Interstate 45 - Texas
IH-45 is Texas' oldest freeway, and a vital link between the two largest cities in the state. On September 30, 1948, the first section of the first freeway in Texas was opened south of Houston. IH-45 was completed in 1975 when the last link between IH-30 and IH-20 in downtown Dallas was opened, marking IH-45 as the first completed freeway in Texas.
Beginning on the island of Galveston, IH-45 quickly leaves the island on the Galveston causeway, passing through Texas City and La Marque before reaching League City, where IH-45 enters the Houston Metropolitan area. IH-45 continues northeast as the Gulf Freeway, tracking past NASA's Johnson Space Center and Ellington Field before entering Houston. As IH-45 continues towards downtown, it passes Hobby Airport and reaches Loop 610. Crossing US 59, IH-45 skirts the west side of Houston on an impressive elevated structure. Crossing IH-10, IH-45 trends northwest away from Downtown as the North Freeway.
Outside Loop 610, IH-45 travels as the North Freeway, a poster child of freeway development in Texas with commercial buildings clustered against the narrow right-of-way. IH-45 is only saved from total gridlock by the parallel Hardy Toll Road, opened in 1983. North of Beltway 8, IH-45 widens to ten lanes, which it will retain through Spring and into The Woodlands.
The Woodlands are Houston's most successful suburb, where land values have stayed high despite the oldest parts being thirty years old. The Hardy Toll Road meets IH-45 here, and the freeway continues north to Conroe, the county seat of Montgomery County. IH-45 leaves the greater Houston area to commence almost 200 miles of rural Interstate.
The Piney Woods of East Texas are in full display as we roll through Sam Houston National Forest. Huntsville, just north of the forest, was the home of Sam Houston, who is memorialized with a 67 foot statue facing IH-45. Huntsville is also home to Sam Houston State University and the center of the Texas prison industry.
As we continue north, Madisonville marks where the Piney Woods give way to oak trees as the climate gets drier. The trees will get fewer and fewer as the road continues north, and they will be completely gone by the time IH-45 reaches Corsicana. The original 1960 freeway is in the process of being reconstructed from Streetman north to Richland to account for higher traffic volumes and modern standards. North of Corsicana, one of the few things of note is a large adult bookstore north of Rice.
Interstate 45 leads away from the north end of Business Loop I-45 outside Corsicana to span Old Channel and Chambers Creek. This portion of IH 45 replaced both U.S. 75 & 287. Photo taken October 21, 2003.
Ennis is an old railroad town that has been well preserved, despite the close proximity to Dallas. IH-45 comes in through the southeast corner of Dallas, which is sparsely populated. Until the road reaches IH-20, very few signs of Dallas can be found along the road, which was reconstructed in the late 1990s. Traffic is still relatively light compared to other Metroplex freeways until after crossing the Trinity River, north of Loop 12. At this point, an impressive view of the Dallas skyline comes into view.
IH-45 ends at IH-30 in downtown Dallas. The freeway continues north, first as unsigned IH-345 then as US 75. Unsigned IH-345 continues the exit numbering scheme from IH-45 for it's short 1.4 mile jaunt to Spur 366 and US 75.