U.S. Route 72

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U.S. Route 72 marker

U.S. Route 72
Corridor V / Lee Highway
US 72 highlighted in red
Route information
Length317.811 mi[1][2][3][4] (511.467 km)
Existed1926[citation needed]–present
Major junctions
West end US 51 / US 64 / US 70 / US 79 in Memphis, TN
 
East end US 41 / US 76 in Chattanooga, TN
Location
StatesTennessee, Mississippi, Alabama
CountiesWest TN: Shelby, Fayette
MS: Marshall, Benton, Tippah, Alcorn, Tishomingo
AL: Colbert, Lauderdale, Limestone, Madison, Jackson
East TN: Marion, Hamilton
Highway system

U.S. Route 72 (US 72) is an east–west United States highway that travels for 317.811 miles (511.467 km) from southwestern Tennessee, North Mississippi, North Alabama, and southeastern Tennessee. The highway's western terminus is in Memphis, Tennessee and its eastern terminus is in Chattanooga. It is the only U.S. Highway to begin and end in the same state, yet pass through other states in between. Prior to the U.S. Highway system signage being posted in 1926, the entire route was part of the Lee Highway.

Route description[edit]

Map showing the west end of US 72 in Memphis

The highway passes through Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. Most of the original eastern and western portions of the route through roughly follows the path of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, a railroad that predated the American Civil War and now operated by Norfolk Southern Railway as their Memphis-Chattanooga, Tennessee mainline. US 72 Alt. follows the Memphis and Charleston route through North Alabama.

West Tennessee[edit]

US 72 begins at Bellevue Boulevard (US 51) in Memphis. From Memphis, the route follows Union Avenue and Poplar Avenue into Collierville. Just south of Collierville, US 72 junctions State Route 385 (the Bill Morris Parkway), a freeway which links Collierville with I-240. The route enters Mississippi 3 miles (4.8 km) southeast of SR 385. This segment of the highway is concurrently designated State Route 86 (SR 86).

Mississippi[edit]

US 72 enters Mississippi in western Marshall County. The route follows rolling hills across the extreme northern part of the state, passing through Walnut and Corinth as it heads east. Near Burnsville, US 72 crosses the Divide Cut of the Tennessee–Tombigbee Waterway. Farther east, the route enters the Tennessee Valley and heads through Iuka before crossing into Alabama.

All of US 72 in Mississippi has been upgraded to four-lane highway, with the last section between MS 302 and the Tennessee state line being completed in 2019. Legally, the Mississippi section of US 72 is defined in Mississippi Code § 65-3-3.

Alabama[edit]

US 72 enters Alabama just west of Cherokee. The route parallels the Tennessee River east to Muscle Shoals, where US 72 Alternate splits from US 72. The mainline turns north, passing through Muscle Shoals and crossing the Tennessee River, entering Florence on the opposite bank. From Florence to Huntsville, the route heads through areas dominated by farmland. Between the two locales, however, US 72 enters Athens.

After passing through Athens and an overpass with Interstate 65 (I-65), US 72 approaches Huntsville from the west. Part of this section has the local name University Drive. At an interchange with Memorial Parkway, the route turns northward briefly, joining the routes of US 231 and US 431, until it breaks off from the Parkway and heads eastward again. (This part is known to locals as "72 East" because it is east of the Parkway; it has no other name.) Northeast of downtown Huntsville, US 72 interchanges with I-565. I-565/US 72 Alt., part of Corridor V of the Appalachian Development Highway System, terminates at the interchange while US 72 takes over the freeway alignment, joining Corridor V.

I-565 is mentioned as the eastbound route and SR 20 is mentioned as the westbound route. Signs for I-565 east at this interchange recently were changed to remove any mention of SR 20 east. Most of the US 72 portion of Corridor V is a four-lane divided expressway with at-grade intersections. Past Huntsville, US 72 follows several mountain valleys to Scottsboro. From Scottsboro, the route follows a northeasterly routing similar to that of the Tennessee River as it enters Tennessee for the second time.

All of US 72 within Alabama is four lanes in width. Additionally, much of US 72 has been upgraded through northeast Alabama, with interchanges at the major state highways. Just west of Moores Mill Road in Huntsville, US 72 becomes limited access over Chapman Mountain.

