U.S. Route 72
|Corridor V / Lee Highway|
|Length||317.811 mi (511.467 km)|
|West end||US 51 / US 64 / US 70 / US 79 in Memphis, TN|
|East end||US 41 / US 76 in Chattanooga, TN|
|States||Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama|
|Counties||West TN: Shelby, Fayette|
MS: Marshall, Benton, Tippah, Alcorn, Tishomingo
AL: Colbert, Lauderdale, Limestone, Madison, Jackson
East TN: Marion, Hamilton
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, throughout 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.
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.
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) south of its concurrency with SR 57 between Union Avenue in Memphis and Collierville.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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. 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.
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.
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.
|Tennessee||Shelby||Memphis||0.0||0.0||South 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|
|2.1||3.4||SR 277 (East Parkway / US 64 east / US 70 east / US 79 north)||East end of US 64/70/79 overlap|
|3.1||5.0||Walnut 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|
|I-240 – Jackson, Nashville||I-240 exits 15A-B|
|Germantown||12.4||20.0||SR 177 south (West Street) / West Farmington Boulevard||West end of SR 177 overlap; route signed westbound only|
|12.6||20.3||SR 177 north (Germantown Road) / Germantown Road||East end of SR 177 overlap|
|Collierville||20.3||32.7||SR 175 west (South Byhalia Road) / New Byhalia Road||Eastern terminus of SR 175|
|20.6||33.2||SR 57 east – Moscow, Pickwick||East end of SR 57 overlap; west end of SR 86 overlap; Pickwick signed eastbound only|
SR 385 (Bill Morris Parkway) to I-240 / I-269 – Memphis, Arlington
|Interchange on SR 385; To I-269 signed eastbound only|
|I-269 – Arlington||I-269 exit 1|
|Fayette||Piperton||25.5||41.0||SR 196 north||Southern terminus of SR 196|
|Industrial Road / Wingo Road||Interchange|
|MS 302 west – Southaven, Olive Branch||Interchange; eastern terminus of MS 302|
|Mount Pleasant||6.4||10.3||MS 311 south / Rossville Road – Holly Springs, Strawberry Plains Audubon Center||Northern terminus of MS 311|
|Slayden||10.6||17.1||South Slayden Road (MS 313 south) / North Slayden Road||Northern terminus of SR 313|
|Benton||||18.8||30.3||MS 7 – Holly Springs, Michigan City|
|||21.7||34.9||Harris Chapel Road (MS 5 north) / Meridian Road||West end of MS 5 overlap|
|||23.7||38.1||MS 5 south – Ashland||East end of MS 5 overlap|
|Tippah||Walnut||41.3||66.5||MS 15 – Ripley, Bolivar|
|Alcorn||Corinth||60.6||97.5||MS 2 west (Kossuth Road) – Kossuth, Ripley||West end of MS 2 overlap|
|US 45 / MS 2 east – Tupelo, Jackson TN||East end of MS 2 overlap; interchange on US 45|
|63.0||101.4||South Tate Street (MS 145) – Downtown Corinth||Destination signed eastbound only|
|63.9||102.8||MS 785 north (South Cass Street) / South Cass Street – Downtown Corinth||Southern terminus of MS 785; destination signed westbound only|
|Glen||70.8||113.9||MS 779 north||Route is unsigned|
|Tishomingo||Burnsville||76.4||123.0||MS 365 – Cairo, Savannah TN||Interchange|
|||78.3||126.0||MS 172 east / County Road 961||Western terminus of MS 172|
|MS 25 – Iuka, Fulton||Interchange|
|||89.6||144.2||MS 172 west (Lee Highway)||Eastern terminus of MS 172|
|Alabama||Colbert||||5.7||9.2||To Natchez Trace Parkway|
|||12.7||20.4||Barton Riverfront Industrial Park||Interchange|
|||17.686||28.463||SR 247 south – Red Bay||Northern terminus of SR 247|
|Tuscumbia–Muscle Shoals line||26.178||42.129|
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 Shoals–Sheffield line||29.506||47.485||SR 184 east (East Second Street) / East Second Street – Sheffield||Western terminus of SR 184|
|Florence||31.185||50.187||O'Neal Bridge over Tennessee River|
|Lauderdale||Florence||31.932||51.390||SR 20 west – Savannah TN||North end of SR 20 overlap; no direct access from SR 20 east to US 72 east; interchange|
|33.770||54.348||SR 157 (Helton Drive) / SR 17 north – Muscle Shoals, Waynesboro TN||East end of SR 17 overlap; interchange on SR 157|
|36.093||58.086||SR 133 (Cox Creek Parkway)|
|||40.489||65.161||US 43 north / SR 13 north||East end of US 43 / SR 13 overlap|
|Elgin||50.176||80.750||SR 101 – Town Creek, Lexington, Wheeler Dam|
|Rogersville||55.966||90.069||SR 207 north (Wheeler Street) / CR 91 (Lambs Ferry Road) – Pulaski, Anderson||Southern terminus of SR 207|
