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FreightWaves Classics: Interstate 2 is a new addition to the system

Signs for Interstate 2 and US Highway 83. (Photo:


There are 70 primary interstate highways in the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways (commonly known as the Interstate Highway System, or IHS). The IHS is a network of the major freeways in the United States. The oldest parts of the interstate system date back to the 1950s, although the planning for the system began prior to World War II. To learn more about their history, read previous FreightWaves Classics articles here, here and here.

In this article and future articles, information about specific interstates will be explored. As most people know, interstate highways are assigned one- or two-digit route numbers (such as I-10 or I-55). Associated “auxiliary” interstate highways receive three-digit route numbers (such as I-270, I-495, etc.). 

Generally, odd-numbered interstates run south-north, with lower numbers in the West and higher numbers in the East. Even-numbered interstates run west-east, with lower numbers in the South and higher numbers in the North. (This is the opposite of the national highway system, whose lowest numbered north-south routes are in the East, the highest numbered routes in the West.)

Interstate highways whose route numbers are divisible by 5 usually represent major coast-to-coast or border-to-border routes (for example, I-10 runs from Santa Monica, California, to Jacksonville, Florida, and from the Pacific to Atlantic oceans). 

Highway signs show an upcoming exit for Interstate 2. (Photo:
Highway signs show an upcoming exit for Interstate 2. (Photo:

Relatively new – and very short  

The first interstate highway that will be covered is Interstate 2 (I-2), a road that most readers may not be familiar with. That is due to two factors – it is a relatively new interstate and is quite short. I-2 is also known as Expressway 83 by those in its area. At this time it is a partially completed intrastate interstate highway. It is intrastate because it does not cross a state border, and it is part of the IHS because it was built to the standards of the interstate system. 

Currently, I-2 runs through the lower Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas for 46.8 miles. It begins at the intersection of US Highway 83 (US 83) and Business US Highway 83 (Bus. US 83) in Penitas and heads eastward before terminating at I-69E/US 77/US 83 in Harlingen. 

Along its entire length, I-2 runs concurrently with US 83. I-2 also parallels Mexico Federal Highway 2 (MX 2), a major east-west route that follows the border between the two nations along the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. When I-2 is completed, the western terminus will be the city of Laredo and will likely connect to I-35.

This map shows I-2's location and route. (Image:
This map shows I-2’s location and route. (Image:

As one of the newest highways designated an interstate, I-2 received its interstate signage in 2013. Its construction was part of the IHS expansion into southern Texas. That expansion includes three branches of I-69 in Texas. Currently, I-2 intersects I-69E and I-69C, and when it is completed to Laredo, will intersect I-69W as well. As of 2019, this complex of Interstate highways does not yet connect to the rest of the system.

Interstate 2 runs east and passes the cities of Palmview, Mission, McAllen, Pharr, San Juan and Weslaco (among others). When it terminates in Harlingen at I-69E, that interstate continues southeast to Brownsville and the Veterans Bridge, which crosses the border and connects Brownsville to Matamoros, Mexico. Designated as a branch of the IH 69 corridor, IH 2 improves mobility and improves freight traffic to points north with the connections with IH 69C/U.S. 281 north and the continuation of US 83 to Laredo.

At its western end, I-2 meets a grade-separated interchange with Showers Road, west of Palmview. From there US 83 extends along a five-lane, at-grade boulevard through Penitas and La Joya. Construction on the north side of those cities is the US 83 Relief Route, a new four-lane, controlled access highway. This construction (which had been scheduled to be finished earlier this year) provides 6.7 miles of new roadway for US 83 and a future extension of I-2.

Scott Mall

Scott Mall serves as Managing Editor of FreightWaves Classics. He writes articles for the website, edits the SONAR Daily Watch series, marketing material for FreightWaves and a variety of FreightWaves special projects. Mall’s career spans 45 years in public relations, marketing and communications for Fortune 500 corporations, international non-profits, public relations agencies and government agencies.