Throughout Alabama, US 72 is paired with unsigned State Route 2 (SR 2).

The stretch of US 72 paralleling I-59 to the far northwest in between Scottsboro and South Pittsburg contains multiple freeway-style Interchanges.

East Tennessee[edit]

US 72 enters Tennessee for the second time just south of South Pittsburg. At South Pittsburg, Corridor V ends at an interchange with Interstate 24. US 64, concurrent with I-24 west of the exit, departs the expressway and forms an overlap with US 72 through Kimball to Jasper, where US 41 joins the concurrency. Just east of Jasper, the highways cross the Tennessee River on Nickajack Lake. The route then follows a cut in the Cumberland Plateau made by the Tennessee River to the western outskirts of Chattanooga, where it interchanges with I-24 once more. Just east of the interchange, US 11 joins the overlap.

Together, US 11, US 41, US 64, and US 72 follow the bluffs on Lookout Mountain above the Tennessee River to Chattanooga, where the routes follow Broad Street north into downtown. At the corner of Main Street and Broad Street, US 72 comes to an end; US 76 begins at the intersection, making one highway in essence a continuation of the other.

US 72 originally went through downtown South Pittsburg on Cedar Avenue.

History[edit]

West Tennessee[edit]

Originally, US 72 followed US 45 to Selmer and followed a route west to Memphis. In 1931, US 64 replaced US 72 between Memphis and Selmer. In 1935, US 72 was routed to Memphis through Mississippi from Corinth removing the extension on US 45 to Selmer.

As late as the early 1970s, US 72 followed State Route 57 (Poplar Avenue) from Collierville to its western terminus at East Parkway N. (which carried US 64, US 70, and US 79, as well as State Route 1). During the mid-1980s until the early 2000s, U.S. 72's westbound route in midtown Memphis was changed to switch from Poplar Avenue to a westbound off-ramp connection with Union Avenue (just as its name changed from Walnut Grove Road), instead of following Poplar west to East Parkway North. (In the same trend, eastbound US 72 ignored East Parkway South and continued eastward on Union—joining SR 57—until an exit ramp deposited the two highways onto eastbound Poplar.) Some signs still remain from this route change.

Mississippi[edit]

In Tishomingo County, US 72 originally followed the current Road 172 / Quitman Street through Iuka before being bypassed in the mid-1980s. Also, An Old US 72 exists south of US 72 between Burnsville and Glen. US 72 also followed Alcorn County Road 218 and entered Corinth on Proper Street. Until 1935, US 72 followed US 45, now Polk Street / Mississippi Highway 145 north into Tennessee. Also, included in the original 1935 routing west of Corinth followed Mississippi State Route 2 / Kossuth Road to Kossuth before turning west. Continuing westward, yet another segment of Old US 72 exists south of US 72 in Benton County from just west of the Tippah County line to just east of the Wolf River near Canaan. The bridge across the Wolf River collapsed due to flooding and is now closed; much of this segment is now on private property and little evidence of pavement remains due to washout and ecological succession. The continuation of this segment west of Wolf River to Mississippi Highway 5 is signed Wyatt Road. Finally, there is one more route that may have been a former US 72 road alignment. Boswell Road begins as a curve off of US 72 between Slayden and Mount Pleasant as a gravel road, and heads generally parallel to US 72 as a gravel road, before stopping in Mount Pleasant at Mississippi Highway 311. The possible former alignment then continues from the staggered junction heading west as a partially paved road. This road is now broken by Mississippi Highway 302, but continues to head west as a gravel road for a mile, for a total of approximately 3.5 miles (5.6 km).

Alabama[edit]

1926 Alabama highway sign

Most of the original US 72 route in Alabama paralleled the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, a critical route for the South during the American Civil War.[5][6] Some sections of the original road were named the Memphis Pike reflecting the idea of connecting Chattanooga to Memphis, Tennessee. The original route also belonged to the original route of the Lee Highway. Both of these designations can be found in western Colbert County where sections of the original highway, including parts of Colbert County Route 20 still bear those names.[7]

The original route once passed through Tuscumbia on what is named today the Old Lee Highway and Main Street. This route was bypassed in the 1960s.

