WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Sunday, my wife and I checked out The Interstate in the District of Columbia exhibit at Union Station. It runs through next Sunday.
The story of D.C. interstates were told mostly by photographs. Each of the interstate highways to enter the city, I-66, I-295 I-95/495, I-395 (originally I-95) had its own section. Many of the photographs included were of the original construction. There was also a corresponding interstate marker for each road, although the I-66 and I-95 shields were the size of three digit interstate shields and had the wrong font for the numbers, something that only a hardcore road geek like myself would likely notice.
In addition to the photographs, there were narratives about Dwight D. Eisenhower (for whom the SW Freeway is is dedicated to) and the system as a whole and a piece about the opposition to the planned freeways that led to the truncated system of today.
A highlight of the exhibit was a scale model of the freeway system, built and unbuilt, along the Anacosita River. Included is the proposed Barney Circle Freeway, which would have extended the SE Freeway across the Anacostia to DC 295.
Unbuilt Barney Circle Freeway bridge over the Anacostia River
There is no mention of the fact that the SE Freeway is technically I-695 but not posted as such.
Overall, I liked the exhibit, which took me about 25 minutes to complete. The photos were great and the narratives were concise summaries.
Some other observations:
The original 14th Street Bridge was a series of truss spans in the location of the current Rochambeau Memorial Bridge.
The Case Bridge that carries I-395/SW Freeway over Washington Channel is named for Senator Francis Case a South Dakota Republican who championed voting rights for the District, leading to passage of the 23rd Amendment.
Some of the photo captions left something to be desired. A number of them refer to the Palisades Parkway when it should be Canal Road. The Palisades Parkway was unbuilt. It is a curious error. Another described I-395 approaching the Beltway, when in reality it was the American Legion (nee Cabin John) Bridge.
Why the District decided to celebrate freeways in an old train station is a little curious, but I am not one complain about going there. For one thing, having it there means you can get to it much more easily since the hours are much longer A trip to Union Station is worthwhile in and of itself too. We took Metro as well. All in all, this is a great introduction to D.C. interstates.
If you want to learn more, check out these sites:
Scott Kozel’s Roads to the Future
Washington, D. C. Area Interstates
Bridges Carry Bits of History AlongWith the Traffic – The Post