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Our next edition of the Primary Highways series visits Washington, DC and Maryland.  We briefly explore the cities of Washington and Baltimore, and also extend to the eastern and western ends of Maryland.  It is another installment that tends to be more urban, given the locations and my interests.

As always, comments on the article and on additional places to visit in the states (or districts as the case may be) are quite welcome.  And thanks for the continued support of this series.

I will also cover Wisconsin in a separate article this week.

[Also posted on, with additional images.]

[Also posted on]

Today our "Primary Highways" series continues with a visit to our nation's capital and the neighboring state of Maryland.

The oft-used phrase "inside the beltway" literally means inside the Capital Beltway (I-495 and I-95), which forms a wide circle outside of Washington, DC through the surrounding suburbs of Virginia and Maryland.

From the western side of the beltway, we begin on Interstate 66 and US 50 heading east from Virginia over the Potomac River.  I-66 turns north while US 50 continues eastward as Constitution Avenue, passing alongside the National Mall and all the national memorials and monuments, which are arranged around the mall and the parkland along the Tidal Basin.

[By Alex Boykov (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons]

On the north side of US 50, opposite with Washington Monument, is the Ellipse, a public park that borders the iconic south lawn of the White House.  This building and the privilege of occupying it are the nominal reason we are doing this series.

Past the White House and Washington Monument, US 50 meets US 1, and the two continue as Constitution Avenue alongside the eastern half of the Mall.  This section of Mall houses the many museums of the Smithsonian Institution.  As a child visiting Washington, DC, the "Smithsonian" was synonymous with the Air and Space Museum.  It was of course exciting to connect with all things space.  Years later, I visited the Air and Space Museum again with my family (and saw a Star Trek anniversary exhibit), but also was enticed by a welcoming sign to the interesting circular building that housed the neighboring museum.  The Hirshhorn Museum is the center on the Mall for modern and contemporary art, and a place I try to visit when I have time alone in the capital.  It's a been a while, so I would like to visit again sometime soon.  You can see the Hirshhorn in the image of the Mall shown above as the cylindrical building just left of the center.  At the far eastern end of the Mall is the Capitol.

The huge building serves as model for many (though as we have seen, not all) state capitol buildings.  Though it had a long history of designs and changes before acquiring its current design and the large iconic cast-iron dome we know today.  You can read more about this history here.  Of course, the institutions housed inside have served as models as well, sometimes in a less-than-ideal way.

The Capitol is surrounded by several blocks of grounds, including the Capitol Reflecting Pool.  While wandering around these grounds on foot, one would probably not suspect that there was a major highway passing underneath.  I-395 traverses the center of the city in the long Third Street Tunnel, connecting to US 50 (New York Avenue) in the northern sectors.  The densely packed residential sections of the Capitol Hill neighborhood can be found to the east, and a lively urban neighborhood to the northwest around Logan Circle.

[By AgnosticPreachersKid (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons]

I would be remiss if I did not mention the Black Cat, and institution for independent music that also happens to have a great name.

South of the Third Street Tunnel, I-395 continues towards Virginia and a junction with the Beltway at the Springfield Interchange (aka, the Mixing Bowl).  Before crossing the Potomac, it intersects with I-695, a short connector to the Anacosta Freeway in the southeast section of the city.  It is signed as I-295 and also as DC 295.  It is the only signed DC highway that currently exists, but it is another thing that gives the District of Columbia the trappings of a state, except of course that it isn't a state and doesn't have voting representatives in Congress.  Hence another state-like item, the district's license place, continues to bear the Revolutionary War slogan "Taxation without Representation".

DC 295 continues northeast to the border with Maryland...

