U.S. Route 81 in Kansas

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U.S. Highway 81

US-81 highlighted in red
Route information
Maintained by KDOT and the cities of Wellington, Wichita, and Concordia
Major junctions
South end US 81 at Oklahoma state line
Major intersections
North end US 81 at Nebraska state line
CountryUnited States
CountiesSumner, Sedgwick, Harvey, McPherson, Saline, Ottawa, Cloud, Republic
Highway system
  • Kansas State Highway System
K-80 K-82
K-154K-155 (1962).svg K-156
K-224K-225.svgK-226.svg K-227

U.S. Route 81 (US-81) is a part of the U.S. Highway System that travels from Fort Worth, Texas to the Pembina–Emerson Border Crossing near Pembina, North Dakota. In the U.S. state of Kansas, US-81 is a main north–south highway central part of the state. Wichita is the only metropolitan area US-81 serves in the state but the highway does serve several other larger towns in Kansas such as (from south to north) Wellington and Concordia.

Route description

US-81 at US-166's western terminus

Nearly all of US-81 in Kansas is either freeway or expressway. The route enters Kansas as a two-lane near Caldwell. From South Haven to Wichita it closely parallels Interstate 35, which is also known as the Kansas Turnpike in that area. After South Haven, the only town of any significance along US 81 until Wichita is Wellington, which is just west of the Turnpike along U.S. Route 160.

US-81 concurrent with I-135 and K-15

At Wichita, US-81 joins Interstate 135. The two highways remain joined until Salina, with I-135's mile markers taking precedence. Interstate 135 ends at Interstate 70 but US-81 continues as a freeway to Minneapolis, then as an expressway passing through Concordia before exiting the state north of Belleville.

All but 5.3 miles (9 km) of US-81's alignment is maintained by KDOT. The entire 3.128-mile (5.034 km) section within Wellington is maintained by the city.[2] The section within Wichita from the south city limit to I-135 is maintained by the city.[3] The entire 2.123-mile (3.417 km) section within Concordia is maintained by the city.[4]


US-81 at the north end of I-135 at I-70

The alignment of US-81 from Wichita to Salina prior to the completion Interstate 135 is fully intact. The prior alignment ran from where current US-81 breaks off for Interstate 135 at 47th street, north through Wichita along Broadway street. Old US-81 roughly parallels Interstate 135 to Newton. Old US-81 follows current K-15 through Newton between an interchange with US-50 and Hesston Road, where old US-81 breaks northwest onto Hesston road. Old US-81 then travels through the small Kansas towns of Hesston, Moundridge, and Elyria, before turning to the north, and going through the town of McPherson as Main street. North of McPherson, old US-81 continues to Lindsborg, where it follows current K-4 until an interchange with Interstate 135. Old US-81 passes under Interstate 135 and continues to parallel it about 1/2 mile to the east. Old US-81 then travels through Assaria, where it encounters another brief overlap with K-4 and K-104. Old US-81 continues through the city of Salina as Ninth street. North of Salina, Old US-81 encounters brief overlaps with K-143 and K-18. Old US-81 follows K-106 to an interchange with current US-81, where the two alignments are joined back together.


Length.466 mi (750 m)
ExistedJune 8, 1960[5]c. 1979

In a June 8, 1960 resolution, K-225 was assigned from US-81 east to I-35W (modern I-135).[5] K-225 became a section of US-81 by 1979, when US-81 was moved from its former alignment in Wichita to run along I-135.[6][7][8]

K-226 was first designated as a state highway in a March 8, 1961 resolution.[9] The highway remained the same, then between 1979 and 1981, US-81 had been realigned onto I-35W and at this time K-226 was decommissioned.[7][10]


LocationNear Lindsborg
ExistedAugust 24, 1966–March 29, 1961

In an August 24, 1966 resolution, a section of the new I-35W was to be built south of Lindsborg. At this time, K-155 was proposed to connect US-81 to the new I-35W. This plan was later cancelled in a March 29, 1961 meeting, when US-81 was realigned onto I-35W to current exit 72, then west along the proposed K-155 (modern Smoky Valley Road) to the old US-81 alignment.[11]

From Salina to the Nebraska state line, the highway is named the Frank Carlson Memorial Highway, in honor of the late Senator Frank Carlson. Senator Carlson was a native of Concordia who represented Kansas in the U.S. Senate from 1951 to 1969. Before serving in the Senate, he was Governor of Kansas from 1947 to 1950.

