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.


Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge / West Leg Freeway

Interstate 66 briefly enters the city of Washington before ending at U.S. 29 (Whitehurst Freeway west / K Street east). The 1.48-mile route was planned to continue east along the North Leg of the Inner Loop freeway to a planned terminus at Interstate 95, where the Interstate 395 ends today. Additionally Interstate 266 was planned as a bypass route between the current Interstate 66 end and Cherrydale, Virginia. In 1977 all unconstructed segments of the D.C. Freeway network were cancelled5 including the extension of I-66.

Former Interstate 70S

North Central Freeway

Plans called for Interstate 70S (now Interstate 270) to continue south of the Capital Beltway to an end with planned Interstate 95 at Fort Totten Park. Known as the North Central Freeway, this route along with other unconstructed routes at the time, was canceled in 1977.5

Southwest Freeway / Center Leg Freeway

For the most part, Interstate 95 does not enter the District of Columbia; instead it is routed along the Capital Beltway along side Interstate 495. A 0.10-mile portion of the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge passes through Washington.

Originally I-95 was intended to serve a much greater portion of the district along the Southwest, Center Leg, North Leg, North Central and Northeast freeways. Work on the Southwest Freeway commenced in separate contracts between December 1957 and March 1960. The freeway opened between the 14th Street Bridge and 9th Street SW on July 31, 1962, and from 9th Street east to South Capitol Street on August 16, 1963.6

I-95 was applied to the Center Leg Freeway in 1958, with construction kicking off along the route in 1966 between the Southeast Freeway and D Street. It opened northward to E Street on November 5, 1973, around the same time that the North Central and Northeast Freeways were canceled. This resulted in a new proposal taking I-95 northeast to the proposed New York Avenue Industrial Freeway and then along Baltimore Washington Parkway north. Three years later, the New York Avenue Industrial Freeway was dropped, leading to the 1977 redesignation of I-95 in Washington as Interstate 395.7

Interstate 95 was also signed along the Southwest Freeway and Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway from Washington to Springfield, Virginia. Those routes were also renumbered as part of Interstate 395 in 1977.

Northward at the current northern junction of I-95/495 near College Park, Maryland, provisions were made at that interchange for I-95 south from the Northeast Freeway. The unused roadway was later repurposed as a truck weigh station and park and ride lot.

Former Interstate 266

Whitehurst Freeway

Interstate 266 was canceled in 1972.5 The freeway was proposed as a bypass route for Interstate 66 east into the District of Columbia. The corridor extended from the Spout Run Parkway area of Fort CF Smith Park, near Exit 72 along I-66 in Virginia, across the Potomac River to the Whitehurst Freeway and its interchange with K Street. Proposed I-266 included the Three Sisters Bridge, a controversial six-lane crossing of the Potomac above Three Sisters Islands.

Anacostia Freeway

Interstate 295 follows the Anacostia Freeway northward from the Capital Beltway to Interstate 695 (11th Street Bridge) and the transition to District of Columbia 295 north. I-695 onto the Southeast Freeway continues the drive westward for commuters bound for Downtown Washington while D.C. 295 extends the Anacostia Freeway northeast toward Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

Historically, Interstate 295 was part of the East Leg Freeway of the Washington Inner Loop. Unconstructed from Pennsylvania Avenue northward, I-295 would have followed the Anacostia River to Lake Kingman and a northwestern turn to a planned interchange with Interstate 95 and U.S. 50 at Eckington. A portion of the route (since demolished), from the 11th Street Bridge to Pennsylvania Avenue, was the only aspect of this route built.

Interstate 295 officially ended at the 11th Street Bridge interchange with the Southeast Freeway (unsigned I-695) until 2009. Mid-1990s plans called for I-695 to follow the Barney Circle Freeway northeast, with a four-lane bridge across the Anacostia River to D.C. 295, south of Capitol Street. These plans were dropped and instead work underway between December 2009 and late 2013 replaced the 11th Street Bridges and upgraded the interchange with the Anacostia Freeway to provide full access to D.C. 295. These improvements included the signing of Interstate 695, with signs unveiled in 2012 along the Southeast Freeway, and an extension of the route southward across the Anacostia River to the joint terminus of I-295 north and D.C. 295 south.

Southwest Freeway

Interstate 395 replaced Interstate 95 along the Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway from Springfield northeast to Washington, DC, and along the Southeast and Center Leg Freeways within the district. The change occurred in 1977 when plans for I-95 through the city were dropped. The Shirley Highway was designated as Virginia 350 when it first opened between Woodbridge and Arlington on September 6, 1949.3

Work on the northernmost portion of the Center Leg Freeway, from Massachusetts Avenue to K Street, started in 1975 but was delayed by 1978 due to a lack of funds. The nearly completed roadway sat idle until 1984, when funding was allocated toward the roadway. The northbound lanes opened on December 16, 1986, followed by the southbound roadway on February 6, 1987.7

Some mid-1980s maps show the Center Leg Freeway as Interstate 195 and the Southeast Freeway (current I-695) as an extension of I-395 east to I-295. Exit numbers were implemented along I-395 in D.C. in mid-2008.

