Interstate 68


Designated in October 1989 and fully opened in 1992, Interstate 68 replaced the second definition of U.S. 48 along the National Freeway in northeast West Virginia and the panhandle of Maryland between Interstate 79 and Interstate 70. The route provides an alternative to I-70 for traffic headed between Baltimore and Washington to southwestern Pennsylvania and Ohio.


The histories of both Interstates 68 and 97 are tied together. Maryland originally applied to AASHTO to add the designation of Interstate 68 to the U.S. 50 freeway (John Hanson Highway) east from the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495) to a point west of Annapolis on November 15, 1975. AASHTO conditionally approved the western reaches of the route as Interstate 197 while approving the remainder east toward Annapolis and the eventual alignment of I-97 north to Interstate 695 outside Baltimore as Interstate 97.

The next change took place in 1981, with Maryland again opting to redesignate U.S. 50 between the Capital Beltway and the Annapolis area as Interstate 68. The request specified replacing the east-west leg of I-97 and the previously approved I-197 alignment along the John Hanson Highway with I-68. AASHTO withheld action on this request at their meeting on June 25th of that year. The request was altered with I-68 proposed to replace the east-west leg of I-97 and Interstate 168 over I-197. This was approved on October 3, 1981 but subjected to FHWA concurrence.

A third request went to AASHTO on June 7, 1989, with Maryland opting both to renumber Interstate 68 along the U.S. 50 freeway as Interstate 595 and applying I-68 instead to the route of U.S. 48 between I-79 near Morgantown, West Virginia and I-70 at Hancock, Maryland. This too was subject to FHWA concurrence and ultimately approved.

The westernmost reaches of the National Freeway showed up on the 1966 Maryland Official Highway Map as the Appalachia Corridor east from the West Virginia state line to Maryland 53 outside Cumberland. The viaduct through Cumberland was already under construction at this time. By 1972, the National Freeway was opened from Maryland 658 (Exit 40) to Naves Cross road (Exit 46). The route was under construction from Keyers Ridge westward. The 1973 edition of the state map showed the National Freeway extended west from Exit 40 to Maryland 36 (Exit 34) at Frostburg.

U.S. 48 first appears along the National Freeway in 1974, with more of the route opened west to Maryland 546 at Exit 29. The 1976 state map showed U.S. 48 open west from U.S. 219 into West Virginia. All of the route west from Cumberland was completed the following year. Signs for Interstate 68 went up as those for U.S. 48 came down after the August 2, 1991 opening of the 19-mile stretch of freeway from east of Cumberland to Green Ridge. This incorporated the stretch of U.S. 40 over Martin Mountain completed in 1957. The $182-million "missing link" saw constructeion start in May 1987 on a project divided into five sections.4

Included as Appalachian Corridor E, I-68 within the Mountaineer State was initially constructed between 1970 and 1976 at a cost of $113 million.1 The rest of the road was upgraded to Interstate standards by 1992.

Future Aspirations

Extension of Interstate 68 west from Morgantown to Wheeling via Moundsville, West Virginia was discussed in September 2000. 26 alternative routes (including a north-south route along U.S. 250 from Hundred to Fairmont via Mannington) for Interstate 68 were presented by the West Virginia 2/Interstate 68 Authority, but no final routing was determined. The West Virginia 2/Interstate 68 Authority was created by the West Virginia State Legislature in 1997 with two mandates: focus on widening West Virginia 2 from Parkersburg to Chester and extend Interstate 68 westward to the Ohio River.

Further developments in extending I-68 occurred when on September 9, 2003, West Virginia Governor Bob Wise announced that the Federal Highway Administration approved the Interstate 68 extension for inclusion into the National Highway System (the addition was eventually applied to just U.S. 250). With origins dating back to 1986, the plan included a 73-mile route between Morgantown and Moundsville. Including Monongalia County 19/24, U.S. 19, West Virginia 7 and U.S. 250, the roadway was re-classified as part of the State Principal Arterial System.2 Year 2000 forecasts listed the proposed cost at about $654 million, with later figures increasing to $1 billion. The I-68 Boosters, joining the 1997-created West Virginia 2/Interstate 68 Authority, obtained over 20,000 signatures on a petition stating support for the highway. Additionally public meetings were conducted in Marion, Marshall, Monongalia and Wetzel Counties during the years 2000 and 2001 to garner input and opinions on the highway.2

A meeting of northern West Virginia Panhandle area county commissioners, mayors and house of delegate members held on September 15, 2014 involved discussion of widening WV 2 along the Ohio River to four lanes and extending Interstate 68 west to Cameron and then Moundsville. Supporters of the upgrades cited possible new ventures for the oil and gas industry in the area. Costs were estimated at least $5 million per mile for new freeway construction.3

Parallel/Historic U.S. Routes

Interstate 68 was originally constructed as U.S. 48, and U.S. 48 was decommissioned once the freeway was complete and accepted into the Interstate Highway System. A portion of Interstate 68 east of Cumberland parallels U.S. 40.

