U.S. Route 53

U.S. Route 53

U.S. Route 53 marker

U.S. Route 53

U.S. 53 highlighted in red
Route information
Length: 403 mi[1] (649 km)
Existed: 1926[1] – present
Major junctions
South end: US 14 / US 61 / WIS 16
at La Crosse, WI

I-90 at La Crosse, WI
I-94 at Eau Claire, WI
US 12 at Altoona, WI
WIS 29 at Lake Hallie, WI
US 63 at Spooner, WI
US 2 at Superior, WI
I-35 / I-535 at Duluth, MN
MN 33 at Independence, MN
US 169 / MN 169 at Virginia, MN

US 71 / MN 11 at Int'l. Falls, MN
North end: Highway 71 to Highway 11 / TCH
at Fort Frances, ON
Highway system

United States Numbered Highways
List • Bannered • Divided • Replaced

WIS 52 WI WIS 53
US 52 MN MN 54

U.S. Route 53 is a north–south U.S. highway that runs for 403 miles (649 km) from La Crosse, Wisconsin to northern Minnesota. It is the primary north–south route in northwestern Wisconsin, serving as a vital link between I-94 at Eau Claire, Wisconsin and the city of Duluth, Minnesota. The entire route from Eau Claire to the city limits of Superior, Wisconsin is a four lane divided highway. The highway's northern terminus is at the Fort Frances-International Falls Bridge in International Falls, Minnesota, at the U.S.-Canadian border. Its southern terminus is in La Crosse, Wisconsin, at U.S. Highway 14.


Route description


U.S. Highway 53 begins at its southern terminus with a junction at U.S. 14, U.S. 61, and Wisconsin Highway 16 in downtown La Crosse. From there, U.S. 53 crosses Interstate 90 and becomes a freeway bypass of Onalaska and Holmen before proceeding north to Eau Claire as a two-lane roadway. The interchange with Interstate 94 at Eau Claire begins a freeway / expressway stretch for U.S. 53 north to the city limits of Superior. The recently built (circa 2006) freeway in Eau Claire, bypasses most of the city, alleviating congestion on the original route (signed now as both "Business U.S. 53" and Hastings Way.) Business U.S. 53 / Hastings Way is a mix of grade-separated interchanges and at-grade intersections, and is routed through Eau Claire, passing within about 1-mile (1.6 km) of downtown Eau Claire. Other smaller towns between Eau Claire and Superior (Solon Springs and Minong) were bypassed in a similar manner.

Wisconsin's first single-point urban interchange is found along the new U.S. 53 bypass of Eau Claire, at its interchange with U.S. 12, in Altoona.[2] This interchange received the 2005 Outstanding Highway Construction award from the Bureau of Project Development.[3]

U.S. 53 continues as a freeway north of Eau Claire past Chippewa Falls to Rice Lake, where it then becomes an expressway with only two grade-separated interchanges (one at Wisconsin Highway 70 near Spooner and one at Wisconsin Highway 13, immediately southeast of Superior). U.S. 53 has a partial grade-separated interchange with U.S. 2 at South Range, but traffic turning onto U.S. 2 eastbound must take a U-turn at an at-grade crossover past the interchange.

After passing through the city of Superior as a four-lane city surface street (East Second Street) for a 5-mile (8.0 km) stretch, U.S. 53 then approaches the Saint Louis Bay. U.S. 53 then runs together with Interstate 535 and crosses the bay via the John Blatnik Bridge into Minnesota.


U.S. Highway 53 enters the state at the city of Duluth on the John Blatnik Bridge over the Saint Louis Bay. U.S. 53 is concurrent with I-535 for 2.8 miles (4.5 km) as it enters Minnesota.

U.S. 53 / I-535 has an interchange with I-35 in Duluth, known locally as the "Can of Worms"; and features a pair of left exits from I-35, a stoplight, and lane drops over the I-35 bridge.[4]

After its junction with I-35, U.S. 53 continues through Duluth on the recently upgraded Piedmont Avenue and Trinity Road for 3.5 miles (5.6 km).

U.S. 53 is then concurrent with State Highway 194 for six miles (10 km), from Trinity Road in Duluth to Lindahl Road in the city of Hermantown. This four-lane stretch of Highways 53 and 194 are also known as the Miller Trunk Highway in the cities of Duluth and Hermantown.

From Hermantown, the route proceeds north to the city of Virginia. The portion of the route from Duluth to Virginia is a four-lane expressway. U.S. 53 has a junction with State Highway 33 at the unincorporated community of Independence. Continuing northbound, U.S. 53 has an interchange with U.S. 169 in Virginia. Immediately north of Virginia, U.S. 53 has an interchange with State Highway 169 in Wuori Township.

U.S. 53 then proceeds northwest to International Falls, where it has a junction with U.S. 71 and State Highway 11.

U.S. Highway 53 in Minnesota passes through Saint Louis and Koochiching counties.

Legally, the Minnesota section of U.S. 53 is defined as unmarked legislative routes 106, 11, and 315 in Minnesota Statutes §§ 161.115(37), (246), and 161.114(2). U.S. 53 is not marked with these legislative numbers along the actual highway.


