Wisconsin likes putting Interstate shields on black squares, an anti-RIDOT if you will. I-39 was added to I-90 and I-90/94 recently, when it was extended up the US 51 freeway to Wausau. Since I-39 terminated in Rockport, IL, it thus embarked on a lengthy and needless multiplexing adventure northward (yes, I-90 and I-94 are E-W routes, but they have to rise up from Chicago). Why not a northern I-37? Duplication exists with east-west routes (and I-86 just happened, so it's not an outdated practice), it fits, and no multiplex needed.
The Cheesehead Law: every Interstate route has an alternate somewhere in Wisconsin, usually several. I-90's alternate seems to be via itself, and I-94 doesn't get one at all despite following I-90 for another 63 miles. Wausau definitely was tacked on, squeezing everything else into too-small spaces, and it's very possible that the sign originally read North WIS 78 (the old Portage bypass) before I-39 was extended.
What ugly shields those are, Grandma! And those numerals look a little tilted. This photo is EB, courtesy Scott Colbert. Exit 135C, by the way, is High Crossing Boulevard. This style of EXIT ONLY with the large arrows, as well as the practice of shoving 3-digit US routes with 1's into 2-digit shields, are particular to (but not unique in) Wisconsin.
Continuing EB with Scott Colbert, cool diagrammatics (well minus the lane lines), awful shields... and the ones on the first sign don't even have white outlines! Besides the fact that the quality screams "Retarded chipmunk!", I'm intrigued by the lane add immediately after the interchange - why not let an incoming ramp add that lane for you? Oh, that would cost money, silly me.
I-94 WB meets I-90 WB/I-39 NB at Exit 138, just in time for these embarrassing signs. They meet old WisDOT standards - narrow shields, no EXIT ONLY border, exit arrow on the main sign - and mirror the new practice of squished 3-digit shields with thin borders, so it's really WisDOT that's embarrassing here as opposed to the signs themselves.
In fact, the routes are so embarrassed, they all go into hiding. With I-39, I-90, and I-94 all sharing the nearby roadway, maybe whoever put up this sign (WisDOT or someone local) didn't want to buy more shields, but couldn't fit all the numbers in this one, and gave up. Courtesy Scott Colbert, this is or was somewhere in Madison.
Probably a city issue, Johnson St. NB in downtown Madison.
Before I leave Madison and ditch I-94, here's one more Scott Colbert photo with those characteristic black-background shields. Notice that the I-39 shield is a darker shade of blue, since it was a later addition to the I-90/94 assembly.
Plenty of EB button copy (and I-39 SB) heading to Janesville. Confused by the paltry "WEST" at Exit 177? As you'll soon see, it's not just this one sign.
Heading back WB/NB from there with plenty more button copy. What's up with the thick paint on the Exit 160 sign, and lack of button copy arrow?
A bunch of one-piece signs with ALTERNATE 39 (for times of closure or congestion) just east of Janesville, courtesy Scott Colbert. I-39 is multiplexed with I-90 here, so I don't know why there isn't an ALTERNATE 90 as well. The route follows WIS 140 down to I-43 and back, in plenty of time to catch I-90 before I-39 departs in Illinois.
Not only was Exit 177 never WIS 11 both ways, it was never even an exit until WIS 11 was brought down this way to avoid Janesville. So it makes no sense to have the "WEST" crammed in with a substandard font, or for everything except that to be button copy. All I can think of is that there was a planned extension to the east to meet up with US 14 that was cancelled after the signs were manufactured. These photos are WB.
I-90 WB/I-39 NB from the state line, with Alternate I-43 signed to continue beyond the I-43 interchange. As I said, Alternate I-39 is signed along I-43, so why not have Alternate 43 on 39? Enough with the Alternates already, WisDOT!