[ Back to Highways Main Page ]
Total length: 888 miles (1,429 km)
Southern terminus: Mobile, AL, at JCT I-10
Northern terminus: Gary, IN, at JCT US 12/20
States traversed & length in each:
- Alabama — 367 miles (591 km)
- Tennessee — 122 miles (196 km)
- Kentucky — 137 miles (220 km)
- Indiana — 262 miles (422 km)
Major cities along route:
- Mobile, AL
- Montgomery, AL
- Birmingham, AL
- Nashville, TN
- Bowling Green, KY
- Louisville, KY
- Indianapolis, IN
- Lafayette, IN
- Gary, IN
Junctions with non-related Interstates:
- Interstate 10: Southern terminus in Mobile, AL
- Interstate 85: Exit 171 in Montgomery, AL
- Interstate 459: Exit 250 in Hoover, AL
- Interstate 20: Exit 261 in Birmingham, AL
- Interstate 59: Exit 261 in Birmingham, AL
- Interstate 440: Exit 80 in Nashville, TN
- Interstate 40: Multiplex from MP 82 to MP 84 in Nashville, TN
- Interstate 24: Multiplex from Exit 86 to Exit 88 in Nashville, TN
- Interstate 264: Exit 131 in Louisville, KY
- Interstate 64: Exit 137 in Louisville, KY
- Interstate 71: Exit 137 in Louisville, KY
- Western Interstate 74: Exit 106 in Indianapolis, IN
- Interstate 70: Multiplex from Exit 110 to Exit 112 in Indianapolis, IN
- Interstate 80: Exit 259 in Lake Station, IN
- Interstate 94: Exit 259 in Lake Station, IN
- Interstate 90: Exit 262 in Gary, IN
Related loops and spurs:
- Interstate 165 — 5 miles long; spur from I-65 in Prichard, AL, to just north of downtown Mobile, AL; originally intended to connect to I-10 on the south side of downtown and be numbered I-210; I-65 Exit 9
- Interstate 565 — 22 miles long; spur from I-65 at Tanner, AL, to Huntsville, AL; ends northeast of Huntsville at U.S. Route 72; I-65 Exit 340
- Interstate 265 — 27 miles long; incomplete loop covering southeastern, eastern, and northeastern 3/8ths of a loop around Louisville, KY; called the Gene Snyder Freeway; exit and mile numbering begin at 10, because the zero point is on the Kentucky Route 841 part of the freeway, west of I-65, at U.S. Route 31W; northeastern end at U.S. Route 42 in Prospect, KY, awaiting construction of a new Ohio River bridge and connection to Indiana’s I-265; I-65 Exit 125
- Interstate 265 — 10 miles long; currently a spur that “spears” I-65 (exists on both sides of I-65), awaiting completion in both Indiana and Kentucky into a ¾ beltway around Louisville, KY; begins at I-64 in New Albany, IN; crosses I-65 Exit 6 at I-265 Exit 7; temporary east end at Port Rd. in Jeffersonville, IN
- Interstate 465 — 53 miles long; 360° loop encircling Indianapolis, IN; 20-mile stretch from Exit 16 on the west side to Exit 49 on the southeast side multiplexed with the western Interstate 74; crosses I-65 at I-65 Exits 106 (zero point of I-465) and 123 (I-465 Exit 20)
- Interstate 865 — 5 miles long; spur from I-65 at Zionsville, IN, to the northwest corner of the I-465 Indianapolis beltway; essentially a very long off-ramp connecting SB I-65 to EB I-465 and WB I-465 to NB I-65, as the northwest I-65/I-465 interchange lacks those ramps; formerly numbered as a part of I-465 with mileposts starting at mile 900 until 2002; I-65 Exit 129
Length I’ve traveled: Entire length
Central — Southern terminus to Hart/Larue county line, KY
Eastern — Hart/Larue county line, KY to White/Jasper county line, IN
Central — White/Jasper county line, IN to northern terminus
Alabama — Mobile, Baldwin, Escambia, Conecuh, Butler, Lowndes, Montgomery, Elmore, Autauga, Chilton, Shelby, Jefferson, Blount, Cullman, Morgan, Limestone
Tennessee — Giles, Marshall, Maury, Williamson, Davidson, Sumner, Robertson
Kentucky — Simpson, Warren, Barren, Edmonson, (re-enters Barren), Hart, Larue, Hardin, Bullitt, Jefferson
Indiana — Clark, Scott, Jackson, Bartholomew, Shelby, Johnson, Marion, Hendricks, Boone, Clinton, Tippecanoe, White, Jasper, Newton, Lake
A quick hypertext drive: Interstate 65 begins as an eight-lane freeway when it splits from Interstate 10 on the west side of Mobile, AL. Some of the signage along this southernmost stretch of I-65 is quite interesting, and can only be found in the U.S. here: it is slotted to better allow the sign to withstand hurricane-force winds. After it passes through a commercial district of Mobile, I-65 narrows to six lanes and then four, and proceeds north to Satsuma, where it will turn more to the east-northeast.