Highway Guides

Western Terminus - Interstate 79 - Morgantown, West Virginia
Perspective from Interstate 68 west
Interstate 79 graphical overhead on Interstate 68 west, one mile from the meeting between the two. Photo taken by Dan Moraseski (08/31/02).
Partition of Interstate 68 traffic to Interstate 79 north and south. Fairmont is only nine miles to the south, with the capital city of Charleston, another 140 beyond that point. Washington, Pennsylvania, where Interstate 79 briefly ties into Interstate 70, is 46 miles northward. Photo taken by Dan Moraseski (08/31/02).
Interstate 79 shields posted at the gore between the north and southbound ramps from Interstate 68. This setup is common for Interstate junctions within the Mountain State. Photo taken by Dan Moraseski (08/31/02).
Interstate 68 westbound approaching its conclusion with Interstate 79 to the southwest of Morgantown. Clarksburg and Interstate 79's connection with U.S. 50 and Parkersburg, are also located to the south on Interstate 79. Photo taken by Brian LeBlanc (7/00).
Perspective from Interstate 79 south
Graphical signage for the eastern beginning of Interstate 68 on southbound Interstate 79. Photo taken 10/12/01.
Sign bridge version of the above Pictured graphical overhead on Interstate 79 southbound. Photo taken 10/12/01.
One last reminder of how the lanes are configured on Interstate 79 southbound in anticipation of Interstate 68. Photo taken by Brian LeBlanc (3/02).
Eastbound beginning of Interstate 68, as it parts ways with southbound Interstate 79. Morgantown is situated to the east and north of this junction. Photo taken 10/01.
Interstate 68/79 stack interchange as seen from the Interstate 79 South to Interstate 68 East ramp. Photo taken 10/01.
Perspective from Interstate 79 north
Northbound Interstate 79 at the split with Interstate 68 East. Photo taken by Shawn De Cesari/Dan Moraseski (11/01).
Graphical overhead on Interstate 79 North for Interstate 68 East. Interstate 79 continues northward to Washington, Pennsylvania, where it meets Interstate 70. Photo taken by Shawn De Cesari/Dan Moraseski (11/01).
Eastern Terminus - Interstate 70 - Hancock, Maryland
Perspective from Interstate 68 east
Interstate 68 ends white sign on eastbound. A similar advisory sign is installed on Interstate 70 eastbound approaching the Baltimore Beltway (Interstate 695). These types of signs are becoming more common in the states of Maryland and Virginia. See the terminus pages of Interstate 464 and Interstate 564 for more examples. Photo taken by Adam Prince (10/00).
Exit 82C guide sign on Interstate 68/U.S. 40 eastbound for the upcoming ramp with Interstate 70 west/U.S. 522 north. Breezewood is only 25 miles north of this junction. Photo taken by Tim Reichard (08/25/02).
Interstate 68 at the Eastern terminus with Interstate 70/U.S. 522. Traffic is split between three exits, 82A, B, and C. Mainline traffic merges with Interstate 70 east, as U.S. 40 continues its freeway alignment. The city of Hagerstown and Interstate 81 are only 26 miles to the east. Photo taken 10/01.
Another view of the Exit 82A-C sign bridge on Interstate 68/U.S. 40 eastbound. The state line of West Virginia is just across the Potomac River to the south via U.S. 522. Photo taken by Tim Reichard (08/25/02).
Merging onto Interstate 70 Eastbound from Interstate 68 Eastbound. Exit 82A marks the southern end of the Interstate 70/U.S. 522 overlap. The US highway intersects Maryland 144 (old U.S. 40) before crossing the Potomac towards Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. Photo taken 10/01.
Perspective from Interstate 68 west
First westbound Interstate 68 shield. U.S. 40 tags along from Exit 82 (eastern terminus) all the way to Exit 14. The old route parallels throughout at Alternate U.S. 40 or Maryland 144. Photo taken by Tim Reichard (08/25/02).
Perspective from Interstate 70 west
This sign advises of the junction with Interstate 68 some 58 miles east of the interchange, near Frederick on westbound Interstate 70. Photo taken by Jeff Royston (06/10/06).
Interstate 70 west at the *Maryland* 68 interchange, Exit 18. There is also a sign posted for this interchange to clarify that the exit leads to Maryland 68 not Interstate 68. This interchange is only situated 17 miles from the eastern terminus of Interstate 68. A numbering coincidence such as this is prohibited in some states such as California, but is not the case in the Free State. Interstate 97 for instance, is within 30 miles of Maryland 97. Photos taken by Tim Reichard (08/25/02).
