Maryland has a dense and heavily traveled road network due to its high population density. Most of the highways run around the cities of Baltimore and Washington, but there are highways elsewhere as well. Between the Washington and Baltimore metropolitan areas there are 4 north-south highways that are at least partially a highway. Maryland’s most famous bridge is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (US 50).
The state highway authority is the Maryland Department of Transportation, abbreviated MDOT. An important branch of this is the State Highway Administration (SHA). The SHA manages 27,350 lane miles in the state and 2,565 bridges. The State Highway Administration was established in 1908 as the State Roads Commission.
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I-95 in northeastern Maryland.
A fair number of Interstate Highways traverse Maryland. Interstate 68 forms an east-west route through the west of the state and is known as the National Freeway because it was constructed parallel to the historic National Highway (US 40). A well-known part of I-68 is ‘Sideling Hill’, a large open cut through which the highway runs. Interstate 70 is actually the logical continuation of I-68 from Hancock and runs via Hagerstown and Frederick to Baltimore, where the highway ends abruptly. Interstate 81 runs just a few miles through Maryland, via Hagerstown. Interstate 83 begins as the Jones Falls Expressway in Baltimore and then heads north into Pennsylvania. The Interstate 95 is the state’s main highway. I-95 follows the Capital Beltway around Washington, then passes through the Fort McHenry Tunnel in Baltimore, and on to the Delaware border. Interstate 97 is a short connection between Annapolis and Baltimore.
In addition, there are a number of auxiliary routes. Interstate 195 is a short spur to the Baltimore airport and Interstate 270 is a very busy regional highway between Frederick and Washington. Interstate 295 forms Washington ‘s southern approach road from Maryland, but it actually runs through Maryland for only a few hundred yards. Interstate 370 is a short spur of I-270 at Gaithersburg and mainly connects to the Intercounty Connector ( State Route 200 ). Interstate 395 is a short spur in downtown Baltimore and Interstate 495 forms the Washington Beltway, also known as the ‘Capital Beltway’. I-95 also crosses the eastern portion of the beltway. I-495 is Maryland’s busiest highway. Interstate 595 is an unsigned Interstate Highway between Washington and Annapolis. It is the longest unsigned Interstate Highway in the United States. Interstate 695 forms Baltimore ‘s beltway and Interstate 795 connects Baltimore to Reisterstown. Interstate 895 is an alternate route to I -95 through Baltimore and passes through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel.
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A reasonable number of US Highways cross the state. The state’s main highway has historically been the National Highway ( US 40 ), which has since been replaced by I-68 and I-70. US 1 is the historic north-south route through the state, from Washington via Baltimore to Delaware. US 13 is the north-south route across the Delmarva Peninsula to the east and is a 2×2 divided highway. US 50 connects Washington to Annapolis and on to Ocean City on the coast. US 50 passes over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The US 301 is a regional bypass of both Washington and Baltimore and is mostly a 2×2 divided highway and part freeway through Washington’s eastern suburbs. US 301 runs along with US 50 past Annapolis and over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
Maryland has an extensive network of state highways that fill the minor highway network. They are numbered from 2 to 999. Quite a few state highways are double-numbered due to Maryland’s geography, and many short state highways are not signposted. The road numbering of state highways was introduced in 1927. State Highway 1 was the original route between Washington and Baltimore, it is unclear if it was ever signposted. This is also the only state highway whose road number dates back to 1908.
Some state highways have been fully or partially developed as freeways;
- MD 4: Forestville – Bristol (suburban Washington)
- MD 5: Camp Springs – Clinton (suburban Washington)
- MD 10: Brookyln Park – Severna (suburban Baltimore)
- MD 32: Severna Park – Columbia (suburban Baltimore)
- MD 100: Lake Shore – Ellicott City (suburban Baltimore)
- MD 200: Gaithersburg – Laurel (Intercounty Connector)
- MD 295: Washington – Baltimore Parkway
- MD 665: Annapolis
- MD 702: Essex (suburban Baltimore)
Maryland has a number of toll roads, mainly bridges and tunnels. Historically, I-95 was a toll road from Baltimore to the Delaware border, but today only the bridge over the Susquehanna River is tolled here. Tolls also have to be paid on the nearby bridge of the US 40. In addition, the Fort McHenry Tunnel of I-95 in Baltimore is a toll road, there are also express lanes of I-95 in the northeastern suburbs of Baltimore.
