John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway (I-95)

The John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway is a 49-mile section of I-95 that traverses northeastern Maryland from the northern Baltimore City line to the Delaware state line.

The highway carries eight lanes of traffic (4 each way) on the 17-mile-long section from the I-95/I-895 split to the MD-24 interchange, and six lanes of traffic (3 each way) on the 33-mile-long section from MD-24 to the Delaware state line. The highway continues into Delaware as the 11-mile-long I-95 Delaware Turnpike.

The highway was originally fully opened to traffic in 1963, with six lanes of traffic (3 each way) on the 6-mile-long section between the seamlessly-connecting north end of the Harbor Tunnel Thruway (today's I-895) and the MD-43 White Marsh Boulevard interchange, and with four lanes (2 each way) on the 43-mile-long section between MD-43 and the Delaware state line.

The 4-lane 43-mile-long I-95 Northeastern Expressway (renamed for John F. Kennedy in 1964) between MD-43 and Delaware was built as a tollroad with ramp tolls at the interchanges to charge for usage of shorter sections of the highway, and with a two-way mainline toll plaza just north of the Susquehanna River.  This 43 miles of highway was constructed from January 1962 to November 1963, at a total cost of $73 million,  and this 4-lane highway was widened to 6 lanes (3 each way) from 1970-1972. The I-95 Millard Tydings Memorial Bridge over the Susquehanna River was originally built with 6 lanes (3 each way), and from 1963 to 1972 it was configured with 4 lanes (2 each way) of traffic and the outer third lane each way was painted off as a shoulder; and when the 6-lane widening projects were completed in 1972, the Tydings Bridge was opened to its full 6-lane configuration. The I-95 ramp tolls were removed in the 1980s, and the mainline toll plaza was converted to one-way operation in 1991.

The 6 miles of I-95 between between the seamlessly-connecting north end of the Harbor Tunnel Thruway (today's I-895) and MD-43, was originally built as a toll-free Interstate highway.

Nearly 30.4-million vehicles use the highway annually. Tolls are collected only in the northbound direction at the 12-lane toll plaza, which is located one-mile north of the Tydings Memorial Bridge over the Susquehanna River. The toll for a two-axle vehicle is $5; each additional axle is $5. The E-ZPass electronic-toll-collection system is available at the Kennedy Highway.

John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway fact sheet, MdTA. Excerpt in blue text:
The highway was developed as an interstate toll facility to hasten the construction of a safe and convenient thoroughfare through the northeastern part of Maryland. If the highway had been built using traditional federal highway-funding programs, the turnpike would have been completed seven years later than planned.

At that time, the only other major north-south route through Maryland was US 40. However, in the late 1950s, US 40 did not prove to be a convenient route for interstate travelers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. The 43-mile roadway contained 21 traffic signals, 87 intersections and more than 1,000 commercial and private entrances and exits.

Construction of the Northeastern Expressway began in January 1962. The 50-mile expressway from the northern Baltimore City line to the Delaware state line took just a little more than one-and-a-half years to complete. The original project included the Maryland House service area in Aberdeen, which, at that time, provided a restaurant and two automotive- service stations for highway travelers.

The highway's two travel plazas-the Maryland House, located at mile marker 81.9 and the Chesapeake House, located at mile marker 96.8-provide an array of services to motorists. In addition to food and automotive services, visitors will find comprehensive tourist-information services at the plazas.

The highway was dedicated at 4 p.m. on November 14, 1963. President John F. Kennedy, with Governor Millard Tawes of Maryland and Governor Carvel of Delaware, officiated the ceremony. It was President Kennedy’s last public appearance. The roadway was renamed the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway in 1964 to honor the fallen president. The highway is designated I-95 and is part of the national Interstate Highway System.

In October 1991, a one-way-toll-collection system was introduced at the Kennedy Highway toll plaza in Perryville. Tolls now are collected in the northbound direction only, at double the original toll rate. More than 30 million vehicles traveled the JFK Highway during 2004, or an average of about 80,000 vehicles per day crossing the Susquehanna River bridge.