Major intersections

SumnerCaldwell Township0.0000.000
US 81 south – Enid
Continuation into Oklahoma
K-49 north (Main Street north) – Conway Springs
Southern terminus of K-49
South Haven
US-177 south (Main Street south) – Blackwell OK
Northern terminus of US-177

US-166 east – Arkansas City
Western terminus of US-166
US-160 west (8th Street) – Harper
Southern terminus of US-160 concurrency
North Washington Avenue – Business DistrictFormer routing of US-81

US-160 east / 16th Street / A Street south – Winfield
Roundabout; northern terminus of US-160 concurrency
Belle Plaine Township
K-55 east – Belle Plaine
Western terminus of K-55
county line
Belle PlaineSalem
township line

K-53 east to I-35 / Kansas Turnpike – Mulvane
Western terminus of K-53

To I-35 / Kansas Turnpike via Grand Avenue

I-135 south to I-35 / Kansas Turnpike
Tolled; south end of freeway section; southern terminus of I-135 concurrency; I-135 exit 1A
Overlap with I-135
I-135 ends / I-70 / US-40 – Topeka, Hays
Northern terminus of I-135 concurrency; northern terminus of I-135; I-70 exit 250A-B; I-135 exit 95A-B; cloverleaf interchange
Elm Creek Township
K-143 south
Northern terminus of K-143
OttawaBennington Township K-18 – Lincoln, Junction City
Concord Township K-106 – MinneapolisNorth end of freeway section
Logan Township
K-41 west – Delphos
Eastern terminus of K-41
CloudMeredith Township US-24 – Clay Center, BeloitInterchange
Concordia K-9 (Sixth Street) – Beloit, Clyde
RepublicLincoln Township K-148 – Norway, Agenda
Belleville US-36 – Washington, MankatoInterchange
Liberty Township
US 81 north – Hebron
Continuation into Nebraska
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

Business routes


Business plate.svg

U.S. Highway 81 Business


Business US-81 in Kansas is in McPherson. This route is 6 miles (9.7 km) long. It begins at the intersection of I-135, US-81, and US-56 east of McPherson. It goes west on Kansas Ave. for about two miles (3 km) in a concurrency with US-56 and turns south on Main Street for 2 miles (3.2 km), passing Central Christian College and National Cooperative Refinery Association. At K-61, it exits east in a 2 miles (3.2 km) "wrong-way" concurrency with K-61 before ending at I-135 and US-81 southeast of McPherson.

BUS US-81 in McPherson first appeared on the Kansas Department of Transportation Map in 1970 when Interstate 35W (now Interstate 135) was completed between McPherson and Salina.[12]


Business plate.svg

U.S. Highway 81 Business


Former Business US-81 in Lindsborg began at the intersection of Interstate 135, US-81, and K-4 north of Lindsborg on an older routing of US-81. It shared a 4 miles (6.4 km) concurrency with K-4, which turns to the west in south Lindsborg. At this junction, it went for another mile south before turning east on Smoky Valley Road, ending 3 miles (4.8 km) later at I-135 and US-81. This BUS US-81 had a total length of 8 miles (13 km).

The Lindsborg business loop first appeared in 1970, at the same time as the McPherson loop.[12]


  1. ^ Federal Highway Administration, National Highway Planning Network GIS data version 2005.08
  2. ^ Kansas Department of Transportation (January 9, 2008). "Resolution Designating City Connecting Links in State Highway System". Topeka: Kansas Department of Transportation. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  3. ^ Kansas Department of Transportation (July 18, 2017). "Resolution Designating City Connecting Links in State Highway System". Topeka: Kansas Department of Transportation. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  4. ^ Kansas Department of Transportation (September 19, 2001). "Resolution Designating City Connecting Links in State Highway System". Topeka: Kansas Department of Transportation. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  5. ^ a b State Highway Commission of Kansas (June 8, 1960). "Resolution for location and designation". Topeka: State Highway Commission of Kansas. Retrieved April 19, 2020.
  6. ^ State Highway Commission of Kansas (1978). Kansas State Highway System (PDF) (Map). Scale not given. Topeka: State Highway Commission of Kansas. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  7. ^ a b State Highway Commission of Kansas (1979). Kansas State Highway System (PDF) (Map) (1979–1980 ed.). Scale not given. Topeka: State Highway Commission of Kansas. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  8. ^ Bureau of Transportation Planning (1978). Sedgwick County (PDF) (Map). General Highway Map. Topeka: Kansas Department of Transportation. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  9. ^ State Highway Commission of Kansas (March 8, 1961). "Resolution for location and desegnation of road in Sedgwick County". Topeka: State Highway Commission of Kansas. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  10. ^ State Highway Commission of Kansas (1981). Kansas State Highway System (PDF) (Map) (1981–1982 ed.). Scale not given. Topeka: State Highway Commission of Kansas. Retrieved April 30, 2020.
  11. ^ State Highway Commission of Kansas (August 24, 1966). "Resolution for location, relocation and redesignation of roads using State-wide Funds as follows". Topeka: State Highway Commission of Kansas. Retrieved April 28, 2020.
  12. ^ a b Official State Transportation Map (PDF) (Map) (1970 ed.). Kansas Department of Transportation. Retrieved 2008-05-12.

External links

U.S. Route 81
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