Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I-895: So Long!
I-895, Baltimore's oldest interstate! was never meant to be a long road according to interstate standards. It was, however a crucial connecting point for I-95 travelers for close to 30 years.
It's not secret that I-95 was built in stages, even stronger evidence of this can be seen in DC where it was supposed to cut through the city rather than joining I-495 to journey around the city.Now back to I-895 it opened in November 1957 almost 51 years ago. It traveled from Route 1 to Route 40. It provided the first of three Harbor Crossings dubbing it the "Harbor Tunnel Throughway" and from city traffic eliminating through traffic from negotiating upwards of 50 traffic lights. It also connected to the BW Parkway ( MD 295) which was completed three years earlier in 1954. This connected Baltimore to DC without traffic lights and was labeled "Temp I-95."I-95 in Maryland's construction was staggered to say the least. This made the existence of I-895 all the more crucial. The first part of I-95 to be completed was the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway in 1963 northeast of Baltimore to the Delaware line. JFK himself dedicated this highway eight days before his November 1963 assassination. It's not surprising that this stretch of highway would bare his namesake. I-895 was extended from Route 40 to meet this newly completed stretch of I-95 as part of the project.In 1971 I-95 was completed "between the Beltways" going from I-495 to I-695. In 1973 I-895 was extended southbound to meet the this new portion of I-95. I-895 for the next 12 years would serve as I-95's entry and exit points in and out of Baltimore.
In 1977 another Harbor Crossing opened in the form of an above grade bridge as part of I-695. It was dubbed the Francis Scot Key Memorial Bridge but if you're from the area you will call it the "Key Bridge."
In 1985 I-95 as we know was completed and with came I-395 ,the nation's shortest interstate and the third and final harbor crossing the "Fort McHenry Tunnel." Other features of note include "ghost ramps" to I-70 was canceled and I-83 which was also canceled. This launched the career of Senator Barb and the gentrification of Fels Point and Canton.
This left I-895 playing second fiddle to I-95 and for me at least it raises the question of whether or not it's needed. One critical thing the completion of I-95 in Baltimore includes that I failed to mention in the previous post was the fact that there's an interchange with I-95 and I-895 at the northern end of both tunnels. I-895 continues for another five miles where it ultimately ends at you guessed it I-95. It's this little stretch that's the focus of this post.I think it's time we reexamined the validity of these five miles and whether they can be better suited serving another function. The end of I-895 needs to end at the middle intersection of I-95 just north of the Harbor Tunnel. At this point I-895 will have served its function and with the closure of this portion of I-895 this lower the price tag of the $1 Billion interchange update of the northeastern I-95/I-695 interchange, the I-95 toll lanes, and the update of the final I-95/I-895 interchange which under my plan will be dismantled.
The only real upgrades of I-895 were the extensions as I-95 was built and the little known "spur" that connects I-895 to I-97 that opened in 1993. Other than that I-895 exists exactly as it did in 1957. The tubes of the tunnel were not widened during its 1986 renovation but additional lighting and cosmetic work was done. Improvements would include an upgraded and expanded Harbor Tunnel with wider tubes to carry six lanes of traffic as would I-895 south of the tunnel. An upgraded "middle interchange" with I-95 which would be the road's new northern terminus. The I-97 spur would be eliminated having I-97 end at I-695.
The demolition of this five mile section of I-895 will reunite the neighborhoods of Greektown, Bayview, O'Donnell Heights to the neighborhoods of Canton, Highlandtown, and Brewer's Hill. It will free up land for development and encourage development of unsed land zoned for industrial use. So long I-895! and yes the double entendre is very much intended.