In Florence US 72 originally followed Huntsville Road to Royal Avenue, then north to Tennessee Street, and finally west to Court Street. Its route was later moved two blocks south through downtown Florence, from Tennessee Street to Dr. Hicks Boulevard.

East of Florence the original route is now County Highway 66 through downtown Rogersville and Killen.

Athens' Clinton and Washington Streets hosted a Business 72 route in earlier years. This route was decommissioned in the 1980s.

US 72 has seen several route changes in Huntsville that included a temporary route down Sparkman Drive in the 1960s. Other original routes include Andrew Jackson Way to Holmes Avenue and down Holmes Avenue to reconnect to the original route.

Prior to 1931, US 72 passed through Big Cove between Huntsville and Paint Rock via Little Cove Rd/Old "US 431". That route was abandoned for the one used today over Chapman Mountain.

Other original routes include State Route 35 from Woodville to the west side of Scottsboro, State Route 279 east of Scottsboro, and State Route 277 from Stevenson to Bridgeport. State Route 277 carries the distinction of being the last two-lane section of US 72 in Alabama. Today, the entire route through Alabama has a minimum of four lanes.

Major intersections[edit]

StateCountyLocationmi[a]kmDestinationsNotes
TennesseeShelbyMemphis0.00.0South Bellevue Boulevard (US 51 south) / Union Avenue (US 51 north/US 64 west / US 70 west / US 79 south)Western terminus; west end of US 64/70/79/SR 23 overlap; western terminus of SR 23
2.13.4 SR 277 (East Parkway / US 64 east / US 70 east / US 79 north)East end of US 64/70/79 overlap
3.15.0Walnut Grove Road (SR 23 east) / Poplar Avenue (SR 57 west)East end of SR 23 overlap; west end of SR 57 overlap; no direct access from US 72 east to SR 57 west or from US 72 west to SR 23 east
8.7–
9.1
14.0–
14.6
I-240 – Jackson, NashvilleI-240 exits 15A-B
Germantown12.420.0 SR 177 south (West Street) / West Farmington BoulevardWest end of SR 177 overlap; route signed westbound only
12.620.3 SR 177 north (Germantown Road) / Germantown RoadEast end of SR 177 overlap
Collierville20.332.7 SR 175 west (South Byhalia Road) / New Byhalia RoadEastern terminus of SR 175
20.633.2 SR 57 east – Moscow, PickwickEast end of SR 57 overlap; west end of SR 86 overlap; Pickwick signed eastbound only
22.736.5 SR 385 (Bill Morris Parkway) to I-240 / I-269 – Memphis, ArlingtonInterchange on SR 385; To I-269 signed eastbound only
ShelbyFayette
county line
ColliervillePiperton line23.7–
24.0
38.1–
38.6
I-269 – ArlingtonI-269 exit 1
FayettePiperton25.541.0 SR 196 northSouthern terminus of SR 196
MississippiMarshall1.1–
1.3
1.8–
2.1
Industrial Road / Wingo RoadInterchange
4.4–
5.3
7.1–
8.5
MS 302 west – Southaven, Olive BranchInterchange; eastern terminus of MS 302
Mount Pleasant6.410.3 MS 311 south / Rossville Road – Holly Springs, Strawberry Plains Audubon CenterNorthern terminus of MS 311
Slayden10.617.1South Slayden Road (MS 313 south) / North Slayden RoadNorthern terminus of SR 313
Benton18.830.3 MS 7 – Holly Springs, Michigan City
21.734.9Harris Chapel Road (MS 5 north) / Meridian RoadWest end of MS 5 overlap
23.738.1 MS 5 south – AshlandEast end of MS 5 overlap
TippahWalnut41.366.5 MS 15 – Ripley, Bolivar
AlcornCorinth60.697.5 MS 2 west (Kossuth Road) – Kossuth, RipleyWest end of MS 2 overlap
Corinth61.8–
62.0
99.5–
99.8
US 45 / MS 2 east – Tupelo, Jackson TNEast end of MS 2 overlap; interchange on US 45
63.0101.4South Tate Street (MS 145) – Downtown CorinthDestination signed eastbound only
63.9102.8 MS 785 north (South Cass Street) / South Cass Street – Downtown CorinthSouthern terminus of MS 785; destination signed westbound only
Glen70.8113.9MS 779 northRoute is unsigned
TishomingoBurnsville76.4123.0 MS 365 – Cairo, Savannah TNInterchange
Burnsville77.7–
78.0
125.0–
125.5
Yellow Creek
Tennessee—Tombigbee Waterway
78.3126.0 MS 172 east / County Road 961Western terminus of MS 172
Iuka83.6–
84.1
134.5–
135.3
MS 25 – Iuka, FultonInterchange
89.6144.2 MS 172 west (Lee Highway)Eastern terminus of MS 172
AlabamaColbert5.7[8]9.2Natchez Trace Parkway Logo.gif To Natchez Trace Parkway
12.7[9]20.4Barton Riverfront Industrial ParkInterchange
17.68628.463 SR 247 south – Red BayNorthern terminus of SR 247
