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.
Interstate 94 from Chicago to Port Huron is part of High Priority Corridor 18: NAFTA Superhighway.
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