Monday, September 22, 2014

Revisiting Old Freeway Attempts Part II: The I-695 Connections

Think I was done with the Old Freeway Attempts Series? Think again. This time the proposed freeways I'm writing about would have crossed I-695 in some way shape or form. This post will also cover why the east side of I-695 is not a perfect circle and is filled with many sharp twists and turns. The I-695 we all know and love today was pieced together by two failed freeway attempts on its east side.  

The first freeway I'm introducing is I-795 aka the Northwest Expressway. The Northwest Expressway was built in the 1980s in conjunction with the Subway Line that runs parallel to it. It also contains a direct exit ramp to Owings Mills Mall which has failed miserably. There are plans to extend the expressway northbound into Carroll County in the future as traffic along Reisterstown Road and Liberty Road continues to increase as well as plans in the foreseeable future to build an interchange at Dolfield Boulevard. 

I-795's southbound terminus is at I-695. It wasn't supposed to be. Had the planners of I-795 had their way, it would have continued southbound cutting the Sudbrook and Lochearn communities in half before entering the City and ending is status of a Freeway at Wabash Avenue. Wabash Avenue runs through northwest Baltimore City as an at-grade Boulevard parallel to the Subway tracks just like I-795. The Subway tracks that run through Sudbrook and Lochearn tell us the exact alignment of the would be I-795 link. Although this may have provided traffic relief to Liberty Road and Reisterstown Road inside I-695, I don't see how disrupting the communities of Sudbrook and Lochearn is a good enough trade off.

Next we come to the Perring Freeway, hey wait a minute! Isn't there a Perring Parkway already in existence? Why yes there is. The Perring Freeway would have followed the same right of way as the current Perring Parkway does however it wouldn't have traffic lights and would have contained grade-separated interchanges like what can be found at Northern Parkway and Perring Parkway. Very little can information can be found on the Perring Freeway such as how long it would have been a freeway (perhaps when it corsses the Alameda?) or if it would continue as a freeway above I-695 (too densely developed to do so now.) 

My guess is that land was bought for interchanges for the Perring Freeway but funding wasn't provided to build them. The end product was the Perring Parkway we have come to know. Its undeveloped landscape is likely the land that would have been used for the Freeway. Just like the I-795 extension in the City, I see no reason why this should plan should be resurrected.

Next we come to I-695 itself. Remember when I said that a couple of failed Freeway attempts make up the east side of I-695? Well this begs the question; What was the proposed alignment of I-695? Today's Southeastern Boulevard was the original alignment for I-695. It would have used that alignment rather than having to take that tight awkward ramp to stay on the road. Southeastern Boulevard actually forms a perfect circle when teamed with Back River Neck Road where it could rejoin the current I-695 alignment in Edgemere just northeast of its interchange with North Point Boulevard. Unlike every other failed freeway attempt, I would like to see this happen. I was never a fan of I-695's eastern alignment and upgrading Southeastern Boulevard and Back River Neck Road to interstate would allow that to happen. Now, what IS the eastern side of I-695?

The eastern side of I-695 is composed of two failed freeway attempts. First is the Windlass Freeway. When built in its entirety, the Windlass Freeway would have started as an extension of Mroavia Road at I-95 (ghost ramps are present here) and would have run parallel to Pulaski Highway and Eastern Avenue. Right where I-695 makes that VERY sharp turn is the considered the southern end of the built section of the Windlass Freeway. The northern end is at the interchange of I-695 and Southeastern Boulevard. This appears to be a hurried attempt of an afterthought to complete I-695 when the proposed alignment and the Windlass Freeway were scrapped. That small portion of I-695 is still referred to ass the Windlass Freeway on some maps. In the midst of the very sharp turn on I-695/The Windlass Freeway, there are ghost ramps present to indicate where the Windlass Freeway would have continued on to meet Moravia Road at I-95. The Freeway was supposed to have ended northbound at what is now White Marsh Boulevard. 

If Southeastern Boulevard were to become I-695's east side, then the Windlass Freeway could be built in between Moravia Road and the current I-695/Windlass Freeway without much disruption. It would simply run in between I-95 and I-695 providing relief to the congestion in the area. 

The second failed freeway attempt that makes up the eastern side of I-695, is known as the Patapsco Freeway. This runs south of the sharp turn on the Windlass Freeway portion and stops at the Back River Neck. The Patapsco Freeway could have made for a northern alternative to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge if extended past I-695. There's no telling how long the Patapsco Freeway could then run once on the eastern shore. Given how sparse the land is it could go all the way to the Cape May-Lewes Ferry in Delaware. The Ghost ramps at the sharp turn on I-695 are where the Windlass Freeway and Patapsco Freeway were to intersect, not knowing at the time they would become the same road. Like the Windlass Freeway, the Patapsco Freeway portion of I-695 is still labeled as such on some maps.

This ends another segment on my series of old freeway attempts. I'm sure I surprised some of you by my wanting to realign the eastern side of I-695 to the current alignment of Southeastern Boulevard and extend the Windlass Freeway portion to Moravia Road at I-95. The Patapsco Freeway also makes sense as a northern alternative to the bay bridge. The series isn't over yet. What will my finale reveal? Stay tuned to find out.

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