The next 12 miles (20 km) or so are elevated above the surrounding swampy terrain; most of this stretch is only several feet (maybe 2 m) above the swamp, but the arched-truss bridges across the Mobile and Middle rivers carry I-65 high above the terrain. After I-65 leaves the swamp, the next 130 miles (210 km) or so to Montgomery are fairly flat, with some low rolling hills in a few spots; this entire stretch is four lanes wide. The only real commercial development along this entire segment from the swamp to Montgomery is found in Evergreen and Greenville, the only two towns of any size along the route; the surroundings of I-65 are otherwise extremely rural. As it gets closer to Montgomery, I-65 very slowly and gradually turns from the east-northeasterly heading it had near the swamps to one that more closely approaches due north, although it is still going somewhat northeast-southwest all the way into Montgomery.
Only a few miles south of downtown Montgomery, around the westbound U.S. Route 80 exit, I-65 widens to six lanes for a short stretch. It narrows right back down to four, though, only a few miles north of there at the interchange that forms the southern terminus of Interstate 85; four lanes are then maintained across the Alabama River bridge before I-65 widens again to six lanes. Just after the Alabama River, I-65 turns to the northwest; there isn’t much here for a few miles, as the freeway goes through a narrow peninsula formed by a bend in the river. By roughly milepost 180, I-65 has narrowed back down to four lanes again, and it continues on a very rural north-northwesterly heading toward Birmingham.
Perhaps halfway between Montgomery and Birmingham, the terrain starts to become more hilly; this trend continues in an even more noticeable way as I-65 gets closer to Birmingham, with a couple of short, steep grades here and there. About 15 miles (24 km) south of downtown, I-65 widens first to six lanes, and quickly thereafter to eight. A couple of the steeper grades in this area are found on the south side of Birmingham proper, in the vicinity of milepost 255, before I-65 flattens out a bit and heads into downtown.
The interchange just west of downtown with Interstate 20/59 is well-known in Birmingham and throughout the South as “Malfunction Junction”; both directions of both freeways cross over themselves, forcing through traffic to drive to the left of the median, and left-side exits and entrances are used extensively. This configuration reduces the interchange’s footprint, but adds to its complexity and its driver-confusion factor. Only four through lanes of I-65 are maintained through Malfunction Junction.
After Malfunction Junction, I-65 widens back to six lanes and heads back into the hill country that will dominate much of the rest of northern Alabama; it narrows back to four lanes again as it leaves the Birmingham area. There is an interesting rest area at milepost 302, just south of Cullman; only one rest area actually exists, along the northbound side of the freeway, but it does have a set of access ramps to and from southbound I-65 as well. Around Hartselle, I-65 flattens out a bit again as it enters into the Tennessee River valley; it stays remarkably flat past Decatur, Huntsville, and Athens, until just south of the Tennessee state line, where it gets quite hilly again. There is one sneaky curve at the bottom of a hill, within a mile of the Tennessee line, for which northbound travelers should keep their eyes open.
Perhaps the first 35 miles (55 km) of I-65 in Tennessee continue in this hilly to semi-mountainous terrain; there are a few moderately long grades to climb and descend here. Just past the Tennessee Route 840 interchange southeast of Franklin, I-65 widens to six lanes as it heads through the southernmost suburbs of Nashville, and just after it crosses into Davidson County, it widens again to eight lanes. A mere handful of miles later, I-65 reaches Nashville’s downtown freeway loop. The alignment of I-65 here has changed over the course of history, so I will explain it in its own paragraph.
Until 2002, I-65 turned to the east here with Interstate 40, then followed westbound Interstate 24 around the east side of downtown Nashville. A portion of the loop that is now I-65, to the northwest of downtown, was numbered I-265. This meant that I-65 had a very short multiplex with I-40 south of downtown, barely a mile long in fact; but the I-24/I-65 pairing was much longer (almost five miles) than it is currently. In order to reduce motorist confusion and relieve congestion on the east side of the loop, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) moved I-65 to the west half of the loop, utilizing I-40 on the southwest and west side and eliminating the old I-265 designation in the northwest corner of the loop.
This step not only added to the I-40/I-65 pairing’s length and reduced the I-24/I-65 multiplex to its current length outside the loop, but it also added roughly one mile to the total length of I-65 in Tennessee. However, TDOT did not re-number the exits and mile markers between Nashville and the Kentucky state line when they re-aligned I-65; therefore, these numbers are all about one mile less than what they should be. In any event, I-65 is largely eight lanes on the I-40 multiplex; six lanes on its independent segment (the former I-265); eight to ten lanes on the I-24 multiplex; six lanes for a short stretch just north of I-24; and 10 to 12 lanes from Briley Parkway (Tennessee State Route 155) to Vietnam Veterans Boulevard (Tennessee State Route 386). The latter section was just built between 2003 and 2005, replacing a very congested six-lane stretch.
