Interstates | US Routes | Arterials & Streets
The U.S. Capital City, Washington, D.C. was founded on July 16, 1790 by the Constitution of the United States. The location for Washington along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers was chosen as a compromise between northern and southern states. The city site was selected by President George Washington, whom appointed three commissioners to aid in the transition of government to the new city in 1800. The city street plan was the design of Pierre Charles L’Enfant, a Frenchman who modeled Washington after Paris with sweeping boulevards and ceremonial spaces. Benjamin Banneker aided in the surveying and laying out of the city, which features streets radiating out from rectangles.1
The government center in Washington, including the White House, was leveled during the War of 1812 by British forces, who retaliated for the American sacking of York (now Toronto).1 Until 1846, the District of Columbia included Alexandria County, VA. The county, which included today’s city of Alexandria, was ceded back to the Commonwealth of Virginia on July 9th of that year. The jurisdictional transfer took place to give area residents representation in Congress and voting rights. Furthermore Washington residents previously argued that the port town was hurting business upriver, and that the city would never expand that far south. The city of Alexandria subsequently seceded from Alexandria County in 1852, and Alexandria County was eventually renamed Arlington County in 1920.2 Growth after the Civil War encompassed Georgetown, Maryland and surrounding rural areas beyond L’Enfant’s original layout for the city. The city ended at Florida Avenue (original Boundary Street) until that time.1
Mid-19th century street car lines further pushed out Washington, leading to the establishment of LeDroit Park and Anacostia as suburban communities. Development of the National Mall, and the many monuments that visitors frequent in Washington, gathered steam after 1900.1
Washington boasts a handful of freeways that supplement its spoke-like street system. Plans for the majority of the freeway network in D.C., especially north of Downtown, however never came to fruition. Interstate 95 was intended to travel through the city instead of around it on the Capital Beltway. Interstate 66 east was planned to tie into the Center Leg Freeway of I-95, with Interstate 266 acting as a bypass for I-66 west to the Three Sisters Bridge and Virginia. Interstate 295 along the East Leg Freeway, was to be an urban loop northward to the junction of I-95 and U.S. 50 from the east. Interstate 695 was proposed to travel west by the Tidal Basin to I-66 at the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.
US routes serving the capital city include U.S. 1, 29 and 50. A deleted route, U.S. 240, was the original connector between the city and Frederick, Maryland, to the northwest. The District of Columbia gained its first signed route in 1994: D.C. 295 along the northern portion of the Anacostia Freeway. Historically, D.C. 4 was established along Pennsylvania Avenue, continuing the Maryland 4 numbering convention into the city.