyover from westbound to southbound.8
Two projects in Port Huron focused on redesigning the overlap between I-69/94. The first project widened 2.2 miles of the freeway between Lapeer Road and Pine Grove Avenue. This $90-million project included bridge replacement of the spans over the Black River, which now separates local traffic from traffic headed to the Bluewater Bridge into Canada. Construction started in March 2011 and was completed on October 19, 2012.4
The second project, totaling $76-million, commenced in Fall 2013. Work here focused on rebuilding and redesigning the west split interchange between I-69/94, where Business Loop I-69/94 ties in from the southeast. Construction effected 3.7 miles of freeway and replaced several bridges and ramps. Work ran through Fall 2015.15
East End – Port Huron, MI
West End – Billings, MT
Branch Routes – 8
Total Mileage – 1,585.20
Montana – 249.15
Cities – Billings, Miles City, Glendive
- Junctions –
North Dakota – 352.39
Cities – Dickinson, Mandan, Bismarck, Jamestown, Valley City, Fargo
Minnesota – 259.49*
Cities – Moorhead, Fergus Falls, Alexandria, St. Cloud, Minneapolis, St. Paul
Wisconsin – 341.02#
Cities – Eau Claire, Tomah, Madison, Waukesha, Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha
Illinois – 61.53+
Cities – Waukegan, Highland Park, Skokie, Chicago, Calumet City
Indiana – 46.13**
Cities – Hammond, Gary, Portage, Michigan City
Michigan – 275.49
Cities – Benton Harbor, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Marshall, Jackson, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Dearborn, Detroit, Port Huron
Source: December 31, 2018 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
* – 0.27 miles on I-35E
# – 91.76 miles on I-90
+ – 2.48 miles on I-80
** – 16.05 miles on I-80
I-94 Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT)
|Location||Vehicles per day|
|Michiana Shores, IN||18,796|
Source: 2019 AADT INDOT Traffic County Database System (TCDS)
Interstate 94 was open from North Dakota 3 at Dawson eastward to the Minnesota state line by 1963. The Bismark to Dawson section, completed in 1975, was the last to open in the state.16
Until 1963, the alignments of Interstates 90 and 94 were switched from south Chicago to northwest Indiana. I-94 used the Chicago Skyway and Indiana East-West Toll Road, while I-90 remained along the Dan Ryan and Calumet Expressways south to the Kingery and Borman Expressways. This included an extension of Interstate 294 east into Indiana to meet with I-94 at Lake Station.
The bulk of Interstate 94 was completed across southern Michigan by 1962. The exception was the segment south from U.S. 12 to the Indiana state line. A three mile portion of this opened near New Buffalo to a point just north of the state line in 1963. The connection into Indiana came much later in 1972. 17
Contracts awarded by the Montana Highway Commission in April 1961 included work on a 11.5 mile section of I-94 between Miles City and U.S. 10 east of Tusler. This stretch was completed in 1963.19 The final Super 2 freeway section of Interstate 94 in Montana was four-laned in 1985.20
The first section of Interstate 94 to open in North Dakota was the 39-mile portion between Jamestown and Valley City. This section was chosen due to the poor condition of U.S. 10. Bids for the segment were let on December 17, 1956,22 and the new highway opened on October 16, 1958. Another major section of Interstate 94 from Fryburg (near Theodore Roosevelt National Park) east to ND 25 in Mandan was dedicated and opened to traffic on October 6, 1964.9,10
Construction on I-94 from Mandan east to Bismarck followed, with a 15.3 mile portion opened east from ND 25 (Exit 147) following a December 9, 1965 ribbon cutting ceremony held at the Sunset Drive interchange (Exit 152). 271.7 miles of I-94 across the state were complete then, leaving segments between Dawson and Bismarck and Medora west to Montana unfinished.23
Interstate 94 displaced the old alignment of U.S. 10 east from Medora to a point just west of milepost 30. The remainder of U.S. 10 parallel to I-94 to Painted Canyon was demolished. The Painted Canyon Visitor Center off Exit 32 was located along the former US highway. Old U.S. 10 is drivable again along 36th Street SW south of Exit 36.
The 22.5-mile segment from Medora west to the Montana state line was originally planned with just two lanes. North Dakota officials and the Bureau of Public Roads officials intervened, leading to an announcement made on May 7, 1964 that the road would be built with four lanes. Work started on this section in 1966.21. Completion of I-94 in North Dakota took place at a dedication ceremony held in Bismarck on August 7, 1970. Nationwide, Interstate 94 was 84% complete at that time, with the Peace Garden State representing the longest continuous stretch open to traffic.22
Within the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Interstate 94 passes through the Lowry Park Tunnel, a 1,492 foot long cut and cover tunnel opened in 1972.18
According to Scott Oglesby’s Kurumi.com website, there were plans in 2003 to renumber the Interstates in and around Milwaukee to decrease traffic impact in Downtown Milwaukee at the Marquette Interchange. Under a plan recommended by Mayor John Norquist, Interstate 894 would be eliminated, and the entire route would be renumbered as I-94. The section of I-43/94 would become solely I-43, and the section of I-94 between I-894 west of Downtown and I-794 would become part of a much longer Interstate 794.1 Mayor Norquist was responsible for the removal of the remnant of the Park East Freeway, which was demolished and reclaimed in stages between 2002 and 2004. This renumbering proposal may have ended around the same time that Mayor Norquist resigned from his post in 2003 to head the Congress for New Urbanism. Mayor Norquist’s successor, Tom Barrett, did not further the proposal of his predecessor.
