An Interstate highway located wholly within the District of Columbia, Interstate 695 connects Interstate 395 (Southwest Freeway) with Interstate 295 (Anacostia Freeway). Using the Southeast Freeway and the 11th Street Bridge, I-695 serves as the east-west connector between Interstates 395 and 295.
New signs installed as part of the 11th Street Bridge project revealed the signed status of Interstate 695 as of November 2011. Work replaced the Anacostia River crossing and upgraded the interchange between the bridge south end and I-295 as part of a $390-million project started in December 2009. All ramps between I-295, I-695, and D.C. 295 were open to traffic by August 2013, with work continuing on local connections through 2015.5
Interstates 295 and 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. after the initial freeway network was built. Both Interstate 295 and Interstate 695 were approved in 1958 as original Interstate highways in D.C. I-295 was approved from the Capital Beltway in Maryland and the District of Columbia north along the Anacostia Freeway, 11th Street Bridges across the Anacostia River, and East Leg Freeway from there north to meet I-95. I-695 was approved as a short, east-west freeway that would link Interstate 95 (now Interstate 395 / Center Leg Freeway) and Interstate 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 (Southeast Freeway). 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 295 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. (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).
About a decade later in 2007,1 planners developed a plan to reconstruct the Southeast Freeway (formerly Interstate 295) to include new bridges over the Anacostia River and ensure full movements between the Southeast Freeway and the Anacostia Freeway. This led to the work completed between 2009 and 2013.
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):
The purpose of this request is to redesignate the 0.61 mile portion of I-295 crossing the Anacostia River to I-695 to maintain system continuity. I-695 (Southeast Freeway) begins where I-395 turns north into the 3rd Street tunnel in Southwest Washington, and continues for 1.39 miles to the interchange with I-295 at 11th Street in Southeast Washington. In 1984, the District received approval from AASHTO to redesignate I-695 to I-395, and to redesignate the portion of I-395 through the 3rd Street tunnel as I-195. However, this approval was contingent on extending I-695 across the Anacostia River and connecting to DC 295 north of Pennsylvania Avenue. Since this connection was never completed, I-695 was never redesignated. This original application will be abandoned with approval of the current request. With the pending de-designation of a portion of I-295, I-695 will no longer connect to an interstate highway at its eastern terminus. Because of this, the District is requesting to extend I-695 across the Anacostia River on the de-designated I-295 alignment to a new terminus at the end of I-295. This change will serve to rationalize the freeway system in the District and provide for interstate connections at both ends of I-695.2
AASHTO approved this request to realign Interstate 295 and Interstate 695, contingent upon FHWA concurrence.
Several Interstate highway freeway proposals that were proposed to connect the center of the district with the suburbs to the north, northeast, and northwest never materialized. These freeway proposals include:
Interstate 66 (Potomac River Freeway and North Leg Freeway) was planned for an extension from U.S. 29/Whitehurst Freeway east to Interstate 95, with connections to the U.S. 50 freeway en route to Annapolis.
Interstate 95 was originally planned to run through the district, via Interstate 395 to U.S. 50, then north along a new alignment that would link with existing northern Interstate 95 interchange with the Capital Beltway.
Center Leg Freeway - now known as Interstate 395 between Interstate 695/Southeast Freeway and U.S. 50 - groundbreaking in 1966 and open to traffic on November 5, 1973.3
Continuation of the Center Leg Freeway north to meet Interstate 66/North Leg Freeway and the Capital Beltway was never constructed. Some of this former freeway right of way remains visible as a power transmission corridor.
Interstate 266 - never built Three Sisters Bridge over the Potomac River between Virginia and the District of Columbia that would connect to Interstate 66 at either end; route was proposed in 1964 and was dead by 1977 due to community opposition.
Interstate 270 / Interstate 70S was planned for an extension from its current southern terminus at the Capital Beltway/Interstate 495 into downtown Washington roughly parallel to Maryland 355 (Old U.S. 240) along one of two proposed but never-built freeway corridors: continuation of the Potomac River Freeway (north of Interstate 66) or Northwest Freeway.4
Interstate 295/East Leg Freeway - from Barney Circle north to unbuilt Interstate 95
Western Terminus - Interstate 395 - Washington, D.C.
Perspective from Interstate 695 west
Interstate 695 (Southeast Freeway) defaults onto Interstate 395 (Southwest Freeway) south toward Arlington, Virginia while a single lane ramp drops from the four lane viaduct into the Mall Tunnel.
An end sign was added at the transition from I-695 west to I-395 south by August 2014. Photo taken 10/12/14.
Historical Perspective from Interstate 695 westbound
The sign for 6th Street S.W. was removed for the continuation of I-695 west onto Interstate 395 south. I-395 south passes south of the National Mall en route to the George Mason Bridge into Virginia. I-395 north travels north under the U.S. Capitol complex, passing through a tunnel that emerges north of D Street. The freeway ends at U.S. 50 (New York Avenue). Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (08/12/05).
Perspective from Interstate 395 north
Interstate 395 curves northward from the Southwest Freeway onto the Center Leg Freeway as I-695 east takes over the mainline toward Washington Navy Yard and the 11th Street Bridge across the Anacostia River. Photo taken 10/12/14.
Interstate 395 emerges from the Mall Tunnel into a three-wye interchange with the Southwest and Southeast Freeways. Signs for the Southeast Freeway were updated since this photo was taken to acknowledge I-695 east to the 11th Street Bridge and the Anacostia Freeway (D.C. 295 north / I-295 south). Photo taken 08/04/13.
Eastern Terminus - Interstate 295 and District of Columbia 295/Anacostia Freeway - Washington, D.C.
Perspective from Interstate 695 east
Traveling south across the 11th Street Bridge, Interstate 695 splits into two lane ramps for D.C. 295 north to U.S. 50 and Interstate 295 south to Oxon Hill, Maryland. Historically the 11th Street Bridge defaulted onto I-295 south with no access to the Anacostia Freeway north. Photo taken 10/12/14.
An end sign for Interstate 695 resides ahead of the merge with the D.C. 295 south flyover to I-295 south. Photo taken 10/12/14.
A left-hand ramp departs Interstate 295 north for Interstate 695 west across the 11th Street Bridge. I-295 north transitions to D.C. 295 north as the Anacostia Freeway continues to East Capitol Street.
Originally the ramp for the 11th Street Bridge (then hidden I-295 north) exited from the right. Photo taken 10/12/14.
The interchange with Interstates 295 and 695 was completed in 2012, providing access to the 11th Street Bridge north for the first time from D.C. 295 south. D.C. 295 south otherwise ends and I-295 begins. Photo taken 10/12/14.