Route: US 51 - Purchase Pkwy - I-24 - WK Pkwy - Pennyrile Pkwy - US 41 -
I-164 - I-64 - US 41 (TH) - I-70 - I-465 - I-69 - M-60 - I-94
(Some sidetrips excluded.)
US 51 between Memphis and Dyersburg is four lanes and passes through several
towns. Most of the parts between towns are posted at 55 mph, though
further north there are some 65 mph sections. It's fairly hilly and the
vertical alignment is well below Interstate standards in a lot of areas;
TDOT is probably right to be planning a new route for I-69 through the
area (as opposed to overlaying US 51 and adding a few bypasses and
At Four Corners, I had planned to cut over on old TN 20 (now TN 210) to
US 412, but it was closed for some reason so I ended up following a
detour and probably going 5 miles out of the way. Eventually I got over
to US 412, which is posted for 65 mph and as a bike route. It has paved
shoulders. North of TN 210, the road is close to a freeway, with only
two at-grade crossings that could easily be bridged or closed; presumably
I-69 could follow this route south and then cut over towards the US 51
alignment. US 51 joins US 412 for about 1 mile to the I-155 interchange.
At I-155, the control city is St. Louis. US 51's control city is Union
US 51 is built as a continuation of the I-155 freeway north to Troy. It
is signed at 70 mph and as a bike route (I believe this is the only
freeway in Tennessee that allows bicycles). Just north/east of the I-155
interchange, US 51 has a Future I-69 Corridor sign (photo). The freeway
ends just south of Troy; within a half mile, US 51 becomes a 5 lane road
with a 45 mph speed limit, although past Troy it goes back up to 55.
The route also passes through the south end of Union City, then follows a
four-lane bypass (with at grade intersections, including a *four way
stop*) to the north side of town, where the freeway resumes at the US 45W
interchange and the speed limit becomes 70 again. There was some visible
construction here; it may be the TN 22 freeway extension, but I couldn't
tell. The control city is South Fulton (is South Fulton even
The freeway meets a rather abrupt end just short of US 45E, where there
is a median U-turn for an exit, followed by a partial cloverleaf with the
US 45E interchange. I followed the ramp marked "US 51 Purchase Pky",
which is an extension of the US 45E mainline to the actual Purchase
Parkway at the state line; apparently US 51 shifts to the old alignment
through Fulton at the state line. No welcome center.
All of the signs on the Purchase Parkway are just that: Purchase Parkway
signs. It may be the "Jackson Purchase Parkway" on paper, but Kentucky
hasn't signed it that way. The parkway is probably a mid-1960s standard
freeway, with a relatively narrow median with no barrier. At exit 21,
the parkway exits itself to join the Mayfield bypass; presumably the feds
insisted on this design since that part of the parkway was built with
federal funds (the parkway was built as a toll road). I also noticed a
few odd interchanges which I'd call an "inner cloverleaf"; the entrance
ramp is before the entrance ramp, with a weave under the bridge.
There wasn't much traffic at all on this route. I-24 was a bit busier.
Of slight annoyance was Kentucky's 65 mph speed limit, but most everyone
was going 75 or so. I-24 has a pretty nice pair of bridges over the
Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. From I-24 I took the (politician's
name) Western Kentucky Parkway east, which was of similar design to the
Purchase Pkwy. (IMHO they should stop renaming the parkways, or at least
retain the old abbreviations on the signs, as the whole name of the WK is
completely unreadable on a sign.) Not much traffic at all along here.
I then took the (politician's name) Pennyrile Pkwy north to Henderson.
The southernmost few miles were having some resurfacing work done. There
was a bit more traffic. At Henderson, the parkway devolves into a
six-lane US 41, with two left turn lanes (think of a really wide center
turn lane with a teeny median that has about as much impact on a car
going over it as a bott's dot and apparently only exists so the road
isn't subject to the school bus no median rule). The northbound Ohio
River bridge is pretty narrow with two lanes and no shoulder; the bridge
is at a point where the Kentucky-Indiana border is on an old course of
the river, so the whole bridge is in Kentucky and there is a horse racing
track (in Ky) on the north side. The I-164 interchange is about a mile
north of the state line; here, US 41 has a control city of Vincennes even
though "Downtown Evansville" seems much more appropriate.
