Saturday, July 18, 2015

An American Road Trip. Part 1: I-70 that wasn't

To say this right up front, I would prefer a railroad trip across the country but my road trip has a purpose, a meeting in Denver plus the delivery of a car and so it will be driving US 70 all the way. 

There used to be a sign on I-70 here near where this over 2000 mile long Interstate ends in a dumpy park and ride lot that pointed to all the furthest destinations you can reach on this freeway that includes some of the oldest sections of the Eisenhower Interstate system.
The western terminus of I-70 used to be indicated
near the eastern terminus in Baltimore

Google says the trip to Denver is 1,655 miles from the City line and takes 23 hrs and 15 minutes without traffic.  Since there will be traffic and the car that can make such a trip without refueling needs to still be invented, I opted for a three and a half day trip with some sleep in between and looking at some cities that I hadn't seen in a while.

I will share little anecdotes that may be of interest here on this Daily Blog.

The first memorable fact can be reported before even leaving the house. It has to do with the not so glorious end of the storied cross country route and how it is linked  to the Red Line.

By thankfully killing the final miles of  I-70 that would have met I-95 at Caton Avenue, the Interstate did not cut across Leakin Park and did not destroy it. (see a more detailed report below). Only bits and pieces, including the link to downtown (the "highway to nowhere"), were built and they were already destructive enough. But from a transportation perspective, the never completed interstate connection means a missing link in east west transportation. The Red Line was supposed to fill the gap via transit.

The end of I-70 would have been re-purposed to become a large commuter rail station with a park and ride lot serving all those who want to enter the downtown business district from I-70 and today crawl down Cooks Lane or from US 40 clogging up Edmondson Avenue.
this is how 2200 miles of interstate end: at a
park and ride

But you know, the Governor is not from Howard, Carroll or Baltimore County and even though he is a self-proclaimed highway guy, he may not be that familiar with this particular part of Baltimore's transportation history and the connection needs that remain unmet.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944 authorized designation of a 40,000-mile "National System of Interstate Highways." The Public Roads Administration (PRA), as the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads (BPR)/FHWA was called in the 1940's, asked State highway officials to submit proposals for Interstate routes. Eventually I-70 would make it into the system, but much later....
Community leaders walk the area of the I-70 terminus in the
fall of 2014 to demonstrate for a bridged trail
connection from the Red Line stop to
the Gwynns Falls green-way in Leakin Park

....the Baltimore segment of I-70 ... faced opposition. On July 28, 1981, Governor Harry Hughes of Maryland and Mayor William D. Schaefer of Baltimore requested withdrawal of a portion of I-70 from the Interstate System. FHWA Administrator Ray A. Barnhart and UMTA Administrator Arthur E. Teele approved the withdrawal of I-70 from Security Boulevard just inside the Baltimore Beltway (I-695) to the I-170 spur on September 3, 1981. (Security Boulevard was named after the nearby headquarters of the Social Security Administration.)With this action, the Interstate System in Baltimore retained the I-170 spur (3.35 miles) and the unbuilt I-70 segment (2.22 miles) from the spur to I-95 east of Caton Avenue. Because they were disconnected from I-70, the two segments (I-170 and I-70 between I-170 and I-95) were combined and renumbered I-595 as an I-95 spur in 1982. However, on July 22, 1983, Governor Hughes and Mayor Schaefer requested withdrawal of I-595 from the Interstate System. Administrator Barnhart and Acting Administrator G. Kent Woodman of UMTA approved the withdrawal on September 29, 1983.As a result of these actions, the eastern terminus of I-70 is a park-n-ride lot near the Social Security Administration complex just inside the Baltimore Beltway. (source)

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