TuscumbiaMuscle Shoals line26.17842.129
US 43 south / SR 17 south (SR 13 south) / US 72 Alt. east / SR 20 east – Russellville, Decatur, Joe Wheeler State Park
West end of US 43/SR 13/17/20 overlap; western terminus of US 72 Alt.; Russellville/Wheeler SP signed eastbound only, Decatur signed westbound only
Muscle ShoalsSheffield line29.50647.485 SR 184 east (East Second Street) / East Second Street – SheffieldWestern terminus of SR 184
ColbertLimestone
county line
Florence31.18550.187O'Neal Bridge over Tennessee River
LauderdaleFlorence31.93251.390 SR 20 west – Savannah TNNorth end of SR 20 overlap; no direct access from SR 20 east to US 72 east; interchange
33.77054.348 SR 157 (Helton Drive) / SR 17 north – Muscle Shoals, Waynesboro TNEast end of SR 17 overlap; interchange on SR 157
36.09358.086 SR 133 (Cox Creek Parkway)
40.48965.161 US 43 north / SR 13 northEast end of US 43 / SR 13 overlap
Elgin50.17680.750 SR 101 – Town Creek, Lexington, Wheeler Dam
Rogersville55.96690.069 SR 207 north (Wheeler Street) / CR 91 (Lambs Ferry Road) – Pulaski, AndersonSouthern terminus of SR 207
LauderdaleLimestone
county line
59.80496.245Elk River Bridge (EB)[10] and Henry E. Hamilton Memorial Bridge (WB) over Elk River
LimestoneAthens75.766121.934 US 31 (Bee Line Highway) – Decatur, NashvilleDecatur signed westbound only; interchange on US 31
76.756123.527 I-65 – Birmingham, NashvilleI-65 exit 351
MadisonHuntsville92.902149.511 SR 255 (Research Park Boulevard) to I-565 / SR 53Interchange on SR 255
95.412153.551 SR 53 (Jordan Lane)
97.034156.161 US 231 south / US 431 south (Memorial Parkway) to I-565 / University DriveWest end of US 231 / US 431 overlap
98.711158.860 US 231 north / US 431 north (Memorial Parkway) / Sparkman DriveEast end of US 231 / US 431 overlap
100.203161.261 I-565 west (US 72 Alt. west) – DecaturEastern terminus of I-565 / US 72 Alt.; Decatur signed westbound only; I-565 exit 21
Jackson116.046186.758 SR 65 northSouthern terminus of SR 65
Woodville120.973194.687 SR 35 south (Willow Street) – WoodvilleNorthern terminus of SR 35
Scottsboro132.879213.848 SR 79
136.725220.038 SR 279 south (South Broad Street) / South Broad StreetWest end of SR 279 overlap; interchange
138.554222.981 SR 35 / SR 279 north (Veterans Drive)East end of SR 279 overlap; interchange
142.004228.533 SR 279 south (East Willow Street) – ScottsboroNorthern terminus of SR 279
Stevenson155.848250.813 SR 117 – StevensonInterchange
Stevenson158.320254.791 SR 277 – StevensonInterchange
Bridgeport165.983267.124Bridgeport (SR 277)Interchange
TennesseeMarionSouth Pittsburg2.23.5 SR 156 – South Pittsburg, New HopeInterchange; eastbound exit and westbound entrance
2.94.7 To SR 156 / North Cedar Avenue – South PittsburgInterchange; westbound exit and eastbound entrance
Kimball4.2–
4.5
6.8–
7.2
I-24 west / US 64 – Chattanooga, NashvilleWest end of US 64 overlap; I-24 exits 152A-B
4.57.2 SR 2 north (Battle Creek Road)West end of SR 2 overlap
Jasper9.4–
9.5
15.1–
15.3
US 41 north / SR 28 to I-24 – DunlapWest end of US 41 overlap; interchange on SR 28
12.620.3 SR 27 to I-24 – Nickajack, Dunlap
14.6–
15.0
23.5–
24.1
Tennessee River
Haletown15.224.5 SR 134 east (J.E. Clouse Highway) to I-24 / SR 156 – WhitesideWestern terminus of SR 134
HamiltonChattanooga29.5–
29.6
47.5–
47.6
I-24 – Nashville, Birmingham, ChattanoogaI-24 exit 174
29.747.8 US 11 south (Birmingham Highway / SR 38 south)West end of US 11 overlap
31.350.4 SR 318 south (Old Wauhatchie Pike)Northern terminus of SR 318
32.352.0Ruby Falls, Lookout Mountain (SR 148 south)No direct access from US 72 east to SR 148 south and from SR 148 north to US 72 west; northern terminus of SR 148
33.353.6 SR 17 south (Tennessee Avenue) to SR 58 – Incline, Rock CityWest end of SR 17 overlap
34.655.7 US 27 north (I-124 north) – Red BankDirect access only from US 72 east to US 27 north and from I-24 east/US 27 south to US 72 east
34.856.0 US 11 north / US 64 east / SR 58 (West 20th Street / SR 2 east)East end of US 11 / US 64 / SR 2 overlap
35.156.5 US 41 south / US 76 east / SR 17 north (West Main Street) / Broad StreetEastern terminus; east end of US 41 overlap; western terminus of US 76
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

