Interstate 395 (Virginia–District of Columbia)
Interstate highway in the DC area
I-395 highlighted in red
|Auxiliary route of I-95|
|Length||13.31 mi (21.42 km)|
|Restrictions||No HazMat or vehicles over 13 feet (4.0 m) in the Third Street Tunnel|
|South end||I-95 / I-495 in Springfield, VA|
|North end||US 50 in Washington, DC|
|States||Virginia, District of Columbia|
|Counties||VA: Fairfax, City of Alexandria, Arlington
DC: City of Washington
Interstate 395 (I-395) in Washington, D.C., and Virginia is a 13.39-mile-long (21.55 km) spur route of I-95 that begins at an interchange with I-95 in Springfield and ends at an interchange with U.S. Route 50 (US 50) in northwest Washington, D.C. It passes underneath the National Mall near the U.S. Capitol and ends at a junction with US 50 at New York Avenue, roughly one mile (1.6 km) north of the 3rd Street Tunnel. Despite its proximity to I-395 in Maryland, the route is unrelated and unconnected.
I-395 is known by three different names over its various segments. The Virginia portion is part of the larger Shirley Highway that continues southward on I-95 beyond the terminus of I-395. In the District of Columbia, it is known as the Southwest Freeway from the 14th Street Bridge to the Southeast Freeway interchange (I-695), the Center Leg or Center Leg Freeway from the Southeast Freeway interchange to New York Avenue. The Southwest and Center Leg Freeways are collectively denominated as the Dwight D. Eisenhower Freeway.
The intersection where I-395, I-95, and the I-495 (Capital Beltway) meet is called the Springfield Interchange. Unofficially, this interchange is referred to as the “Mixing Bowl”. This moniker causes confusion, because the intersection of I-395, Washington Boulevard, and Columbia Pike several miles north was historically known by that name, and continues to be recognized by the Virginia Department of Transportation as such.
I-395 contains a third roadway: reversible, barrier-separated Virginia HOT lanes with their own entrances and exits, also known locally as the “express lanes”, between South Eads Street near the Pentagon in Arlington County and State Route 610 (Garrisonville Rd.) in Stafford County, Virginia. During morning and evening rush hour, traffic on this roadway flows in the direction of rush-hour traffic.
This third roadway was built as a single-lane busway, the first in the United States, before being expanded and converted to HOV use. A 2007 survey found that during the morning rush hour, the HOV lanes carry about 65% of travelers on I-395 (61,000 commuters), including 32,000 in transit buses and 29,000 in private vehicles with two or more people. The other 33,000 commuters (35% of total users) drove alone.
I-395 and US 1 cross the Potomac River from Virginia to Washington, D.C., on three parallel four-lane bridges, together known as the 14th Street Bridge. Potomac River crossings for the Washington Metro’s Yellow Line and for a major CSX railroad line are immediately downstream here. This site has long been a major Potomac River crossing, with the first bridge constructed here in 1809. Of the present highway spans, the eastern one was built in 1950, the western one in 1962, and the central one in 1972.
District of Columbia
After crossing the 14th Street Bridge, the freeway has a left-side exit allowing access to US 1 (exit 1). The southbound side of I-395 has no access to northbound US 1 here. I-395 crosses Potomac Park (exit 2) and a second bridge, the Francis Case Memorial Bridge over the Washington Channel. Here, the route bends from a generally northeast direction to a due east direction, interchanging (exit 3) with the 9th and 12th Street Expressways, two tunnels that carry traffic under the National Mall. A series of complex interchanges (numbered 4, 5, 6, and 7) provide partial access to Maine Avenue and C Street SW, as well as connections to Interstate 695. Immediately after I-695, the freeway makes a hard turn to the due north to follow the Third Street Tunnel immediately under Union Square, just to the west of the United States Capitol Building and underneath the Frances Perkins Building. I-395 follows a depressed roadway (the Center Leg Freeway), which was undergrounded in 2019, that has three more partial interchanges (exits 8, 9, and 10) with local streets before terminating at New York Avenue/US 50.
I-395 in Alexandria, Virginia
I-395 northbound at Glebe Road in Arlington
US 1 exit on I-395 Northbound, just after crossing the 14th Street Bridge into the District of Columbia
I-395 northbound along the Southwest Freeway at Exit 3
Entrance to Third Street Tunnel under the National Mall
I-395 northbound along the Center Leg Freeway at Exit 10.
The portion of Interstate 395 between the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and the interchange with Interstate 95 and the Capital Beltway in Springfield is part of the Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway, named for a Virginia Highway Commissioner who died on July 16, 1941, just a few weeks after approving work on the new expressway. Originally State Route 350, the full length of the Shirley Highway was opened on September 6, 1949, from south of the Pentagon to Woodbridge, Virginia, along what is now better known as the Interstate 95 corridor. The Shirley Highway featured the nation’s first reversible bus lanes, a precursor to today’s HOV lanes.
During an evening rush-hour snowstorm in 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 crashed on take-off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, hitting the easternmost of the three highway bridges known as the 14th Street Bridge. The oldest span, formerly named the Rochambeau, is now named the Arland D. Williams, Jr. Memorial Bridge, in honor of a passenger of Flight 90 who survived the crash, escaped from the sinking aircraft, and perished in the Potomac River while saving others from the icy waters. The center span is now called the Rochambeau Bridge, and the western span, the George Mason Memorial Bridge.