...where it continues as Maryland Route 295, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.  The parkway is partly maintained by the National Park Service.  In this segment, it is a wide road through wooded surroundings, although industrial and suburban areas are never far away.  Further north, it becomes an expressway through the suburbs south of Baltimore as it heads towards that city.  The parkway ends at a I-95.  Nearby, a larger and impressive junction over water takes the short I-395 (completely unrelated to the one we just left in Washington, DC.) until downtown Baltimore, passing by Camden Yards and just to the west of the Inner Harbor.

[By Fletcher6 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0; or GFDL;], via Wikimedia Commons]

The Inner Harbor is considered an urban planning achievement, turning a moribund harbor in a major tourist and business destination.  It look quite vibrant, with modern buildings and attractions like the National Aquarium.

Baltimore has quite a diversity of architecture and landscape.  It is most well-known for its rowhouses.  A particularly unique set is the colorful row in the Charles Village neigbhorhood:

Perhaps more typical are the long stretches of similar brick rowhouses.  Sadly, many seem to be in disrepair, as along this street in a neighborhood west of the Inner Harbor.

[Photo by larrysphatpage on flickr.  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)]

One interesting view in the same neighborhood features this full overhead sign along an abandoned ramp that is used by pedestrians.

[Photo by larrysphatpage on flickr.  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)]

US 1 is in fact nearby, so the sign is accurate, but it could still be considered an example of a Thomasson, a maintained architectural feature that no longer serves its original function.  It was part of the cancelled I-170 highway.

Baltimore is also home to Johns Hopkins University.  It is of course a renowned research and medical university, but the division I know best is the Peabody Institute, as several musical friends and colleagues have studied there, particularly in their classical and music-technology programs.

We head south from Baltimore towards the Chesapeake Bay on I-97, where has the distinction of being the shorted two-digit interstate.  It passes through hills and suburban towns to US 50 near Annapolis, the state capital. I remember visiting Annapolis in 1999 and 2000.  The 1999 visit included walking around the historic district and into the statehouse, one of the oldest in the country with a distinctly colonial look about it, and watching July 4 fireworks on the bay.  It was also during an intense heatwave, with some days over 100F.  I didn't mind the heat too much, and it made it great weather for swimming.  The towns and cities along the bay, including Annapolis, seemed intimately connected to the water.

US 50 (with US 301) continues east on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to Maryland's eastern shore region.  It then heads south, avoiding Delaware, before turning east again towards the Atlantic Ocean.  It's final terminus is in the resort town of Ocean City.  The highway has a cerimonial terminus at MD 528, not far from the Ocean City beach and boardwalk, with a sign stating that is 3072 miles to its western end of Sacramento, California.  I have seen the companion sign on the Sacramento side stating that is 3072 miles to Ocean City.  Apparently that sign is stolen quite often.

Back in Baltimore, we return to the western neighborhoods, not far from the rowhouses we explored earlier, and head west on US 40.  Just past Gwynns Falls / Leakin Park, we come to a parking lot that is the eastern terminus of Interstate 70.  It was originally planned to go further through the city, but that extension was ultimately cancelled.  In this case, we take I-70 westward out of the city.

This part of the state is quite sparse west of the Baltimore metropolitan area is quite rural and sparse, and in some ways would seem to be a separate state, more in common with West Virginia.  I-70 and US 40 run together or nearby for much of the region.  As I-70 heads northwest into Pennsylvania, I-68 continues with US 40 west through the Appalachian Mountains, including this cut through Sideling Hill.

[By Analogue Kid at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-2.5], from Wikimedia Commons]

This does seem a world away from Ocean City, and from Baltimore and Washington, DC., but in total Maryland is actually a fairly small state.

This concludes this edition of Primary Highways.  We will next be visiting Wisconsin.

Originally posted to catsynth on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 06:20 PM PDT.

Also republished by Maryland Kos and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  NOVA highways are a mess right now (3+ / 0-)

    between the construction of the Hot lanes on the Beltway which has disrupted every road/highway which overpasses it, the construction of the Metro Silver line up the Dulles connector and through Tysons and up the 267 toll road, its just been hell around here. Impossible to predict commuting time. Some days 20 minutes, some days 40 minutes or more.

