Interstate 295 follows the Anacostia Freeway northward from near Oxon Hill, Maryland to the 11th Street Bridge (Interstate 695) in Southeast Washington, DC. The freeway originates in Maryland at a stack interchange with the Capital Beltway (I-95 & 495) and National Harbor just east of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
Interstate 295 and Interstate 695 have had considerable changes in their routing through the years, mostly as a result of resistance to new freeway construction in Washington, D.C.. Both I-295 and I-695 were approved in 1958 as original Interstate highways in D.C. Interstate 295 was approved from the Capital Beltway in Maryland and the District of Columbia north along the Anacostia Freeway, across the 11th Street Bridges over the Anacostia River, and onto the East Leg Freeway from there north to meet Interstate 95. Interstate 695 was approved as a short, east-west freeway that would link I-95 (now I-395/Center Leg Freeway) and I-295.
Due to the elimination of and changes to various freeway proposals throughout the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area, Interstate 295 was eventually shortened to end at Interstate 695. Plans to extend I-295 further north to rejoin proposed I-95 met with an anti-freeway revolt in the 1960s and 1970s, and thus neither route was built. To alleviate traffic associated with the missing connection, a new proposal was set in 1982 to extend Interstate 695 east along the unconstructed Barney Circle Freeway to allow a freeway connection between the central district and northbound District of Columbia 295 (Kenilworth Avenue Freeway). The Barney Circle Freeway proposal was met with similar resistance and was removed from consideration in 1996.1 (Note: the Barney Circle Freeway was listed in the Federal Highway Administration Interstate Route Log and Finder's List as part of Interstate 295, but all planning documents listed this freeway as Interstate 695).
In 2007,1 a plan to reconstruct the Southeast Freeway and rebuild the 11th Street Bridge was set in motion. Work kicked off in December 2009 to replace the Anacostia River crossing and upgrade the interchange between the bridges and Anacostia Freeway (I-295 south and D.C. 295 north).
To that end, at the AASHTO meeting of May 15, 2009, the routing of Interstate 295 and Interstate 695 were clarified as follows (quoting directly from the application presented to AASHTO by the District of Columbia Department of Transportation):
I-295 begins at I-95 in Maryland near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. It runs north into DC where it turns west at an interchange with DC 295 to cross the Anacostia River via the 11th Street Bridges. On the west side of the river, I-295 turns north at an interchange with I-695 and extends to its terminus at Pennsylvania Avenue at the Barney Circle. The planned route for I-295 continues north from Barney Circle to East Capitol Street near RFK Stadium, and then northwest through the city to an interchange with other unbuilt freeways near New York Avenue. The segment of I-295 north of East Capitol Street was withdrawn in 1978. The unbuilt portion between Barney Circle and East Capitol Street was never officially withdrawn. Because I-295 was not completed, the system ramps that provide route continuity from the 11th Street Bridges to Barney Circle are operationally obsolete and have been closed to traffic for several years. The District is requesting de-designation of 2.05 miles of I-295 from the interchange with DC 295 to East Capitol Street. This includes 1.24 miles of existing I-295 and 0.81 miles of unbuilt I-295. After de-designation, I-295 will become a continuous freeway with DC 295, which will serve to rationalize the interstate system in the District. The portion of I-295 between I-695 and Pennsylvania Avenue will be converted to an urban boulevard with connections into the neighborhood street system. The future disposition of additional right-of-way no longer needed for highway purposes will be determined by the District and FHWA. The portion of I-295 between DC 295 and I-695 will be redesignated as I-695 under a separate request.2
AASHTO approved this request to realign Interstate 295 and Interstate 695, contingent upon FHWA concurrence. Signs for I-695 were unveiled in November 2011, with the new 11th Street Bridge for I-695 west opened in December 2011. The eastbound span followed in January 2012. Upgrades to the interchange with I-295 and D.C. 295 were completed in phases throughout 2012.