Interstate Highway through Washington
Original plans called for I-95 to travel through Washington, D.C., and Prince George’s County, Maryland, toward the northeastern portion of the Capital Beltway, from which I-95 presently continues its northbound route. However, neighborhood opposition in the District halted this plan in 1977, diverting planned funding toward construction of the Washington Metro. The only remnant of the Maryland extension is a series of ramp stubs near College Park, which now lead to a Park & Ride. The portion of I-95 within the Beltway became I-395, while the eastern half of the Beltway was re-designated I-95 (and, later, co-signed I-95/I-495). I-395 terminates in Washington, D.C., at a traffic signal at U.S. Route 50, which is New York Avenue, near Mount Vernon Square.
Center Leg Freeway development / Capitol Crossing
The District government finalized a deal in 2010 with the Louis Dreyfus Group to construct a 2.1-million-square-foot (200,000 m2) mixed-use development in the airspace over the Center Leg Freeway portion of Interstate 395. The $425 million office, residential, and retail project at the east end of the Judiciary Square neighborhood will also restore the area’s original L’Enfant Plan street grid by reconnecting F and G Streets over the freeway. The project was awaiting final regulatory approval and expected to be complete by 2016.
In 2015, work began on I-395 in conjunction with the Capitol Crossing, a major real estate project in D.C, part of which lies on top of the highway. The work involves adding a $200 million concrete platform that connects neighborhoods that have been severed by the freeway, creating a better community atmosphere in the eastern edge of downtown. DDOT expected the work would take up to four years.
In January 2021, as part of an effort to eliminate driver confusion among I-395, I-695 and I-295 in downtown Washington, AASHTO approved a request by the District of Columbia to eliminate the entirety of I-695 and renumber it as an extension of I-395. I-395’s previous route along the Center Leg Freeway is to be renumbered as a new I-195. Although the FHWA also approved the request on April 23, re-signing work is yet to commence as of May 2022.
Express lanes conversion
In 2015, the Commonwealth of Virginia announced that the HOV lanes between the Turkeycock Run bridge and Eads Street (at the Pentagon) would be converted to toll lanes as part of the I-395 Express Lanes Extension project. The existing HOV lanes, which ran in both directions in some areas, became reversible HOT lanes for the entire scope of this project, spanning eight miles (13 km).
Part of the project involved the reconfiguring of the Pentagon interchange to provide greater access to Army Navy Drive, as well as the closing of the on-ramp—from the southbound HOV lanes to the mainline Interstate southbound—located just west of the Pentagon interchange. All existing HOV interchanges within the project’s scope became tolled, except for the northbound exit and southbound entrance at Seminary Road, which remains toll-free while retaining its HOV-only restriction.
Vehicles carrying three or more passengers are still able to use the former HOV lanes for free. The express lanes opened on November 17, 2019.
Exits in Washington, D.C. were unnumbered until 2008. In 2014, in conjunction with the rebuilding of the 11th Street Bridges and the Southeast Freeway, some exit numbers were converted to a mileage-based numbering system.
- ^ Adderly, Kevin (January 27, 2016). “Table 2: Auxiliary Routes of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways as of December 31, 2015”. Route Log and Finder List. Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
- ^ Kozel, Scott M. (March 1, 2004). “Virginia Freeway HOV Lanes”. Roads to the Future. Retrieved October 5, 2014.[self-published source]
- ^ Quintana, Kala (September 10, 2007). “Many More People Commuting Along I-395/Route 1 Corridor Inside The Beltway Are Using HOV And Transit Than Driving Alone” (Press release). Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. Archived from the original on January 29, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2013.
- ^ London, John (September 7, 1949). “Shirley Road Saves Time, Test Reveals”. The Washington Post. p. B1. ProQuest 152105125.
- ^ Farmer, Liz (October 19, 2010). “Major development over I-395 moves closer to reality”. The Washington Examiner. Archived from the original on July 17, 2012. Retrieved November 2, 2011.
- ^ Lazo, Luz (June 23, 2015). “Major work for Capitol Crossing project is set to begin on I-395”. The Washington Post. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
- ^ Dildine, Dave (January 11, 2021). “Move over, I-395: Southeast Freeway, 3rd Street Tunnel to be renumbered”. Washington, DC: WTOP-FM.
- ^ Dildine, Dave (July 7, 2021). “EXCLUSIVE: Feds sign off on biggest DC interstate renumbering in decades”. Washington, DC: WTOP-FM.
- ^ Virginia Department of Transportation (July 25, 2017). “I-395 Express Lanes Extension”. Virginia Department of Transportation. Retrieved July 30, 2017.
- ^ Virginia Department of Transportation (2016). “I-395 Express Lanes Northern Extension” (PDF). Virginia Department of Transportation. pp. 7, 16–17. Retrieved July 30, 2017.
- ^ a b Google (December 26, 2013). “Interstate 395 in Washington, D.C.” (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
- ^ Google (December 26, 2013). “Interstate 395 in Virginia” (Map). Google Maps. Google. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
- ^ Virginia Department of Transportation (October 14, 2012). “Virginia Interstate Exits: I-395”. Virginia Department of Transportation. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
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