The official route of Interstate 695 ran along the northern portion of the Baltimore Beltway. As approved by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) on November 15, 1975, the Interstate portion was lengthened from a point south of Baltimore to the Anne Arundel Expressway (MD 10). The Francis Scott Key Bridge was the final segment built along the overall beltway. Discussion for a second Patapsco River crossing in Baltimore started in the early 1960s as a solution to traffic congestion along the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel (Interstate 895). A tunnel was proposed, and bids for construction were accepted on July 30, 1970. However due to substantial costs, officials shifted plans from a tunnel to a four-lane bridge.3
Construction on the Francis Scott Key Bridge commenced in 1972. Costing $60.3 million, the 10.9 mile project included the steel arch-shaped continuous through truss bridge over the Patapsco River, the 0.64-mile long dual-span drawbridge over Curtis Creek, and the 0.74-mile long spans over Bear Creek, east of Coffin Point. Topping out at 185 feet, the Francis Scott Key Bridge opened to traffic on March 23, 1977.3
The Francis Scott Key Bridge approaches were constructed with two overall lanes. The western section was expanded a short time after the span opened. The eastern segment through the Sparrows Point industrial area was not expanded to four lanes until November 1999.2
Expansion plans underway in the early 2000s estimated $800 million in funds needed for widening two sections of the Baltimore Beltway. Options considered including adding Express Toll or High Occupancy Toll (HO/T) lanes with variable rates based upon traffic congestion and time of day. Sections outlined for widening from six to eight lanes included the Beltway north from I-95 at Halethorpe to MD 122 (Security Boulevard) at Woodlawn and I-695 east from I-83 near Towson to I-95 near Overlea.4 HO/T lanes were not implemented along the Beltway at that time.
Construction in the mid-2000s widened the northern portion of the beltway between I-795 (Northwest Expressway) and Interstate 83 to eight lanes and added sound barriers. Other expansion projects along the Beltway in 2004 included reconstructing the Liberty Road interchange (Exit 18) and adding a southbound lane between Frederick Road (Exit 13) and Interstate 95 (Exit 11). MD 43 (White Marsh Boulevard), which provides an alternate route from I-695 east to I-95 north at White Marsh, was extended to Eastern Avenue (MD 150) by 2006.4