Maryland Transportation Authority links to John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway, and Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge.

Expansion planning studies are underway to widen the entire JFK Highway.

The design has been approved for the widening of the 10 miles of I-95 between the I-95/I-895 split and MD-43 White Marsh Boulevard. The existing highway has 8 lanes (4 each way), with six mainline lanes (three each way) within the I-95/I-695 interchange proper. The expanded highway will have 12 lanes throughout, on a 4-2-2-4 lane configuration. The outer roadways will be toll-free general purpose lanes, and the inner roadways will be Express Toll Lanes.

MdTA and MSHA has decided on for the design of the rebuilt I-95/I-695 interchange north of Baltimore. The 'braided' mainline roadway feature will be eliminated, in favor of a generally conventional 4-level 'stack' interchange, with the I-95 JFK on the top level and the I-695 Baltimore Beltway on the bottom level. I-95 will be rebuilt to a 4-2-2-4 lane configuration, with 4 local lanes each way and 2 express toll lanes each way. The two express toll roadways will be located between the two general purpose roadways, and electronic toll collection and variable pricing will be utilized on the express toll roadways, with no conventional tollbooths. I-695 will have a full interchange with both roadway systems on I-95, and the interchange design will allow for future expansion on I-695 including the possibility of express toll lanes on I-695.

"Ehrlich Administration Earns Federal Approval to Expand 10 Miles Of I-95 in Baltimore City and Baltimore County", MdTA News Release, September 29, 2005. Excerpts (in blue text):
Maryland Transportation Authority Chairman Robert L. Flanagan announced today federal approval for a project that will ease congestion and increase safety by adding lanes and reconstructing interchanges on 10-miles of the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway portion of Interstate 95.

Known during planning studies as JFK Section 100, the stretch of highway spans from the I-95/I-895 split in northeast Baltimore to just north of MD Route 43 in White Marsh. Following an environmental assessment of the project, the Federal Highway Administration has issued a Finding of No Significant Impact, which formally selected the improvements to be made. Plans call for the Authority, which owns and operates the Kennedy Highway, to add two managed lanes in each direction of the highway to help ease congestion. “We will determine how best to manage those lanes during the next two years as we finalize detailed engineering and move into mainline construction,” said Trent M. Kittleman, the Authority’s Executive Secretary. “Smaller breakout projects that can be started sooner, such as improvements to the bridges at Rossville Boulevard, Cowenton Avenue and Joppa Road will begin construction later this year and early next year.”

Also included in the project’s scope are improvements to the I-95/I-895 interchange at the northeast Baltimore City line, as well as the I-95/I-695 and I-95/MD 43 interchanges in Baltimore County. Among other things the improvements will reduce last minute lane changes, eliminate left exits and separate traffic exiting I-95 from traffic merging onto the highway. Completion of the project is scheduled for late 2011. The estimated $830-million cost of the project will be funded by the MdTA, which is an independent state agency that owns, operates and maintains Maryland’s seven toll facilities. Section 100 is the first of four independent improvement projects identified for the 50-mile Kennedy Highway in the I-95 Master Plan released by Mr. Flanagan and the MdTA in 2003. The Kennedy Highway extends from northeast Baltimore to the Delaware state line.

Project website for MdTA: Section 100: I-95, I-895(N) Split to North of MD 43

Proposed I-95/I-695 interchange, image from the "SCANNER" magazine for Summer 2005, of the American Society of Highway Engineers (ASHE), from the article "JFK Section 100 - Utilization of Express Toll Lanes", by Melissa Williams, Project Manager, Maryland Transportation Authority, Engineering Division.

Click the image for a larger image.

Copyright © 2005-2006 by Scott Kozel. All rights reserved. Reproduction, reuse, or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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By Scott M. Kozel, Roads to the Future

(Created 12-1-2005, updated 2-1-2006)