Interstate 395 Virginia / District of Columbia


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

Construction between 2017 and 2019 will expand the two-lane reversible HOV roadway through Northern Virginia to three lanes and convert the operation into express toll lanes. Improvements will take place within the existing footprint of the current HOV lanes.

Work on the I-395 Express Lanes Extension stretches for eight miles and is included within the 95 Express Lanes Comprehensive Agreement with Transurban. The HOV lanes will operate as high occupancy toll (HO/T) lanes, with all users requiring an E-ZPass or other eligible toll transponder.

The northern portion of Interstate 395 in the District of Columbia travels under the National Mall, just west of the U.S. Capitol building and almost directly under the Capitol Reflecting Pool. I-395 emerges from a series of three tunnels just before the freeway terminates at U.S. 50 (New York Avenue).

Third Street Tunnel

Ongoing construction started in July 2015 adds a deck above the Center Leg Freeway to support the Capitol Crossings development at Massachusetts Avenue. The platform costs $200 million. It will connect an area bound between E Street and Massachusetts Avenue and 3rd and 2nd Streets.4 Costing $1.9 billion, the four phase Third Street Tunnel project runs through 2019.

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 I-95/395 freeway was proposed to continue northward through the District of Columbia, 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), 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 and a few other maps, but was never signed in the field or otherwise acted upon.

The Interstate 195 proposal took place during work to complete the Center Leg Freeway north of Massachusetts Avenue.

Completion of the northern segment of the Center Leg Freeway was delayed from 1978 to 1984 due to a lack of funding. Work resumed at that time, and the northbound lanes opened to traffic in December 1986, followed by the southbound lanes in February 1987.3

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 speed, multi level interchange with flyovers in many directions. Work was completed in July 2007 after eight years of construction. HOV connections were added later.

Highway Guides

Southern Terminus - Interstate 95 and Interstate 495 - Springfield, Virginia
Perspective from Interstate 395 south
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, 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.
Complete coverage, including added historic photos, of the Interstate 395 northbound beginning from I-95 north posted at the Interstate 95 North - Fairfax County guide.
Historic Perspective from Interstate 95 north
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.
Perspective from Interstate 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.
More photos from this perspective found at the guide: Interstate 495 / Capital Beltway - Outer Loop. Historic photos showing the Capital Beltway east (outer loop) at I-395 are hosted at Interstate 495 / Capital Beltway - Outer Loop - Archive.
Historic Perspective from Interstate 495 east
Originally a single lane left-hand ramp (Exit 4B) departed I-495 east for I-395 north to Washington. Exit 4A represented the Capital Beltway mainline transition to I-95 north. Vidcap taken 05/27/95.
Perspective from Interstate 95 south & 495 west (Inner Loop Capital Beltway)
Interstate 95 departs the Capital Beltway via a high two-lane flyover as I-495 continues west to Exit 170B for I-395 north into Arlington and Washington. Photo taken by 08/04/13.
More photos from this perspective found at the guide: Interstates 95 & 495 South - Capital Beltway - Inner Loop. Historic photos showing the Capital Beltway west at I-395 are hosted at Interstate 495 / Capital Beltway - Inner Loop (Historical).
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.
Additional photos of Interstate 395 north posted on AARoads.
Perspective from Interstate 395 south
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.
More photos covering U.S. 50 west at I-395 south found at the D.C. guide for U.S. 50.


  1. Scheulen, Jeff, "AARoads feedback: HOV on I-395 / I-95 in Northern Virginia," Personal Email, February 15, 2007 and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Travel Center: High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Systems (accessed August 25, 2007)
  2. Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway, Roads to the Future (Scott Kozel).
  3. Center Leg Freeway (I-395),
  4. "Major work for Capitol Crossing project is set to begin on I-395." The Washington Post, June 23, 2015.

Page Updated January 21, 2017

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