In Baltimore, Interstate 895 is a toll road in its entirety, primarily because of the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, but the entire highway is a toll road from start to finish, as is the branch to Brooklyn Park in the south of the city. The Francis Scott Key Bridge (I-695) of the Baltimore Beltway is also a toll road.
In addition, tolls must be paid at the Intercounty Connector (MD 200) on the north side of Washington and on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (US 50) east of Annapolis. Also, the Nice Bridge (US 301) on the Virginia border is a toll bridge.
I-495 ‘Capital Beltway’ around Washington.
The fork of I-270 near Washington.
Maryland became a state of the United States in 1781. Not long after, in 1790, a piece of land was donated to create the District of Columbia, which would house the federal government, which became Washington, DC. The city of Washington did not exist at the time, in 1800 it had 8,100 inhabitants. Baltimore was the dominant city of the region until the mid-20th century, surpassing the 100,000 mark by the 1830s. It was the second largest city in the United States with more than 100,000 inhabitants, after New York City. In 1900 Baltimore had more than 500,000 inhabitants and Washington, DC only 280,000 inhabitants.
Because of the importance of Washington as the federal capital of the United States, the construction of high-quality roads was started here, but initially mainly on the Virginia side. In 1947, construction began on the Washington-Baltimore Parkway ( State Route 295 ), Maryland’s first interurban highway. The first part of it opened to traffic in 1950. The second connection was the Washington National Pike ( Interstate 270 ), the first section of which opened in 1951. Circa 1950, the first section of Interstate 83. opened in Baltimore, this was Baltimore’s first urban highway. Later in the 1950s, construction began on the Hanson Freeway, which would connect Washington to Annapolis. The first part of this opened to traffic in 1957. The first sections of Interstate 70 west of Baltimore also opened to traffic in the 1950s, then numbered US 40. In 1955, I-70/US 40 was continuous for about 50 kilometers between Frederick and Baltimore.
The creation of the Interstate Highway system in 1956 paved the way for the construction of freeways in Maryland. The Washington Beltway ( Interstate 495 ) was one of the first projects to be constructed and opened in Maryland between 1961 and 1964. In 1960, I-83 between Baltimore and the Pennsylvania border was completed. In 1963, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway, then a toll road from Baltimore to the Delaware border, also opened. Due to the existing Washington-Baltimore Parkway, the construction of I-95 between the two cities was somewhat less priority, and opened to traffic in 1971.
Interstate 70 west of Frederick to the Pennsylvania border was also completed in the 1960s. In 1964-1966, Interstate 81 through the narrow part of western Maryland opened to traffic. This was primarily a transit route for traffic from Virginia to Pennsylvania and of little importance to traffic within Maryland. Interstate 695, Baltimore’s ring road, was opened in phases during the 1960s and 1970s. The ring road was completed in 1977.
In western Maryland, the US 48 freeway was built in phases, later known as Interstate 68. The first part of it opened through Cumberland as early as 1957, the last part as late as 1991. Also relatively late, I-95 was constructed along downtown Baltimore, including the Fort McHenry Tunnel. This opened to traffic in 1985. However, since 1957 the Baltimore bypass ( Interstate 895 ) had been completed, so that the central part of I-95 in Baltimore was less important.
Since the 1980s, a large-scale network of suburban freeways has been built between Washington and Baltimore. One anomaly was Interstate 97 between Baltimore and Annapolis, the shortest 2-digit Interstate Highway, running in one state, even just one county. The last part of this opened in 1993. After 2000, relatively few new highways were opened. The state’s first express lanes opened in 2014, part of I-95 in northeast Baltimore.
Bridges and Tunnels in Maryland
Maryland has a number of larger bridges and tunnels, including the well-known Chesapeake Bay Bridge, whose first span opened in 1952. In 1973 a second span opened, turning it into a freeway. The Francis Scott Key Bridge is a large truss bridge spanning the Patapsco River in Baltimore, and part of the I-695 ring road. This opened to traffic in 1977 and was the last part of the ring road. Two submarine tunnels have also been constructed near Baltimore, the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel (I-895) from 1957 and the Fort McHenry Tunnel (I-95) from 1985.