Baltimore History of Expressway Planning - 1970

Here's an excellent brief history of freeway planning in Baltimore City, published in December 1970 just after the Baltimore 3-A Interstate and Boulevard System concept was adopted (much of which was later built).

Source: Final Joint Development, Baltimore Interstate Highway System 3-A, by Urban Design Concept Associates (a joint corporate venture of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; J.E. Greiner Company, Inc., Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade & Douglas; Wilber Smith & Associates), December 1970.

This document was prepared for the Interstate Division for Baltimore City (a joint city/state agency) on behalf of the City of Baltimore and the State Roads Commission of Maryland in cooperation with the United States Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration.

[verbatim copy in blue text below is from public document]

Appendix A - History of freeway planning in Baltimore

The history of freeway planning in Baltimore City dates back to the 1930s. In the intervening years many routes have been analyzed, some superficially, some in considerable depth, and it is fair to say that every possible route has been investigated at one time or another.

Throughout this period, proposals for the construction of a freeway system through the City were continually blocked on the grounds that the location and design had not been thoroughly studied as to their effects on the City.

Baltimore, not unlike many other larger cities, has had difficulty in finding the solution for an optimal limited-access urban road network. The usual problems of public acceptance and fiscal capacity have beset the City's planning process, perhaps to an even greater degree than in other cities. Thus, today there is within the City only one segment of limited-access freeway, the Jones Falls Expressway (I-83).

Between 1942 and 1957, eight major proposals were made for an East-West Expressway in Baltimore City. All of these proposals contemplated an East-West Corridor north of the Central Business District.

The early highway plans, such as the Robert Moses' and Advisory Engineers' plans of the early 1940s sought solutions for traffic, and for moving vehicles through the city on their way to and from Washington or Philadelphia and beyond. In 1945 Nathan Smith, City Chief Engineer, proposed an inner-city ring with extending radials. This plan, the city's first major comprehensive highway scheme, formed the basic pattern from which subsequent highway planning in Baltimore has evolved.

When the Interstate Highway Act of 1956 provided 90% Federal participation for freeways forming part of the Interstate System, Baltimore's proposed highway system submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads basically followed Smith's proposal. The scheme included the Beltway, as well as the radial Jones Falls, East-West and Southwest freeways.

Due to considerable public controversy, these alignments never gained acceptance, although incorporated into the City's Master Plan in 1957. In 1958, Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro, II requested the Planning Commission to review previous plans to determine if less controversial routes could be developed. This resulted in the Planning Commission's Report, dated December 1960, in which a through harbor route to the south of the CBD was recommended as preferable to the northern routes previously recommended.

Subsequently, the City engaged three local engineering firms to study alternative alignments. In October 1961, after examining twenty different routes, the expressway consultants submitted to the City recommendations for route locations for Interstate 70N and 95. These recommendations also incorporated a harbor route and became known as the 10-D Alignment.

In 1964, Wilbur Smith and Associates completed their traffic report for BMATS (Baltimore Metropolitan Area Transportation Study), incorporating the 10-D alignment as an integral part of an expanded comprehensive freeway network, and in July, 1965, corridor location and condemnation hearings for this system began. Subsequently, the original 10-D alignment was modified, principally at the Inner Harbor crossing and for the connection of I-95 to I-70N from the Southwest. In 1967, the last condemnation ordinance for the modified 10-D alignment right-of-way was passed by the City Council.

In 1966, however, Baltimore pioneered a technique of highway planning aimed at overcoming the considerable public resistance that had emerged.

While environmental and social factors had been considered in the past, as evidenced by the Planning Commission's Report of 1960, increasing concern among low-income and minority groups comprising the majority of the inner-city population, alerted City, State and Federal officials to the need for a new approach to urban freeway design.

In an attempt to expedite the design and construction process, and take full advantage of the Interstate Highway legislation which, at that time, was to expire in 1971, an Advisory Committee composed of Archibald C. Rogers, a well known local architect, Dean Russell B. Allen, formerly Dean of the School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, and Thomas F. Hubbard, Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering at Johns Hopkins, was appointed to advise the City on freeway matters.

The Committee proposed the creation of a "Design Concept Team" to bring together the necessary disciplines to get the road built without unnecessarily disrupting the fabric of the City.

Comprised of highway, traffic and transit engineers, architects and urban planners, and supplemented by consultants in specialized fields such as urban land economics, sociology, landscape design, community relations and other disciplines, the Concept Team was allocated planning funds over and above those normally provided for preliminary highway engineering and design, and charged with the task of designing a highway system which would provide for the social, economic, and aesthetic needs of the City's environment as well as provide an efficient transportation facility.

In October 1968, the Concept Team presented preliminary findings to the Mayor and the State Roads Commission, and in December the Mayor selected the 3-A System for the City's Interstate Network. This highway configuration, approved by the Federal Highway administrator in January, 1969, reduced the scale of the road in the inner-city, eliminated a crossing over the Inner Harbor, and added a southern bypass. The Concept Team has subsequently proceeded with the design of the 3-A System and will conclude its efforts in December 1970, with the publication of a series of final reports.

[end of quoted material]

Lead article for Baltimore Early Expressway Planning

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By Scott M. Kozel, Roads to the Future

(Created  7-29-2000; last updated 5-5-2007)