Interstate 135 Kansas
Interstate 135 overlays U.S. 81 from the Kansas Turnpike (I-35) and Wichita in south central Kansas to Salina and I-70. It is the fourth longest three-digit route within the Eisenhower Interstate System, following I-476 in Pennsylvania, I-495 in Massachusetts and I-287 around metro New York.
The freeway bisects Wichita mostly along the elevated Canal Route, a seven mile stretch paralleling or running above the culverted Chisholm Creek Canal. Accommodating six overall lanes, 95,700 vehicles per day (vpd) were recorded along a stretch north of U.S. 54/400 (Kellogg Avenue) and to the east of Downtown Wichita in 2015.
Remaining suburban through Park City and Valley Center, Interstate 135, U.S. 81/K-15 leave the Wichita metropolitan area for a rural course to Newton and a brief overlap with U.S. 50. K-15 splits to the north from there as I-135 shifts northwest to McPherson and the north end of the K-61 expressway connecting with Hutchinson.
Turning northward again, Interstate 135/U.S. 81 continue by Lindsborg to Salina. The freeway generally bypasses the city of nearly 50,000 to a rural cloverleaf interchange with I-70/U.S. 40. I-135 ends there, with U.S. 81 extending north as a freeway then expressway to Concordia.
High Priority Corridor
I-135 in its entirety, along with the route served by U.S. 81 and U.S. 77 north to Sioux City, Iowa, is part of High Priority Corridor 23: Interstate Route 35 Corridor.
I-135 was originally designated as Interstate 35W, representing a main route north from I-35 as it turned northeast from Wichita along the Kansas Turnpike to Emporia. The first section of the freeway was under construction around McPherson in 1968, with work on most of the remaining freeway getting underway by the early 1970s.1
The Canal Route section of I-135 through Wichita cost $32 million, with work there starting in 1971. This segment included the most expensive portion of the original Kansas Interstate system built at the time, the 2.2-mile long viaducts between Kellogg Avenue and 21st Street N. The northbound bridge is 12,111 feet long while the southbound span totals 12,497 feet.2 Technical issues extended work on the Canal Route to a December 1979 completion date.1
As approved by AASHTO on July 13, 1976, I-35W was renumbered as Interstate 135 on September 13, 1976. There are two remaining I-35W’s nationally, one at Fort Worth, Texas and the other through Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in 2009, a $16.1 million project reconfigured the full cloverleaf interchange joining Interstate 135 with 47th Street (U.S. 81 to the west) in south Wichita. The two-year project was unveiled on August 28, 2009 with construction commencing on September 8, 2009. It coincided with development of the South Fork retail and hotel complex at the southwest corner of the exchange. Project aspects included the rebuilding of four bridges for 47th Street S, over both I-135 and adjacent Big Slough Creek, and the removal of three ramps with the installation of three signalized intersections.3
A new diamond interchange was constructed along Interstate 135 /U.S. 81 at Mohawk Road to the north of McPherson. Serving an industrial park and provide additional access to the north side of McPherson, the $7.018 million project linked separate segments of Mohawk Road . The bid for the project was let on October 21, 2015. Scheduled work ran through May 26, 2017,4 and a ribbon cutting ceremony took place for the new ramps on April 4, 2017.6
North End – Salina, Kansas
Leading east from Salina, I-70/U.S. 40 travel to Topeka, where they split at the Oakland Expressway and Kansas Turnpike for separate routes to Bonner Springs and the Kansas City metropolitan area. K-140, two miles to the south, represents the old U.S. 40 alignment leading west to Ellsworth. 11/01/16
Throwback west at
A previous set of signs posted along I-70 west for the 1979-completed route of Interstate 135. Minneapolis was replaced by Concordia on subsequent sign replacements. Photo taken by Michael Summa (1982).
Hays replaced Russell on the I-70 west pull through panel at Exit 250B. This panel was eventually dropped from sign plans. Photo taken by Dale Sanderson (10/02).
South End – Wichita, Kansas
Throwback – south at
Prior to an ARRA funded redesign between 2009-11, I-135 and U.S. 81 south separated at a cloverleaf interchange (Exits 1B/A) with 47th Street. The 94 mile long overlap with U.S. 81 concludes at 47th Street S. U.S. 81 continues southward to Wellington, just west of the parallel Kansas Turnpike. The former alignment through Wichita followed Broadway. Photo taken by Ben Prusia (03/02).
Exit 42 is the last of four Wichita exits along the Kansas Turnpike. Interstate 35 angles southwest from Andover through southeastern reaches of the city by McConnell Air Force Base to cross paths with K-15 ahead of I-135. K-15 merges with I-135 north along the Canal Route through central Wichita. 10/31/16
- Kansas Interstate 50th Anniversary.
- “Big Ditch bridge art on city agenda.” Wichita Eagle, The (KS), October 3, 2011.
- “Stimulus Money Funding 2-Year Project.” Wichita Eagle, The (KS), August 29, 2009.
- “$2 million break marks winning bid for McPherson County I-135 interchange project.” Hutchinson News, The (KS), November 11, 2015.
- “Arkansas River Bridge project to begin March.” Kansas Turnpike Authority, news release. February 29, 2016.
- “Ribbon Cutting to Mark Completion of I-135 Interchange in McPherson County.” Salina Scoop (KS), March 31, 2017.
Page updated February 3, 2020.