Special routes[edit]

Muscle Shoals–Huntsville alternate route[edit]


U.S. Route 72 Alternate
LocationMuscle Shoals to Huntsville, Alabama

U.S. Route 72 Alternate (US 72 Alternate) exists in Alabama on the south side of the Tennessee River between Muscle Shoals and Decatur. US 72 alt. crosses the Tennessee River at Decatur along with US 31 and follows the entire route of Interstate 565. However, signs on I-65 at the I-565 exit make no mention of US 72 Alt. and only mention AL 20 westbound from the I-65/I-565 junction. AL 20 was co-signed with US 72 Alt. from Muscle Shoals to Huntsville. AL 20 has since been truncated to the junction of I-65 just east of Decatur. Originally, US 72 Alt. turned off of AL 20 on to AL 53 (Jordan Lane) in Huntsville and followed it north 1-mile (1.6 km) to rejoin with US 72. With the completion of I-565 in the early 1990s, US 72 Alt. was routed along with I-565 to the termination of I-565 at US 72.

US 72 Alternate between Decatur and Huntsville is part of Corridor V of the Appalachian Development Highway System.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Mileage resets at state lines[1][2][3][4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Google (July 7, 2020). "Western Tennessee section" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Google (July 6, 2020). "Mississippi section" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Alabama Department of Transportation Milepost/General Highway Maps". Alabama Department of Transportation. Retrieved July 2, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Google (July 7, 2020). "Eastern Tennessee section" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
  5. ^ "Collierville Tennessee, American Civil War, November 3, 1863". Retrieved November 28, 2007.
  6. ^ "Shiloh, Pittsburg Landing, Civil War, Tennessee, American Civil War, April 6–7, 1862". Retrieved November 28, 2007.
  7. ^ Google (November 28, 2007). "U.S. Route 72" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved November 28, 2007.
  8. ^ Google (July 6, 2020). "U.S. Route 72" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  9. ^ Google (July 6, 2020). "U.S. Route 72" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  10. ^ "Elk River Bridge". BridgeHunter.com. Retrieved July 7, 2020.

The Drive By Truckers song “72 (This Highway’s Mean)” is written about highway 72.

Sources[edit]

  • Rand McNally Road Atlases 1926 - 2006

External links[edit]

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata

Media related to U.S. Route 72 at Wikimedia Commons

Browse numbered routes
SR 71TNSR 72
SR 85Tennessee 86.svgSR 87
MS 69MSMS 76
SR 71ALSR 73
SR 1Alabama 2.svgSR 3