Within the Land of Lincoln, Interstate 94 was built in stages during the 1950s and 1960s. The section of Tri-State Tollway from the Wisconsin State Line south to the Edens Expressway (including the Edens Spur) was constructed between 1956 and 1958. The construction of the 83-mile section of the Tri-State Tollway (and the other original tollways) was funded by a bond issuance in the amount of $415 million by the state tollway commission (which was created in 1953).14 Continuing south from the vicinity of Skokie, the Edens Expressway opened to traffic in 1951, and it was one of the first urban freeways to open in metropolitan Chicago.11
The Kennedy Expressway, which connects Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) with O’Hare International Airport (ORD), opened to traffic on November 5, 1960. This 16-mile expressway was constructed at a cost of $237 million. It was originally named the Northwest Expressway, but was renamed the John F. Kennedy Expressway on November 29, 1963.12
The Dan Ryan Expressway, which continues I-90/94 south from Interstate 290 (Eisenhower Expressway) to Interstate 57, opened on December 15, 1962. The freeway opened in conjunction with the Calumet Expressway (later renamed as the Bishop Ford Freeway) south to 130th Street (Exit 68) at a cost of $209 million. This freeway, planned as the “South Expressway,” was named in memory of Dan Ryan, who was the president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners and had died in 1961. Dan Ryan played a role in planning highway construction efforts throughout the 1950s and 60s in Chicago. He also proposed a superhighway in 1939 that eventually became the Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94)6,11 The Dan Ryan Rapid Transit line follows the median of the Dan Ryan Expressway; the rail line opened to commuters on September 28, 1969.13
The Bishop Ford (Calumet) Expressway offers the continuation of eastbound (outbound) Interstate 94 from the I-57 split to the Kingery Expressway; it was one of the first express routes to be built in Chicagoland, opening in the early 1950s (around the same time as the Edens Expressway). The Kingery Expressway section of I-80/94 and U.S. 6 is one of the oldest sections of I-94 in Illinois, having opened in 1950.11 This is also the only section of Interstate 94 that truly travels east-west in Illinois.
East End – Canadian International Border – Port Huron, Michigan
East at / Bluewater Bridge
Major reconstruction underway along I-94/69 in 2011 reconfigured the wye interchange with the Lapeer Connector into a split diamond interchange with adjacent Water Street to provide eastbound access. The connector is a controlled access link between Business Loop I-69 (Lapeer Avenue) and I-94/69. Photo by Peter Johnson (03/14/20).
West at Bluewater Bridge
East End Throwback
West End – Billings, Montana
East South at
West North at
- Three Digit Interstates: Interstate 894 (Scott Oglesby/Kurumi.com)
- Marquette Interchange
http://www.mchange.org/– official site.
- Lokken, Chris. Personal Email, “Some Information on Wisconsin Interstates,” April 7, 2006.
- “I-94/I-69 reopens near the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron.” MDOT press release, October 19, 2012.
- Dan Ryan Expressway Reconstruction
http://www.danryanexpressway.com– official site
- “Governor Blagojevich announces completion of Dan Ryan reconstruction – A safe and wider Dan Ryan Expressway; IDOT to open up all lanes to traffic ahead of schedule.” Office of the Governor, press release, October 25, 2007.
- Kingery Expressway Reconstruction
http://www.kingeryexpressway.com/– official site
- “After seven years Borman Expressway backups in rear view mirror.” Indiana Economic Digest, August 19, 2011.
- Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System: Previous Interstate Facts of the Day by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
- “Sprynczynatyk Attends Kick-Off Celebration for 50th Anniversary of the Interstate Highway System,” January 23, 2006, North Dakota DOT Communications
- Encyclopedia of Chicago: Expressways by Dennis McClendon of the Chicago Historical Society
- Chicago Timeline: 1960 Northwest Expressway Completed; November 29, 1963 Renamed The John F. Kennedy Expressway
http://www.chipublib.org/004chicago/timeline/kennedyx.html, Chicago Public Library, updated August 1997
- Chicago Timeline: 1962 Dan Ryan Expressway Opened
http://www.chipublib.org/004chicago/timeline/danryanx.html, Chicago Public Library, updated March 2006
- Encyclopedia of Chicago: Tollways
http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1257.html, by David M. Young of the Chicago Historical Society
- “Lanes of I-94 reopen at I-69 interchange.” The Times Herlald, December 19, 2014.
- North Dakota Highways Page: Highways 61 to 100,
- Michigan Highways: Highways 90 through 99. Chris Bessert.
- “In Duluth , the end of the road – Final part of I-35 will be opened on Wednesday” Star Tribune: Newspaper of the Twin Cities, October 25, 1992.
- “Montana Road Construction Contracts Are Awarded.” The Spokesman-Review, April 20, 1961.
- “I-90 now four lanes all across Montana.” The Spokesman-Review, May 14, 1987.
- “Residents Laud Change To 4-Lane On Local Stretch.” The Billings County Pioneer, May 14, 1965.
- “Interstate changed way North Dakotans lived.” Bismarck Tribune, The (ND), June 24, 1996.
- “I-94 Opens Between Mandan and Bismarck, 1965.” Bismarck Tribune, The (ND), December 11, 2015.
Page updated May 8, 2020.