  •  I think you have a bad link... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Villanova Rhodes, Louisiana 1976

    check the Thomasson one, tells me page not found.

    Nice job.

    One thing I noticed when vacationing in West VA this summer: we continued up I-70 into MD heading toward PA and noticed the mountains seemed to change at some point.  By that I mean mostly that, as a Southern Appalachian girl that while the mountains in WV around the upper Potomac still felt very Southern, once we traveled NW on I-70 a a bit there was a different "feel" to the mountain: not only the foliage, but the very stone looked and felt different.

    We knew we weren't in the South anymore, just from the landscape.   And we got all that from the highway.

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Mon Apr 02, 2012 at 07:14:24 PM PDT

  •  What about (3+ / 0-)

    Deep Creek Lake, old growth forest, Cranesville sub-arctic Swamp, in western Md.?

  •  I remember when.... (6+ / 0-)

    Before they blasted that deep cut through Sideling Hill (as it is in the photo), we used to have to go up OVER it --- a winding three lane mountain road (two lanes going UP, one lane going DOWN).   In bad weather or heavy fog (low clouds), that was quite a trip!   The new road cutting through the ridge is much easier.  

    Maryland's terrain goes from flat beaches, pine forests,  and "outer bank" islands (Ocean City is actually on a barrier island)  to the Appalachians, with cities, small towns, rural land and the Bay in between -- it's been called the US in miniature.  

    And tomorrow we vote!   (The race to watch is the Dem primary in MD-06 -- to see who will challenge the incumbent Republican  for his seat in the newly redrawn district).

  •  What, no JFX? No 270? (4+ / 0-)

    I guess you can't hit them all, but I sure spent a lot of my commuting life on both (as you would imagine, from different residences). The JFX was usually more pothole than not.

    But you got my favorite, the B-W Parkway -- at least part of which was renamed for Democrat Gladys Noon Spellman, of whom I thought often during the Gabby Giffords recovery discussions. Despite traffic, the stretch of the parkway that runs through the woods was always gorgeous, especially in spring as the dogwoods bloomed before the other trees greened up. And you could sometimes see bald eagles that were supposed to be driven away by nearby construction, but didn't get the memo.  I miss it.

    Great Baltimore pics -- Charles Village didn't look quite that colorful in my day, & behind the facade a lot of those houses were chopped up into apartments for students to rent.

    Nice job. Thanks.

    •  The JFX isn't bad now (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I drive on it every day.  They've fixed the pot holes, although that's more than I can say for the streets feeding into it.

      In 2004 we moved into the city.  Before I had the daily commute on the Baltimore Beltway and it was sheer hell everyday, bumper to bumper traffic.  Yesterday I was on it between 5 and 5:30 p.m. and it hasn't changed.  The two miles on the JFX is a breeze, usually.  Penn Station sits right atop, almost, over the JFX, and when I get off the MARC train at Penn Station and see a hopeless backup, there are other routes I can take home.

      "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

      by Navy Vet Terp on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:25:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  History In Excess (5+ / 0-)

    One of the fun things about living in the area is history; from Colonial days to today; sites are every where. Guide books help, but sometimes it takes good eye sight and luck to spot an old historical marker. And then some are not marked at all.

    Doing a little research you can find where Deep Throat passed information; a parking garage in Arlington. Or where Wilber Mills was stopped and his girlfriend went for a swim, Tidal Basin.

    Or, where Lafayette addressed his troops, Annapolis.

    Much fun to be had just in the District and Maryland.

    Pam Bennett -6.95 -7.50

    by Pam Bennett on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 03:31:13 AM PDT

  •  I-595 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder, Lujane, catsynth

    One interesting note - US 50 from I think where it meets up with 495 to Annapolis  (the only mainland two number interstate that is solely in one county) is actually I-595, although it is never signed that way.

