A sign showing the distance to Wilmington, North Carolina at the start of Interstate 40 in Barstow. This sign has been stolen several times.
Interstate 40 is a major east–west route of the Interstate Highway System. Its western end is in Barstow, California. Known as the Needles Freeway, it heads east from Barstow across the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County to Needles, before it crosses into Arizona southwest of Kingman. I-40 covers 155 miles (249 km) in California.
A sign in California showing the distance to Wilmington, North Carolina has been stolen several times.
I-40 west towards L.A., nearing exit 201 in Arizona
Interstate 40 is a main route to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, with the exits leading into Grand Canyon National Park in Williams and Flagstaff. I-40 covers 359 mi (577.75 km) in Arizona.
Just west of exit 190, west of Flagstaff, is its highest elevation along I-40 in the U.S., as the road crosses just over 7,320 ft (2,231.14 m). I-40 also passes through the Navajo Nation, the largest Indian reservation in the U.S.
Interstate 40 in eastern New Mexico
I-40 covers 374 miles (602 km) in New Mexico. Notable cities along I-40 include Gallup, Grants, Albuquerque, Santa Rosa, and Tucumcari. I-40 also travels through several different Indian reservations in the western half of the state. It reaches its highest point of 7,275 feet at the Continental Divide in western New Mexico between Gallup and Grants.
Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are the only three states where I-40 has a speed limit of 75 mph (120 km/h) instead of 70 mph (112 km/h) which happens in California, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
An at-grade intersection on I-40 in Texas. Photo taken in 2003.
In the west Texas panhandle area, there are several ranch roads connected directly to the interstate. One of the marked at-grade crossings is shown to the right. The only major city in Texas that is directly served by I-40 is Amarillo, which connects with Interstate 27 that runs south toward Lubbock. I-40 has only one welcome center in the state that is located in Amarillo at the exit for Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport, serving both sides of the interstate.
I-40 Exit 240A in Oklahoma
Interstate 40 goes through the heart of the state, passing through many Oklahoma cities and towns, including Erick, Sayre, Elk City, Clinton, Weatherford, El Reno, Yukon, Oklahoma City, Del City, Midwest City, Shawnee, Okemah, Henryetta, Checotah, Sallisaw, and Roland. I-40 covers 331 miles (533 km) in Oklahoma.
In Downtown Oklahoma City, Interstate 40 was rerouted a mile south of its former alignment and a 10–lane (5 in each direction) facility replaced the former I-40 Crosstown Bridge; itself will be replaced with an urban boulevard currently designated as Oklahoma City Boulevard.
Interstate 40 enters the west-central part of the state and runs for 284 miles (457 km) in Arkansas. The route passes through Van Buren, where it intersects the southbound Interstate 540/US 71 to Fort Smith. The route continues east to Alma to intersect Interstate 49 north to Fayetteville, Arkansas. Running through the Ozark Mountains, I-40 serves Ozark, Clarksville, Russellville, Morrilton and Conway. The route turns south after Conway and enters North Little Rock, which brings high volume interchanges with Interstate 430, I-30/US 65/US 67/US 167, and I-440/AR 440. The interstate continues east through Lonoke, Brinkley, and West Memphis on the eastern side. Interstate 40 briefly overlaps Interstate 55 in West Memphis before it crosses the Mississippi River on the Hernando de Soto Bridge and enters Memphis, Tennessee.
More of Interstate 40 passes through Tennessee, 455 miles (732 km), than any other state. The interstate goes through all of the three Grand Divisions of Tennessee and its three largest cities, Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville. Jackson, Lebanon, Cookeville, Crossville, and Newport are other notable cities and/or towns through which I-40 passes. Before leaving the state, I-40 enters the Great Smoky Mountains towards North Carolina.
The section of Interstate 40 which runs between Memphis and Nashville is often referred to as the Music Highway. During reconstruction, a long section of I-40 through downtown Knoxville near the central Malfunction Junction was completely closed to traffic from May 1, 2008 and not reopened until June 12, 2009 with all traffic redirected via Interstate 640, the northern bypass route. The redesigned section now has additional lanes in each direction, is less congested, and has fewer accidents.
east approaching the Raleigh, NC Beltline
In North Carolina, I-40 travels 421 miles (678 km). It enters the state as a winding mountain freeway through the Great Smoky Mountains which frequently closes due to landslides and weather conditions. It enters the state on a mostly north-south alignment, turning to a more east-west alignment upon merging with U.S. Route 74 at the eastern terminus of the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway. From there the highway passes through Asheville, Hickory, and Statesville before reaching the Piedmont Triad. Just east of the Triad city of Greensboro, North Carolina it merges with I-85 and the two roads split again just west of the Research Triangle area, passing through Durham and Raleigh. From the Triangle to its eastern terminus in Wilmington, it once again takes a more north-south alignment.
Sign displaying distance to Barstow in Wilmington
A standard distance sign exists near the start of the westbound section of I-40 in Wilmington that indicates the distance to Barstow, California as 2,554 miles (4,110 km). Although NCDOT has stated it would not be replaced after frequent thefts, as of August 15, 2013, the sign is present.