I-164 changes directions from east to north around mile #5; it has those
blue median 2/10 mile markers that have shown up in Tennessee, but they
are narrower and are even posted on some non-Interstates (TDOT hasn't put
them on TN 385, for example, but INDOT put some on US 41). Some work on
a new interchange around milepost 10. There were a few big VMSes around
but they weren't saying anything. At the north end there's no real
signage about how to get to US 41; INDOT apparently wants people to drive
through Evansville. Indiana has an annoying 65 mph rural interstate
limit, coupled with the always-brilliant "let's introduce speed
differentials to make the accidents nice and gory" 60 mph truck speed
limit. Nobody seemed to be obeying either, even when cops were around.
At US 41 the interchange is under construction, with a light controlling
the US 41 north ramp. I stopped at Flying J for gas ($1.149, minus a
one-cent discount for using their card). US 41 north of Evansville is a
much better road than I remember it being about 6 years ago; INDOT has
apparently done a lot of work to reconstruct it, though it's still far
short of rural Interstate standards in a lot of places. If INDOT routes
I-69 through here, it won't be cheap.
The most annoying thing about this road isn't its design; it's the speed
limit. Indiana has a 55 mph speed limit on the road, which is obscenely
low for a rural expressway in 2001. No wonder the people in South Bend
want US 31 upgraded to a freeway; that's the only way they'll ever get a
halfway-decent speed limit for it.
No evidence of any work on IN 641 at Terre Haute, which has been in the
"drawing board" stages since the first time I ever set foot in Terre
Haute 9 years ago. I suspect the state is holding off on any
construction until I-69 is settled; it may not even be worth building if
I-69 doesn't go near Terre Haute. (I nearly used the word "bypasses",
but any route will bypass Terre Haute proper by several miles.) Terre
Haute appears to more-or-less have stagnated since my last visit (which I
suppose is an improvement over declining, which it did quite well in the
past). Spent the night at the Signature Inn, which is a nice enough
I-70 to Indy was a pretty nice drive, particularly the portion from TH to
Cloverdale. East of there it goes into "flat boring Indiana." At Indy I
stayed on I-70 through town, but there was a big backup just past
Keystone so I got off and worked my way to Massachussets Avenue (former
US 36/IN 67). Ate lunch at McDonald's (I won a free extra value meal).
Then took 465 up to 69. Couldn't read the BGS that named former IN 37
through Indy; IIRC it was "SR 37" from where Fall Creek Pkwy branched
off, so I guess they had to make up a name (see Cooper, Sam).
I-69 north of Indy was a pretty nice drive, though relatively flat.
Traffic was moderately heavy, though moving at a good clip; I was
averaging 77-80, and wasn't the fastest out there. North of Fort Wayne,
all of the US 27 reassurance markers have disappeared, and at least some
of the overhead BGSes on overpasses have had the 27 shield removed or
greened out. At the Michigan line, US 27 is resurrected but has smaller
shields (24x24 I think) mounted on the I-69 assembly. Caught my first
and only welcome center on the trip, which had a good selection of stuff
for all parts of the state and the 2001 state map. Finally a state with
a reasonable rural freeway speed limit (70), though apparently they
haven't learned that it's speed differentials (not speed) that kills,
since trucks are supposed to go 55. Thankfully the trucks don't go 55 so
the carnage was minimized.
I opted to take M-60 instead of following I-69 all the way to Marshall,
which was a nice route that passed through a few villages (apparently a
village is the settlement center of a township, but I'll leave it to the
municipal governance gurus to correct my impression). Even the short
M-60 freeway at Jackson is signed 70 mph; Michigan is a state after my
own heart (or life if one of the 55 mph trucks cuts me off).
From Jackson the traffic on I-94 was quite heavy; it really needs to be 6
lanes from US 127 to M-14.