    I-97 should really be a spur - I-995, or an extension of I-595.

    I always thought that Baltimore could use a tunnel connecting I-83 to I-395. The traffic downtown at rush hour is horrible, and its almost entirely because these two highway spurs aren't connected. But it would obviously be very expensive, so it will never get done.

    •  Citizens stopped the expressways in the 1960's (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      auron renouille

      Led by a social worker named Barbara Mikulski, whose prominence in the protests led to a seat on the Baltimore City Council, then in Congress, and then in 1986 she was elected to the Senate.  

      They originally would have built the highway right through the working class, ethnic neighborhood of Highlandtown, destroying the neighborhood.  On the west side, they would have taken the highway right through Leakin and Gwynns Falls Parks, where there is now a wonderful bicycle trail that Senator Cardin got the federal funding for.  

      The photo above with the signs for Monroe Streets and Fulton Avenue is from the one mile section, the only section, they did build through the city.  It slashed a trench for the highway three blocks wide, and destroyed the surrounding neighborhood, a middle class black neighborhood that is now drug infested and boarded up.  We called the one mile stretch of interstate "the road to nowhere."  They are now filling in the highway and will turn it into a park, thanks to more of those federal stimulus funds.

      "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

      by Navy Vet Terp on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:33:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As you head down 95 (0+ / 0-)

    And maybe get off on 100, I'd be happy to sell you a Townhome in Columbia for $50K less than I bought it for.  Please? Please?

    We get what we want - or what we fail to refuse. - Muhammad Yunus

    by nightsweat on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 07:21:01 AM PDT

  •  The "mixing bowl" in Springfield, VA, near DC, ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lujane, RickD, Navy Vet Terp

    ... deserves a far more pejorative label is an impenetrable maze for visitors. The signage is inadequate, the turnoffs sudden, fast and in unpredictable places.

    Someone decided everything must connect to everything else as soon as possible. It's a multi-billion debacle.

    (It is like the engineers who love to place a "Do Not Touch" light-switch lookalike right next to the light switch in a room.)

    There's no romance or mystique to highways when you see screw-ups like this!

    Obama and strong Democratic majorities in 2012!

    by TRPChicago on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 07:58:47 AM PDT

  •  US-50 is also unofficially signed (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lujane, catsynth, Navy Vet Terp

    as I-595, likely for funding purposes.

    [insert pithy sigline here]

    by terrypinder on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 09:21:12 AM PDT

  •  the ICC (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Navy Vet Terp

    The Inter-County Connector opened this past year to connect the 270 corridor (that leads northwest from the Beltway) to the 95 corridor (that leads northeast to Baltimore).  

    I thought a diary on highways in the DC/Maryland area would include some discussion about the ICC and its impact on traffic.  But I don't see any discussion of traffic at all.  How can you have a diary on highways that doesn't mention traffic?  The DC beltway is perennially listed as one of the worst nationally for traffic jams.  

    Nice photos, but I don't quite see what the purpose of the diary is.  

  •  The idiots on I-66 East (0+ / 0-)

    I've never in my life heard of "sunshine delays" when people commute to the east in the morning, except in NOVA.

    I've driven I-88 East a million times commuting east in the morning (Chicagoland), and I've NEVER heard of or seen a delay because it was sunny.

    Are people in NOVA too stupid to buy sunglasses?  Or use the visor on their car?

  •  Thank you for this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Navy Vet Terp

    I lived in Alexandria many years ago, 1968 in fact, and it was cool to see some things I remember and how things have changed as well.

    "But much to my surprise when I opened my eyes I was the victim of the great compromise." John Prine

    by high uintas on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 02:07:09 PM PDT

  •  Haven't visited Baltimore since I moved West in (0+ / 0-)


    Republicans take care of big money, for big money takes care of them ~ Will Rogers

    by Lefty Coaster on Tue Apr 03, 2012 at 04:56:44 PM PDT

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