|||59.804||96.245||Elk River Bridge (EB) and Henry E. Hamilton Memorial Bridge (WB) over Elk River|
|Limestone||Athens||75.766||121.934||US 31 (Bee Line Highway) – Decatur, Nashville||Decatur signed westbound only; interchange on US 31|
|76.756||123.527||I-65 – Birmingham, Nashville||I-65 exit 351|
SR 255 (Research Park Boulevard) to I-565 / SR 53
|Interchange on SR 255|
|95.412||153.551||SR 53 (Jordan Lane)|
US 231 south / US 431 south (Memorial Parkway) to I-565 / University Drive
|West end of US 231 / US 431 overlap|
|98.711||158.860||US 231 north / US 431 north (Memorial Parkway) / Sparkman Drive||East end of US 231 / US 431 overlap|
|100.203||161.261||I-565 west (US 72 Alt. west) – Decatur||Eastern terminus of I-565 / US 72 Alt.; Decatur signed westbound only; I-565 exit 21|
|Jackson||||116.046||186.758||SR 65 north||Southern terminus of SR 65|
|Woodville||120.973||194.687||SR 35 south (Willow Street) – Woodville||Northern terminus of SR 35|
|136.725||220.038||SR 279 south (South Broad Street) / South Broad Street||West end of SR 279 overlap; interchange|
|138.554||222.981||SR 35 / SR 279 north (Veterans Drive)||East end of SR 279 overlap; interchange|
|||142.004||228.533||SR 279 south (East Willow Street) – Scottsboro||Northern terminus of SR 279|
|Stevenson||155.848||250.813||SR 117 – Stevenson||Interchange|
|Stevenson||158.320||254.791||SR 277 – Stevenson||Interchange|
|Bridgeport||165.983||267.124||Bridgeport (SR 277)||Interchange|
|Tennessee||Marion||South Pittsburg||2.2||3.5||SR 156 – South Pittsburg, New Hope||Interchange; eastbound exit and westbound entrance|
To SR 156 / North Cedar Avenue – South Pittsburg
|Interchange; westbound exit and eastbound entrance|
|I-24 west / US 64 – Chattanooga, Nashville||West end of US 64 overlap; I-24 exits 152A-B|
|4.5||7.2||SR 2 north (Battle Creek Road)||West end of SR 2 overlap|
US 41 north / SR 28 to I-24 – Dunlap
|West end of US 41 overlap; interchange on SR 28|
SR 27 to I-24 – Nickajack, Dunlap
SR 134 east (J.E. Clouse Highway) to I-24 / SR 156 – Whiteside
|Western terminus of SR 134|
|I-24 – Nashville, Birmingham, Chattanooga||I-24 exit 174|
|29.7||47.8||US 11 south (Birmingham Highway / SR 38 south)||West end of US 11 overlap|
|31.3||50.4||SR 318 south (Old Wauhatchie Pike)||Northern terminus of SR 318|
|32.3||52.0||Ruby 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|
SR 17 south (Tennessee Avenue) to SR 58 – Incline, Rock City
|West end of SR 17 overlap|
|34.6||55.7||US 27 north (I-124 north) – Red Bank||Direct access only from US 72 east to US 27 north and from I-24 east/US 27 south to US 72 east|
|34.8||56.0||US 11 north / US 64 east / SR 58 (West 20th Street / SR 2 east)||East end of US 11 / US 64 / SR 2 overlap|
|35.1||56.5||US 41 south / US 76 east / SR 17 north (West Main Street) / Broad Street||Eastern terminus; east end of US 41 overlap; western terminus of US 76|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi|
Muscle Shoals–Huntsville alternate route
|Location||Muscle 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.
- U.S. Roads portal
- Southern Rock Opera, a Drive-By Truckers album prominently featuring US 72
- List of United States Numbered Highways
- Google (July 7, 2020). "Western Tennessee section" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
- Google (July 6, 2020). "Mississippi section" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
- "Alabama Department of Transportation Milepost/General Highway Maps". Alabama Department of Transportation. Retrieved July 2, 2020.
- Google (July 7, 2020). "Eastern Tennessee section" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
- "Collierville Tennessee, American Civil War, November 3, 1863". Retrieved November 28, 2007.
- "Shiloh, Pittsburg Landing, Civil War, Tennessee, American Civil War, April 6–7, 1862". Retrieved November 28, 2007.
- Google (November 28, 2007). "U.S. Route 72" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved November 28, 2007.
- Google (July 6, 2020). "U.S. Route 72" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
- Google (July 6, 2020). "U.S. Route 72" (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
- "Elk River Bridge". BridgeHunter.com. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
The Drive By Truckers song “72 (This Highway’s Mean)” is written about highway 72.
- Rand McNally Road Atlases 1926 - 2006
Media related to U.S. Route 72 at Wikimedia Commons
|Browse numbered routes|
|← SR 71||TN||→ SR 72|
|← SR 85||→ SR 87|
|← MS 69||MS||→ MS 76|
|← SR 71||AL||→ SR 73|
|← SR 1||→ SR 3|