  • A portion of Highway 53 in Minnesota is officially designated the Voyageurs Highway. The Voyageurs Highway is a state designation that is also applied to various other state highways in Minnesota.
  • The 2008 Minnesota Legislature named Highway 53 between Superior Street and Central Entrance in the city of Duluth as Walter F. Mondale Drive. On June 12, 2008, this section of highway (Piedmont Avenue and Trinity Road) was dedicated as Walter F. Mondale Drive in honor of the former Vice President's public service.


U.S. Highway 53 in Minnesota was completely paved by 1940.

The expressway section between Duluth and Virginia was constructed by 1970, except just north of Duluth. This section and a U.S. 53 bypass around Virginia were completed during the 1970s.

A new four-lane divided highway section of U.S. 53 in Duluth was constructed in 2004. This section of the route is known locally as Piedmont Avenue. Previously, from 1934 to 2004, this same section of U.S. 53 was a narrow two-lane roadway that had proceeded up the hill to a seven-legged intersection that had included Duluth's Skyline Parkway. Locally, this now-defunct infamous intersection, had been known for 70 years by the name "Seven Corners".

A new U.S. Highway 53 interchange with State Highway 169 in Wuori Township was built in 2006.


Four-lane expansion project from Virginia to Cook

A section of U.S. 53, from north of the city of Virginia to the south city limits of Cook, is under construction. This is part of a long range goal of providing a four-lane highway to Canada as part of the Falls-to-Falls Corridor. The new four-lane highway will be built in two stages with a total length of approximately 20 miles. The first stage from approximately County Road 307 to 0.25 miles south of County Road 652 (Goodell Road) was completed in 2009. Bids for the second stage will be taken late fall of 2011 with construction scheduled to begin the winter of 2012. It is anticipated that the construction project will be completed in the fall of 2013.[5]

Relocation of U.S. 53 between Eveleth and Virginia

The proposed project is to abandon U.S. Highway 53 in the area of the United Taconite mine expansion and relocate the highway nearby. The affected area is about one mile in length; located in Saint Louis County between the cities of Eveleth and Virginia.

On May 5, 2010, Cliffs Natural Resources provided notice to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) that U.S. Highway 53 easement rights across the United Taconite Mine, per a 1960 agreement, would be terminated. United Taconite and Mn/DOT are in negotiations to provide seven years for the relocation of Highway 53 between Eveleth and Virginia. Based on current project development requirements, Mn/DOT believes seven years is an appropriate time frame for review, design, and construction of a highway project.[6]

There are three rerouting options being proposed for Highway 53:

  • West – Following State Highway 37 and Saint Louis County Road 7.
  • Center – Through the Auburn Pit; on the south side of the current route of Highway 53.
  • East – Around and across the Rochleau Pit; on the north side of the current route of Highway 53.

A route will be selected by 2013; construction will begin in 2015; and the project will be completed by 2017.

Falls-to-Falls Corridor

The Falls-to-Falls Corridor (officially The Falls-to-Falls Corridor—United States Route 53 from International Falls on the Minnesota/Canada border to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin) is, by the United States federal government, a recognized trade corridor.

In the 1990s, the federal government listed the corridor as a priority for development. The primary development planned is infrastructure-related, specifically, a highway improvement project designed to spur economic development in northwestern Wisconsin and northeastern Minnesota by upgrading U.S. Highway 53 to full expressway standards from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin to International Falls, Minnesota. Interstate Highway 535 forms the only section of the route that is part of the Interstate Highway System.


With the exception of a 5-mile (8.0 km) stretch in urban Superior, the entire route within Wisconsin is completed to freeway or expressway standards. The Superior section is, however, multi-lane divided highway. On the south end of the corridor, the connection to Interstate Highway 94 is a 7.5-mile (12.1 km) stretch through the Eau Claire-Chippewa Falls conurbation. After years of legal and political wrangling, the decision was made in the late 1990s to bypass the current route, rather than to upgrade the present highway to freeway standards. The northern half of this bypass, as far south as WIS 312 was opened to traffic in mid-2005. The southern half of the bypass, which includes a new pair of multilane bridges over the Eau Claire River, goes mostly through Altoona and includes new interchanges with WIS 312, U.S. Highway 12 and WIS 93. This project won multiple awards in 2005 and 2006.[3] This section of the bypass was opened mid-morning on August 21, 2006.


Federal funding for the project in northern Minnesota was $940,000 in 2003 and nearly $600,000 in 2004.[7] At present, with the exception of 3.5 miles (5.6 km) within the city of Duluth (Piedmont Avenue and Trinity Road), the route is completed as expressway as far north as the north side of the city of Virginia, leaving approximately 90 miles (140 km) of the route as-yet incomplete. A section between Virginia and Cook is currently under construction.