In the past, there was some controversy about the exact location of Interstate 295's southern terminus: at the Capital Beltway or at Maryland 210. Originally I-295 ended at a cloverleaf interchange with the Beltway with a stub at the south end. While there were plans to extend the freeway south toward Indian Head, the freeway is no longer planned for extension. The 1.7-mile freeway segment between Maryland 210 (Indian Head Highway) and I-295, opened in 1990, is considered to be part of MD 210. Indian Head, which is located in the next county south, is connected to the beltway and I-295 via this freeway branch of MD 210.
The entire interchange between Interstate 295 and Interstates 95-495 was reconstructed as part of the larger Wilson Bridge Reconstruction Project in the mid-2000s. At that time, the Maryland DOT/SHA modified the signs on Interstate 295 southbound to read "Maryland 210 South - Indian Head" instead of "Interstate 295 South - Indian Head." Additional work completed in 2009 added ramps southward to the new National Harbor Boulevard.
This section of freeway, built around Kenilworth Avenue, is designated District of Columbia 295 and has seen improvements. With the changes to the routing of Interstate 295 and Interstate 695, it is possible that the Anacostia Freeway north of the 11th Street bridges and Kenilworth Avenue could be a possible future northern extension of Interstate 295, at least as far as U.S. 50, but only if the freeway is upgraded to Interstate standards.
Some older maps actually used to show the designation of Interstate 295 running northward on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (designated as Maryland 295 north of the National Park Service segment) to Baltimore. This is not the case, because the parkway is not Interstate standard. The parkway pre-dates most of the Interstate system; it was constructed between 1947 and 1954. The first section to open was at the north end, and the state-maintained section (from Baltimore south to Maryland 175) opened in 1952. The federal section (from Maryland 175 south to U.S. 50) opened on October 22, 1954. In addition, certain trucks are prohibited from using parts of the parkway.
However, according to Steve Anderson's excellent District of Columbia Roads web page, the entire Baltimore-Washington Parkway was briefly (from January to July 1969) signed as Interstate 295. However, the cost of upgrading the parkway to modern design standards was prohibitive and not funded by Interstate funds. In the same year, the parkway Interstate mileage was shifted to several proposed Interstate highways within the Washington Beltway. Many of these proposed freeways within the beltway were never constructed. With the completion of parallel eight-lane Interstate 95 in 1971, plans for further upgrading the parkway to modern standards were shelved.
An end sign precedes the Maryland state line for Interstate 295 south. This sign dates to the 1990s. Photo taken 08/04/13.
Just beyond the state line, Interstate 295 separates into four ramps. Exit 1C departs first for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge west to Alexandria, Virginia. Exit 1B follows onto National Harbor Boulevard south. Photo taken 08/04/13.
Interstate 295 south reaches Exit 1B to National Harbor, a mid-2000s upscale development along the east shore of the Potomac River. Signs for the mainline now reflect the 1.7-mile extension east to Maryland 210. Photo taken 08/04/13.
The Maryland 210 freeway spur curves east to parallel Interstates 95 & 495 north before curving and merging with the Indian Head Highway (Maryland 210). Photo taken 06/01/04.
Historical Perspective from Interstates 95 & 495 north
Exits 2A/B departed Interstates 95 & 495 north for I-295 north and the MD 210 freeway spur in this scene during the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project. The ramp to I-295 north remains the same, traveling the lowest level of the overall interchange. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
The old configuration for Exits 2A/B saw all traffic in unison depart the Beltway east for both I-295 north and Maryland 210 (Indian Head Highway) south. Exit 3 now consists of a flyover ramp for the Indian Head Highway freeway spur, while Exit 2A serves National Harbor. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
Perspective from Interstate 95 south and Interstate 495/Capital Beltway inner loop
Interstates 95 & 495 south separate into a Local and Express configuration ahead of both Interstate 295 north and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Access to I-295 north requires motorists to take the Local Lanes through to Exit 2B. Photo taken by I.C. Ligget (03/26/10).
