Interstate 295 constitutes a regional bypass route for I-64 around the north side of Richmond and I-95 east of Petersburg and Richmond. With six to eight lanes, the northern arc of I-295 serves a number of suburban communities including Glen Allen and Mechanicsville. The eastern leg connects with U.S. 60 and Virginia Route 895 (Pocahontas Parkway) west to Richmond International Airport (RIC).
The Varina-Enon Bridge spans the James River along I-295 at the Chesterfield / Henrico County line. Costing $35.6 million to build,1 the cable-stayed bridge is similar to the William Roth Bridge (Delaware State Route 1) over the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge (Interstate 275) over Tampa Bay in Florida. South across the Appomattox River, I-295 travels between the independent city of Hopewell and Fort Lee. The freeway concludes in a rural area by Second Swamp south of Petersburg.
Interstate 64 eastbound at the flyover for I-295 east. Costing $49.1 million, the high speed ramp was completed in May 2009. Photo by Will Weaver (06/28/09).
The Interstate 295 corridor was originally envisioned as a full beltway encircling Richmond. The design was later incorporated into a proposed easterly realignment of I-95 off the congested Richmond-Peterburg Turnpike. Plans changed with the announcement that tolls on the Turnpike would be lifted in 1992. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) formally endorsed the establishment of Interstate 295 south to Peterburg on June 9, 1986.
The northern portion of Interstate 295 opened to traffic in 1981 at a cost of $60 million, with the federal government funding 90% of the construction.2 Work on the initial stretch of freeway commenced in May 1976 near Mechanicsville.3 Construction of the $37.7 million segment between U.S. 60 and SR 5, east of Richmond, began in July of 1984 and was completed on October 7, 1988.4
The succeeding portion of I-295 built included the Varina-Enon Bridge and a 6.8 mile section between SR 10 and SR 5. Started in March 1985, delays in road work followed a construction flaw where the Henrico County end of the Varina-Enon Bridge was four inches too low and needed adjustments. That pushed completion of the the $75 million project back from an anticipated Fall 1989 completion date. The span finally opened to traffic on July 19, 1990.1
Interstate 295 was extended 5.6 miles southward from SR 10 to SR 36 when a $57.7 million project was completed on January 21, 1992.5 The final 9.8 mile long section was scheduled to open on June 3, but officials from Petersburg successfully lobbied to delay it while tolls were still collected along Interstate 95 in the city. I-295 finally opened between Hopewell and I-95 in Prince Georges County on June 25, 1992. Tolls along the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike were discontinued on July 1, 1992.6
Looking east from the Pouncey Tract Road overpass at the flyover connecting I-64 east with Interstate 295 south at Short Pump. Photo by Will Weaver (01/13/09).