Most of the state highways comprising the 11,800-mile system are posted
with either Interstate-, US- or State Trunk Highway-numbered designations.
Even though each of these different types of route designations have different
route markers, they are marked and (generally-)maintained by the Wisconsin
Department of Transportation. Each of these three types of state trunklines
are defined below:
Wisconsin is home to four "mainline" Interstate routes, with
original construction commencing in 1956 in Waukesha County. Originally,
however, the state was to only have two: I-90 and I-94. In time, WisDOT was able to convince the federal government to okay the completion of the
US-141 freeway between Milwaukee and Green Bay and designate it as I-43.
In the 1980s, the I-43 designation was extended southwest of Milwaukee
to Beloit. Wisconsin's fourth Interstate, I-39, debuted
in the 1990s, first from Portage to Wausau and later extended southerly
past Madison into Illinois at Beloit. Wisconsin does not make
use of the Interstate Business Connection (Business Loop, Business Spur).
Interstates | I-39 | I-43 | I-90 | I-94 | I-535 | I-794 | I-894
It took the federal government almost ten years to form a national system
of route-numbered highways after Wisconsin created theirs. Today, the state
is home to fourteen US routes: 2, 8, 10, 12, 14, 18, 41, 45, 51, 53, 61,
63, 141 and 151. With the coming of the Interstates, only one US route
has been decommissioned: US-16. Beside US-16, the only other
notable loss of US-route mileage was the southern portion of US-141 between
Green Bay and Milwaukee, which was replaced by I-43. A few historical US
Highways were decommissioned earlier on, such as US-110 and US-118.
See: US-2 | US-8 | US-10 | US-12 | US-14 |
US-18 | US-41 | US-45 |
US-51 | US-53 |
BYPASS US-53 | US-61 | US-63 | US-141 | US-151
State Trunk Highways
Wisconsin was the first state to set up a statewide
posted route numbering system in 1917. Originally, state routes in Wisconsin were
numbered only from 10 through 75—single-digit
numbers were not originally chosen in an attempt to prevent some cities from claiming they were optimally located on "Highway 1," for example. Since 1917, the state has chosen to refrain from using single-digit state route numbers. During
various expansions of the state highway system, route numbers into
the 190s were used. Routes greater then 199 are newer designations,
mostly running along other relocated or decommissioned routes. One of
the noticable idosyncracies is the meandering nature of some of Wisconsin's
state highways. Just pick one of the state's longer routes and more than
likely you will find many extended stretches concurrently designated
with other highways and some meandering behavior.
County Trunk Highways
Each county in Wisconsin maintains its own Country Trunk Highway (CTH)
system, where routes are designated by letters instead of numbers. While
the designation of some county highways may cross into two or more counties,
any individual letter will appear many times in different parts of the state.
The County Trunk Highway designations can be one-, two-, or three-letters in
length. This system has its beginnings in 1921 and by 1924,
each county in the state laid out a system of county-maintained routes, exclusive
of the state trunkline system—but without legislative authorization.
Then in 1925, the Wisconsin state legislature authorized the system, which
had been in place already in some counties for more than four years. Today,
there are occurrences where some imagination has gone into the designation
of county highways. For example, the County Trunk Highway which runs
along the county line between Kenosha and Racine
Counties is CTH-KR, the former US-12/US-18 in Madison running along Broadway
is CTH-BW (for BroadWay),
and CTH-LO (formerly STH-99 until January 1999) was
named in honor of former Waukesha County Board Chairman Lloyd Owens.
Additional types of "other" highways in Wisconsin, such as the
Rustic Road System, Great Lakes Circle Tours and others are detailed in
the Other Highways section of this website.
"Dedicated to the past, present and future of the Wisconsin State Trunk Highway system as well as other highways and routes throughout the Badger State. This website is intended to be a clearinghouse of information on Wisconsin's highways, from easily-recognized facts to the little-known trivia. It is also meant to change as the state highway system changes."