At the Goodlettsville exit (Exit 97), I-65 narrows back down to four lanes, after a short six-lane stretch from TN 386 to that exit. It begins climbing a series of short, steep grades to leave Nashville; the city essentially sits at the bottom of a large basin, with significantly higher terrain to almost all sides, and the northern approach via I-65 is no exception. After the hill-climbing is done, I-65 turns slightly toward the north-northeast and flattens out somewhat; around 20 miles (about 30 km) later, it leaves the Volunteer State behind to enter Kentucky.
As of early 2007, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is working to widen I-65 from four lanes to six. One such project begins at the state line, with construction barrels extending into Tennessee, and runs roughly five miles (8 km) into the Bluegrass State. The remaining four-lane section from here to milepost 26 (Bowling Green) is frequently quite congested, and needs to be widened as soon as KYTC can get to it. Another six-lane segment starts there, as I-65 makes a turn to a due east-west course, and persists until just beyond the Cumberland Parkway exit (Exit 43). A few miles beyond that point, I-65 turns to the northeast and begins to head through a region well-known for its caves; in fact, Mammoth Cave National Park is located just a couple miles off Exit 48.
The highway ranges from flat to moderately hilly through the cave area, as it turns back to the north around Horse Cave. Near milepost 90, the section of I-65 formerly known as the Kentucky Turnpike begins; it widens to six lanes here, passing to the east of Elizabethtown. Northeast of town, I-65 descends a fairly steep two-mile grade, and stays fairly flat from there all the way to Louisville — in spite of the surrounding terrain being very hilly. All of the old Kentucky Turnpike section is six lanes wide; in fact, I-65 will carry at least six lanes until it reaches “Spaghetti Junction” in Louisville.
About 10 miles (16 km) south of downtown Louisville, I-65 spawns I-265/Gene Snyder Freeway and widens to eight lanes. Louisville’s airport, which is a major air-freight hub for UPS, sits right next to I-65, and it is a common occurrence to see planes landing here; often, they look as though they’re preparing to land on I-65 itself. After it crosses I-264/ Watterson Expressway, I-65 passes near many well-known Louisville landmarks; the Kentucky State Fairgrounds and the campus of the University of Louisville, primarily its athletic facilities, are easily visible from the highway. (The world-famous horse racing track Churchill Downs is very close to I-65, but is obscured from the highway by the U of L campus.)
A few miles farther north, I-65 approaches the downtown area; it passes through a tight 50-mph (80 km/h) curve next to the internationally acclaimed Jewish Hospital of Louisville, and winds around one of the hospital’s parking garages. Another tight curve and “Spaghetti Junction” (the convoluted interchange with I-64 and I-71) follow less than a mile later, as I-65 climbs past minor-league ballpark Louisville Slugger Field and up onto the seven-lane (4 NB, 3 SB) Kennedy Bridge. (There is a very short four-lane segment of I-65 in between ramps at Spaghetti Junction.)
Immediately across the Ohio River in Indiana, the fourth northbound lane drops at an exit and I-65 resumes a six-lane alignment that was recently rebuilt and widened. It narrows back to four lanes at Exit 9 in the Hoosier State, and quickly turns rural again from there. There isn’t much interesting from here to Indianapolis, except for a unique bridge design at Exit 68 near Columbus; a tied-arch bridge, in which the arches protude in the median of the freeway, carries I-65 over Indiana State Road 46. Eventually, near milepost 99, I-65 does widen again to six lanes through the southern suburbs of Indianapolis.
The portion of I-65 inside of the I-465 Indianapolis beltway is named for R&B singer and producer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, as stated by a sign on northbound I-65 just after the southern I-465 interchange. About four miles of residential neighborhoods later, I-65 joins with I-70 to pass by the east side of downtown Indianapolis. There is an interesting ramp on the west side of the highway that was built essentially through an old warehouse; it almost appears to come right out of the building. As I-65 and I-70 split northeast of downtown, grading for a planned but never built connection to I-69 (which was planned to come downtown) is clearly visible, especially from northbound I-65.
From here, I-65 turns toward the west as it passes the north side of downtown Indianapolis; it curves back to the north about a mile later, passing Indy’s well-known Methodist Hospital as it does so. North of here, I-65 cuts through residential neighborhoods, some of which you can tell it severed, again; after a short segment where it interchanges with 38th Street by more or less using 38th Street as a service drive, it turns toward the northwest. Another interchange with I-465 comes next, although this one is missing ramps; those movements are served by I-865.
Much of the rest of I-65 from here north is four lanes and very rural; there isn’t even much in the way of terrain, except for the Wabash River’s valley near Lafayette and a few very small rolling hills. The highway will widen again to six lanes in Merrillville, on the fringes of Chicagoland; it drops back to four lanes at the I-80/94 interchange near Gary, which is set up to funnel most I-65 traffic to and from the west — the direction most traffic will go there. I-65 itself will carry on for three more miles (5 km) to U.S. 12/20 (Dunes Highway), where it simply comes to its end at a traffic signal. (There was once another signal about ½ mile south at 15th Avenue, but this was removed in the early 2000s and the intersection converted to an interchange.)
[ Back to Highways Main Page ]