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Interstate 72

Interstate 72

Total length: 183 miles (294 km)
Western terminus: Hannibal, MO, at JCT U.S. 61
Eastern terminus: Champaign, IL, at JCT I-57

States traversed & length in each:

  • Missouri — 2 miles (3 km)
  • Illinois — 181 miles (291 km)

Major cities along route:

  • Springfield, IL
  • Champaign, IL

Junctions with non-related Interstates:

Related loops and spurs:

  • Interstate 172 — 20 miles long; spur to U.S. Route 24 northeast of Quincy, IL; connects Quincy to the rest of the Interstate system; I-72 Exit 4

Length I’ve traveled: Entire length

Time zones:
Central — Entire length

Counties traversed:
Missouri — Marion

Illinois — Pike, Scott, Morgan, Sangamon, Macon, Piatt, Champaign

A quick hypertext drive: Its utility in the context of the greater Interstate system may be somewhat questionable; but Interstate 72 quite adequately serves to connect some of the more important cities in central Illinois with each other and, in conjunction with the western Interstate 74 (which almost meets it in Champaign), Indianapolis and points east.

Originally, I-72 simply vanished into thin air at the present-day Exit 4 in Illinois, turning to the north and becoming its child route I-172. The six-mile (10 km) extension of I-72 to its current western terminus in Hannibal, MO, had to await the completion of a freeway-standard bridge across the Mississippi River. The interchange with U.S. Route 61 was chosen as a temporary western end for I-72.

Exit number signage in Hannibal gives away the Missouri Department of Transportation’s (MoDOT) plans to complete a 150-plus-mile westward extension of I-72, following the U.S. Route 36 corridor to Interstate 35 at Cameron, MO. If and when this is completed, I-35 from Kansas City to Cameron, I-72, and the western I-74 will comprise a tri-state, northern bypass of Interstate 70 between Kansas City and Indianapolis, bypassing St. Louis.

Almost the entire route of I-72 is four lanes; there is a very short six-lane section on the northwest side of Decatur, IL, where U.S. Route 51 joins I-72. The terrain is quite hilly in Hannibal and into western Illinois, with some very scenic stretches; the Valley City Eagle Bridges that carry I-72 over the Illinois River are especially striking. East of here, especially east of Jacksonville, IL, I-72 becomes very flat and boring, although the traffic does get a bit heavier from here on east. There is evidence in I-72’s median of a planned, but never built, freeway-to-freeway interchange at the northeast I-72/U.S. 51 split in Decatur. Finally, at the eastern end in Champaign, the freeway continues into town for roughly a mile beyond the end of the I-72 designation, ending just west of Country Fair Avenue.

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