Interstate 395 in Virginia is the Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway and in the District of Columbia is the Southwest and Center Leg Freeways. The route starts at the Springfield Interchange with Interstates 95 and 495 in Virginia, and it continues north into Downtown Washington. The freeway is an important artery serving the Virginia communities of Fairfax County, Arlington, and Alexandria.
One of the features of Interstate 395 is reversible high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. These lanes are located within the median of the main travel lanes on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. These carry two lanes of traffic, with ramps to most interchanges. The reversible HOV lanes on Interstate 395 and Interstate 95 in Northern Virginia are "HOV-3," which means they require vehicles to have three occupants during morning (6:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.) and afternoon (3:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.) commuting hours. Motorcycles, alternative fuel vehicles and emergency vehicles are exempt from the HOV restrictions.1
The northern portion of Interstate 395 in the District of Columbia travels under the National Mall, just a bit west of the U.S. Capitol building, almost directly under the Capitol Reflecting Pool. Interstate 395 emerges from this long tunnel just before the freeway terminates at U.S. 50 (New York Avenue).
High Priority Corridor
Interstate 395 through metropolitan Washington, D.C., is part of High Priority Corridor 33: Capital Gateway Corridor for its entire length.
Interstate 395 in Virginia was built as State Route 350, initially opening at Arlington in 1944. The freeway ran between U.S. 1 at Woodbridge and the 14th Street Bridge into D.C. by 1952. Upgrades to Interstate standards followed between the mid-1960s and 1975, when I-95 was signed along the Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway.2
Interstate 95 was rerouted around the Capital Beltway in 1977, leaving the original route along the Shirley Highway and Southwest Freeway as newly signed Interstate 395. This was previously approved by AASHTO on November 11, 1975, but with the conditional designation of Interstate 895. The I-395 numbering was approved on November 12, 1976. The freeway was proposed to continue northward through the city, linking with unconstructed sections of both Interstate 66 and 295 on the way. A short section of the highway was built just to the south of the northern Interstate 95/495 junction. This was later repurposed as a access road to a park and ride lot and truck weigh station.
A 1984 proposal to renumber Interstate 395 in D.C. involved renumbering the Center Leg Freeway, from the Southwest Freeway to U.S. 50 (New York Avenue), from I-395 to I-195, and the Southeast Freeway east to Capitol Street, from both I-695 and I-295 as an extension of I-395 east. Requested by the District of Columbia, the proposal was approved by AASHTO at the Route Numbering Committee meeting held on May 23, 1984. This renumbering appeared on the 1985 Rand McNally road atlas, but was never signed in the field or otherwise acted upon.
The southern terminus of Interstate 395 was rebuilt as part of the VDOT Springfield Interchange project. This construction upgraded a substandard cloverleaf interchange into a high-powered stack interchange with flyovers in many directions. Work was completed in July 2007 after eight years of construction.
The first mention of the junction with Interstate 95 and Interstate 495/Capital Beltway appears in the high occupancy vehicle lanes about three miles north of the Springfield Interchange, which is where Interstates 95, 395, and 495 converge. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
At this point, traffic for Interstate 95 north and Interstate 495/Capital Beltway depart from the high occupancy vehicle lanes. However, this configuration may change with the reconstruction of the Springfield interchange. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
The penultimate interchange on southbound Interstate 395 is Exit 2, Junction Virginia Secondary 648/Edsell Road. The next junction is with Interstate 95 and Interstate 495/Capital Beltway. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
The right two lane connect to northbound (inner loop) Interstate 495/Capital Beltway, while the three left lanes approach the junction with Interstate 95 north and Interstate 495/Capital Beltway east. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
The next exit is a loop ramp connecting to north Interstate 95 and east Interstate 495. The main lanes will transition directly onto Interstate 95 south. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
Interstate 395 ends at the junction with Interstate 95 and Interstate 495/Capital Beltway. Here is the transition onto eastbound Interstate 95/Capital Beltway. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
Perspective from Interstate 95 north
Two lanes of traffic for Interstate 95 north separates from within the SSR 644 interchange as the freeway mainline continues north to Exit 170B with I-495 west. Three lanes otherwise extend the Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway northward onto the beginning of Interstate 395 (Exit 170A). Photo taken 12/21/12.
Interstates 66 and 270 and Dulles Airport auxiliary sign for Exit 170B on Interstate 95 northbound. These two Interstates extend the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area westward to Front Royal, Virginia and northwestward toward Frederick, Maryland. Similar signage can be found on Interstate 95 southbound as it approaches the Capital Beltway in Maryland. Photo taken 06/02/03.
Now a relic, this two mile diagrammatic overhead displayed the former lane configuration of Interstate 95 northbound as it approached Interstate 395 and the Capital Beltway. Photo taken 06/02/03.
The travel lanes of Interstate 95 expanded to six lanes in anticipation of the Capital Beltway junction. Construction was quite evident involving the new Springfield Interchange between the three Interstates. Photo taken 06/02/03.
Northbound Interstate 95 traffic defaulted onto Interstate 395 northbound. Traffic to the Capital Beltway departed to the right. The new flyovers of the Springfield Interchange now tower above. Photo taken 06/02/03.
Next Three Interstate Junctions for Interstate 95 north/495 east
Traffic bound for Interstate 95 south and SSR 644 (Franconia Road) separates from the Capital Beltway mainline well in advance of the Springfield Interchange. Exit 57B to I-395 north departs from I-495 south as traffic peels away for I-95 south to Richmond. Photo taken 12/30/12.
Northern Terminus - U.S. 50 - New York Avenue - Washington, District of Columbia
Perspective from Interstate 395 north
Traffic is defaulted onto U.S. 50 (New York Avenue) east at the north end of the Center Leg Freeway. U.S. 50 transitions to a freeway in 2.50 miles and departs the District of Columbia to New Carrollton and Annapolis. Photo taken 08/04/13.
Almost immediately after the U.S. 50 (New York Avenue) intersection, southbound Interstate 395 prepares to enter the 3rd Street Tunnel. Much of the north-south route is underground until passing south of the National Mall near Downtown. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
Southbound Interstate 395 passes through both the 3rd Street and Mall Tunnels, the longest of which keeps the freeway below the National Mall and U.S. Capitol Building. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
Perspective from U.S. 50 (New York Avenue) east
Eastbound U.S. 50 (New York Avenue) approached the junction with Interstate 395 and 4th Street N.W. This is a five-way signalized intersection, so delays are common. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
U.S. 50 extends east from the I-395 north end toward Annapolis. Southward, the Center Leg Freeway takes I-395 under the National Mall to emerge at the Interstate 695 (Southeast Freeway) east of L'Enfant Square. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
Perspective from U.S. 50 (New York Avenue) west
Interstate 395 begins to the left as U.S. 50 (New York Avenue) continues westward to U.S. 1 and Downtown Washington. Traffic turning left can also opt take 4th Street southbound, signed as an alternate route for I-395. Photo taken 08/03/13.