Tag Archives: The Beltway @ Yurasko.net

A reference to a 1990s Web site about highways, The Beltway @ Yurasko.net lives on as posts about highways, primarily around Washington D.C., Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

VDOT releases 1949 footage of Shirley Highway in Alexandria

va350_old_tinyThe Virginia Department of Transportation has released another Then & Now video, this time of Henry G. Shirley Highway in 1949, then known as Virginia primary route 350 and now Interstate 395. Last time, the video was of US 29 in Arlington. This time VDOT recreated about a 2-mile drive along Shirley Highway and combined it with the 1949 footage (IN COLOR!) of the same stretch of road, though nothing really is the same:

Shirley Highway predates the interstate highway system, having been built to provide access to the Pentagon and the Fairlington development that came out of World War II as well as a bypass of US 1 a bypass of US 1 between the Occoquan and Potomac Rivers. Technically, Shirley Highway did not go over either river, but provided a direct connection between the two of them.

In the original 1956 interstate highway plan, VA 350 was to be part of I-95. The new number may not have been posted as such until massive rebuilding in the early 1970s that included 2 reversible express lanes. The designation was short-lived though as the proposal to build I-95 between New York Ave (US 50) and the Capital Beltway near College Park was cancelled. Shirley Highway was re-designated I-395 in 1977.

The contrast between then and now is striking of course. The video begins near Edsall Road which today is just south of the terminus of the “EZ Pass Express” toll lanes that supplanted the 1971 express lanes. The two lanes in each direction with no shoulders of 1949 is unrecognizable to the 11 lanes over three separated roadways of now. The hills of the Alexandria area are quite visible too — it looks like a rural area then. Because it was.

Concrete arch bridges (similar to the Washington Blvd spans over Columbia Pike that are being replaced now) and sporadic white guide signs have been replaced by steel girders and frequent big green signs. A conspicuous NO THRU TRUCKS signal also makes an appearance.

Rolling along in 1949 Shirley Highway was through untouched country side past the current Landmark Mall (opened as a shopping center in 1956) and the new Mark Center. Van Dorn Street, which parallels Shirley Highway now wasn’t even there yet, nor was it’s residential development. That would come within a decade. The large Mark Center building would only open in the last few years.

This is a fun exercise for me, seeing what the area close to my current home looked like long before I was born. A late former neighbor grew up in Fairlington and told me about how they would ride their bicycles along the grading for an Shirley Highway when it was under construction; I wish I could show him this video.

There is a lot more to learn about Shirley Highway and see maps and photographs and I recommend the following sites:

Adam Froehlig and Mike Roberson’s Virginia Highways Project – VA 350

Scott Kozel’s Roads to the Future – Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway

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NJ Turnpike photo by Dan Murphy used with permission

NJ Turnpike completes significant widening between interchanges 6 and 9

Over the last few weeks, a major expansion of the New Jersey Turnpike was completed after 5 years of construction. Between interchanges 6 (Pennsylvania Turnpike) and 8A (Jamesburg) two new carriageways were added with 3 lanes each direction. These are not express lanes like many dual carriage way superhighways; the Turnpike provides a CARS ONLY portion and CAR-TRUCK-BUS portion which can be shifted. All told, those lanes are now in service between interchanges 6 and 15W, about 50 miles. Another lane was also added to the external carriage ways between interchanges 8A and 9, bringing the total to at least six lanes in each direction with full access to all interchanges and service areas. The project is also the final one to use the NJ Turnpike style signage, including the neon REDUCE SPEED signs, as that has been replaced by standard MUTCD signage. Here’s the official Turnpike commission press release (PDF – really)

MORE COVERAGE

After NJ Turnpike widened, stepped up police patrols – News – NorthJersey.com.

Ceremony marks completion of project to widen NJ Turnpike – News – NorthJersey.com.

Road to the future? New, widened N.J. Turnpike has fans and critics – News – NorthJersey.com.

$2.5B NJ Turnpike widening complete, lanes to open Friday | NJ.com.

Expanded lanes open on New Jersey Turnpike – Philly.com.

Officials hail widened New Jersey Turnpike stretch – Philly.com.

STRUCTURE magazine | Overcoming Challenges.

Turnpike widening from exit 6 to 9 nearly complete.

Also, the project is reported to have come in $200 million under budget, so the leftover money will be directed to the expansion of the Garden State Parkway, controlled by the Turnpike, between mileposts 36 and 63.

Interstate 95, the eastern most number for the Pennsylvania TurnpikeLeft unsaid was a big reason for this expansion to interchange 6 — the re-routing of Interstate 95 via the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the New Jersey Turnpike. That project, mandated over 30 years ago when the Somerset Freeway was cancelled, is only just getting started. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission continues to drag the project out in part becaue they never wanted it – something the lead engineer said as much to me in an email in the mid-1990s. Why they just didn’t adapt a toll structure that made sense over these last 30 years is nonsensical. Additional funding challenges through Act 44 have impaired the Commission’s ability to fund projects, as have dubious expansion projects in Western Pennsylvania (were the population has lost 500,000 people in 50 years) while that has ignored a significant bottleneck in Pittsburgh.

DSC_0264
Photo by I.C. Ligget – The control cities are weak, should be Del Mem Br/Baltimore/Washington

The NJ Turnpike on the other hand, got this expansion done within a decade, under budget and had even planned ahead when building overpasses 15 years ago. In short, get your act together Pennsylvania and adopt some Jersey-style efficiency.

Photo by Dan Murphy, used with permission

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