Between Exits 5 and 3 of Interstate 70/U.S. 40 westbound is this recreational attractions sign for Interstate 68. The National Freeway traverses the high-country of Maryland, with some splendid views of the countryside on the trek through Garret and Allegany Counties. Photo taken by Tim Reichard (08/25/02).
The first guide sign for Interstate 68 is posted at Exit 3 for Maryland 144 on Interstate 70 westbound. This state route is the original alignment of U.S. 40, and parallels Interstate 68 for the first four miles. Note that U.S. 522 also enters the picture, as it travels north-south within the vicinity of the Interstate 68 terminus. Photo taken by Tim Reichard (08/25/02).
Exit 1B for U.S. 522 departs from Interstate 70/U.S. 40 westbound. The control points are Hancock, a village just to the south, and Winchester, Virginia, where U.S. 522 meets U.S. 50 and Interstate 81. From this ramp northward, U.S. 522 overlaps with Interstate 70. Photo taken by Tim Reichard (08/25/02).
One-half mile sign bridge for the pending Interstate 68/U.S. 40 split with Interstate 70 westbound. What is omitted, is that U.S. 522 northbound continues with Interstate 70 to Exit 168 in Pennsylvania, a distance of about four miles. Photo taken by Tim Reichard (08/25/02).
The split of Interstate 68/U.S. 40 west from Interstate 70 west. Cumberland, Maryland sits just 38 miles to the west, while Morgantown, West Virginia is an additional 71 miles. Photo taken by Brian LeBlanc (7/00).
Perspective from Interstate 70 east
The first advisory sign for the junction with Interstate 68 first appears on eastbound Interstate 70 and southbound U.S. 522 in Pennsylvania near Warfordsburg about two miles north of the interchange. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
As part of the Interstate 68 interchange, southbound U.S. 522 will split from eastbound Interstate 70 at Exit 1B in Maryland. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
Eastbound Interstate 70 and southbound U.S. 522 approach the junction with Interstate 68/U.S. 40 and southbound U.S. 522, one mile. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
Interstate 68 (National Freeway) and U.S. 40 are merged through much of the route from here west to Cumberland and beyond. Alternate U.S. 40 and/or Maryland 144 generally follow the old alignment of U.S. 40, while U.S. 40 itself stays on Interstate 68 all the way to Exit 14 near Keysers Ridge. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
Crossing the Pennsylvania-Maryland State Line, Interstate 70 and U.S. 522 pass over the Mason-Dixon line, which divided North and South in the Civil War Era. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
In addition to serving Cumberland in the Maryland Panhandle, Interstate 68 continues west to Morgantown, West Virginia, where it ends at Interstate 79. There are some who are interested in extending Interstate 68 northwest from there to Wheeling (thus rejoining Interstate 70), but no firm plans have been made for the construction of the route. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
Eastbound Interstate 70/Southbound U.S. 522 at Exit 1A for Interstate 68/U.S. 40 westbound, just past the Maryland/Pennsylvania State line. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
Shortly thereafter, southbound U.S. 522 splits from eastbound Interstate 70 at Exit 1B. use U.S. 522 to Hancock and the Potomac River. U.S. 40 merges onto eastbound Interstate 70; the two routes will remain merged until Exit 9. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).


  1. "I-68 Extension Gets Important Federal Endorsement." WTOV-9 September 9, 2003.
  2. "Proposed I-68 Project Will Become Eligible for Federal Funding." Wheeling (WV) News-Register, September 10, 2003.
  3. "Plans Moving Forward for Moundsville-to-Morgantown Highway." The State Journal, September 15, 2014.
  4. "Western Md. thumbs for a ride to prosperity along Interstate 68." The (Baltimore) Sun, July 28, 1991.

Page Updated June 10, 2015.

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