Maryland 210 (Indian Head Highway) north approaches the ramps for the Capital Beltway. Previously signs referenced I-295 here. New signs separate traffic to the Express and Through lanes. Interests to I-295 north via the 1.7-mile spur of MD 210 should take the upcoming ramp. Photo taken by Chris Elbert (07/06).
The right two lanes transition from Maryland 210 (Indian Head Highway) north to both Through lanes of I-95 & 495 and the spur to Interstate 295 north. A loop ramp ahead connects with the Local Lanes of the Capital Beltway inner loop west to Alexandria. Photo taken by Chris Elbert (07/06).
Perspective from Interstate 295 north
Interstate 295 reduces to a four-lanes along the Anacostia Freeway leading north into Washington. This photo shows the first shield posted in the District of Columbia. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
Northern Terminus - Interstate 695 (Eleventh Street Bridge) and D.C. 295 (Anacostia Freeway) - Washington, District of Columbia
Perspective from Interstate 295 north
Interstate 295 ends and District of Columbia 295 begins at the left-hand ramp for I-695 west across the 11th Street Bridge. Interstate 695 leads west toward Downtown Washington while D.C. 295 angles northeast toward Cheverly, Maryland and U.S. 50. Photo taken 08/04/13.
Historical Perspective from Maryland 210 north
A BEGIN District of Columbia 295 shield was posted on the left side of this sign bridge as northbound Interstate 295 approached the connection from the Anacostia Freeway to the 11th Street Bridge. The continuation of Interstate 295 was signed as "To Interstate 395."
The left two lanes continued the Anacostia Freeway north onto D.C. 295 to connect to with U.S. 50 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (which in turn connected back to Interstate 95). Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
Interstate 295 and District of Columbia 295 north at their former split. Exit 4 represented the continuation of I-295 north to the Southeast Freeway (unsigned I-695), while the district route continued north along the mainline Anacostia Freeway to the Kenilworth Avenue Freeway at East Capitol Street. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
Perspective from District of Columbia 295 south
D.C. 295 (Anacostia Freeway) south separates with a two-lane ramp joining Interstate 695 (11th Street Bridge) west to Capitol Hill and a two-lane flyover continuing south to Interstate 295 and Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photo taken 08/04/13.
Historical Perspective from D.C. 295 south
This begin Interstate 295 overhead was attached to the 13th Street SE overpass as the Anacostia Freeway transitioned from D.C. 295 to I-295. Photo taken 12/26/06.
A second begin Interstate 295 sign was posted ahead of the on-ramp from the original 11th Street Bridge south. Photo taken by 10/01.
Perspective from Interstate 695 east
Opened in January 2012, the southbound 11th Street Bridge (I-695 east) provides access to both I-295 south and D.C. 295 north, a change from the previous interchange that connected with the Anacostia Freeway south only. Photo taken 08/04/13.
Historical Perspective from 11th Street Bridge south
The original 11th Street Bridge (unsigned I-295 at the time) defaulted onto I-295 south to Maryland, with a left-hand ramp to Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue. Vidcap taken 05/27/95.
Former Northern Terminus - Pennsylvania Avenue SE - Washington, District of Columbia
Perspective from Interstate 695 east
The Southeast Freeway continued beyond the 11th Street Bridge (I-295 south) to Pennsylvania Avenue. The spur east of the 11th Street Bridge was an unsigned portion of I-295 remaining from the 1982 Barney Circle Freeway proposal to extend I-295 east to D.C. 295 east across the Anacostia River. Photo taken 06/02/03.
Just north of the Washington Navy Yard, Interstate 695 prepared to split into branches to Pennsylvania Avenue east (the north end of unsigned I-295) and to Interstate 295 south for Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue. Photo taken 06/02/03.
Continuing east on the Southeast Freeway branch of Interstate 295 through the stack interchange with the 11th Street Bridge. The freeway ended a short distance ahead at Pennsylvania Avenue SE, ahead of the Anacostia River and ramps with D.C. 295. Photo taken 06/02/03.