Major intersections


County Location #[8] Destinations Notes
End Freeway - US 53.svg continues as 2-lane roadway southbound to Brackett, Holmen, Onalaska, and La Crosse
Eau Claire Eau Claire 84A I-94 – Madison Exit number not marked
on northbound lanes
84B I-94 west – St. Paul Exit number not marked
on northbound lanes
85 CTH AA – Golf Rd  
US 53 Bus. to WIS 93 – Hastings Way
WIS 93 south – La Crosse Southbound
Altoona 87 US 12 – Clairemont Ave Wisconsin's first SPUI[3]
89 River Prairie Dr
Eau Claire 90 WIS 312 / CTH Q – North Crossing  
Chippewa Lake Hallie 92 Melby St Lake Hallie use Exit 92
WIS 124 / CTH OO / US 53 Bus. – Chippewa Falls, Lake Hallie
95A-B WIS 29 – Menomonie, Green Bay  
Chippewa Falls 96
CTH X / WIS 29 Bus. – Menomonie, Chippewa Falls
99 CTH S – Chippewa Falls, Jim Falls  
Tilden 102 CTH B – Tilden  
Bloomer 110 WIS 40 – Bloomer, Colfax  
112 WIS 64 – Cornell, New Richmond  
New Auburn 118 CTH M – New Auburn  
Barron Chetek 126 CTH I – Chetek  
Cameron 135 US 8 – Barron, Cameron  
Rice Lake 140 CTH O – Rice Lake  
143 WIS 48 – Rice Lake, Cumberland  
Freeway ends - US 53.svg continues north as expressway to Superior with one interchange at WIS 70 and one at WIS 13.


County Location Mile[9] Destinations Notes
St. Louis Bay 0.000 US 53 / I-535 Blatnik Bridge
St. Louis
Duluth 0.536-0.705 Garfield Avenue  
1.421-1.675 I-35 Interchange, end I-535
5.639-5.650 MN 194 East end of MN 194 overlap
Hermantown 11.526 MN 194 West end of MN 194 overlap
New Independence Township 24.134 MN 33  
Fayal Township 55.871 MN 37 Interchange, south end of MN 37 overlap
Eveleth 60.028-60.530 MN 37 Interchange, north end of MN 37 overlap
Virginia 63.054-63.506 MN 135 Interchange
Mountain Iron 65.716-66.029 US 169 Interchange
Wuori Township 70.387-71.031 MN 169 Interchange
Sherman Corner 87.140 MN 1 South end of MN 1 overlap
Field Township 94.168 MN 1 North end of MN 1 overlap
101.030 MN 73  
Ray 146.275 MN 217  
Rainy Lake 160.218 MN 332  
International Falls 163.968 MN 11 West end of MN 11 overlap
164.040 MN 11 East end of MN 11 overlap
164.105 US 71  
Rainy River 164.361 Highway 71
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi
     Concurrency terminus     Closed/Former     Incomplete access     Unopened

See also

  • List of U.S. Routes


  1. ^ a b Droz, Robert V. U.S. Highways : From US 1 to (US 830). URL accessed 02:55, 4 July 2006 (UTC).
  2. ^ Chris Bessert. Wisconsin Highways - Highway 53 2006, URL accessed 2006 December 31
  3. ^ a b c "US 53 project". Wisconsin Department of Transportation. October 3, 2006. Archived from the original on October 7, 2006. http://web.archive.org/web/20061007182054/http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/projects/d6/us53/index.htm. 
  4. ^ Google, Inc. Google Maps – overview map and aerial photo of the Can of Worms (Map). Cartography by Google, Inc. http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Duluth+MN&ll=46.765515,-92.12255&spn=0.005762,0.01663&t=h. Retrieved June 8, 2009. 
  5. ^ "U.S. Highway 53 from Virginia to Cook – Four-lane expansion improvement project". Minnesota Department of Transportation. 2009. http://www.dot.state.mn.us/d1/projects/hwy53-1b/index.html. Retrieved August 3, 2011. 
  6. ^ "U.S. Highway 53 Relocation between Eveleth and Virginia". Minnesota Department of Transportation. May 5, 2010. http://www.dot.state.mn.us/d1/projects/hwy53relocation/index.html. Retrieved August 3, 2011. 
  7. ^ "U.S. Transportation Secretary Mineta Announces $3.8 for Minnesota Transportation Projects". U.S. Department of Transportation. May 4, 2004. http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/pressroom/fhwa0504h.htm. Retrieved September 18, 2010. 
  8. ^ Wisconsin Department of Transportation. "Exit numbers on US 53". http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/travel/road/exits-us53.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-12. 
  9. ^ "Trunk Highway Log Point Listing - Construction District 1" (PDF). Minnesota Department of Transportation. August 20, 2010. http://www.dot.state.mn.us/roadway/data/reports/logpoint/d1.pdf. Retrieved October 22, 2010. 

*Steve Riner Details of Routes 51 to 75. Unofficial Minnesota Highways Page. Accessed December 10, 2008.

Main U.S. Routes
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20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38
40 41 42 43 44 45 46 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59
60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79
80 81 82 83 84 85 87 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99
101 163 400 412 425
Lists  U.S. Routes • Bannered • Divided • Bypassed

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