Capital Beltway

Although only touching the extreme southern point of the district, the Capital Beltway plays a pivotal role in the traffic scheme for metropolitan Washington. The zero milepost for the highway is located at the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge. The 10-lane span, completed in 2008, represents one of the few Interstate draw bridges in the country.

The Springfield Interchange, where Interstates 95, 395 and 495 come together in Northern Virginia, underwent a transformation from an outdated cloverleaf interchange to a high-powered stack as part of $676-million in roadwork between 1999 and 2007. The upgraded exchange includes flyovers connecting the reversible HOV roadways of I-95 south and I-395 north.

Interstate 95 was relocated from the Shirley Memorial Highway onto the eastern half of the Capital Beltway in 1977. Interstate 495 was subsequently dropped on this section, but restored in 1989.

Interstate 695


Southeast Freeway

Until 2009, Interstate 695 consisted of a 1.39-mile unsigned route along the Southeast Freeway, between I-395 (Center Leg Freeway) and the freeway end at Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Planned also as part of the South Leg Freeway, Interstate 695 was to extend west from the Southwest Freeway along Maine Avenue to connect with Interstate 66 at the Constitution Avenue interchange. A pair of two lane ramps were built from the Southwest Freeway (former I-95 / current I-395) to Maine Avenue, but the rest of the segment by the Lincoln Memorial was canceled by 1977.5

$365-million construction underway in December 2009 involved replacing the 11th Street Bridges across the Anacostia River between the Southeast Freeway (I-695) and the Anacostia Freeway (I-295). Work included the building of a new directional T interchange with ramps to the D.C. 295 freeway.4 This work coincided with the renumbering of the 11th Street Bridge as an extension of I-695 south to a shortened I-295. Work continued through 2012, when the ramp from new I-695 south to D.C. 295 north opened on December 19th.

The unused freeway east from the 11th Street Bridge north end to Pennsylvania Avenue was demolished by 2014. I-695 now travels 2.00 miles in length.

U.S. Routes

U.S. 1


U.S. Route 1

U.S. 1 travels 7.0 miles through the District of Columbia, entering Washington along side Interstate 395 across the 14th Street Bridge. The US route splits with the Southwest Freeway for 14th Street SW by the Washington Monument to combine with U.S. 50 along Constitution Avenue east to 6th Street north. U.S. 50 east splits with U.S. 1 north for New York Avenue east while U.S. 1 remains along 6th Street to Rhode Island Avenue. Rhode Island Avenue carries the route northeast through LeDroit Park to exit the city at Mount Ranier, Maryland. The majority of U.S. 1 through Washington, DC is either poorly signed or not signed at all.

U.S. 1 Alternate is a mostly unsigned route following U.S. 50 (New York Avenue) east from U.S. 1 to Bladensburg Road north to Cottage City and Edmonston, Maryland.

U.S. 29


U.S. Route 29

Traveling 8.6 miles through the District of Columbia, U.S. 29 follows an L-shaped route east from the Francis Scott Key Bridge, where M Street links the bridge end with the Whitehurst Freeway along the Potomac River. U.S. 29 lines the freeway east to Interstate 66 and K Street by George Washington University. K Street doubles as the route of U.S. 29 through to 11th Street NW.

11th Street leads U.S. 29 north to Rhode Island Avenue east for 7th Street. Left-hand turns are prohibited from Rhode Island Avenue east onto 7th Street north, which makes U.S. 29 north discontinuous. 7th Street NW otherwise leads U.S. 29 north to Howard University, Park View, Brightwood and Silver Spring, Maryland.

U.S. 50


U.S. Route 50

U.S. 50 crosses the District of Columbia line along side Interstate 66 across the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge. Just northwest of the Lincoln Memorial, U.S. 50 branches away from I-66 for Constitution Avenue NW along the National Mall. U.S. 1 joins U.S. 50 from 14th Street NW east to 6th Street, where the pair turn northward to New York Avenue. New York Avenue doubles as the route of U.S. 50 east to Brentwood Park and a freeway leading east to Cheverly, Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland. The route travels 7.7 miles through the District of Columbia.

Former U.S. 211
Former U.S. 240

Former U.S. 211 and 240

There were two other U.S. routes that previously served the city: U.S. 211 and 240.

U.S. 211 overlapped with U.S. 29 to the Francis Scott Key Bridge. The duplication along side U.S. 29 east from Warrenton was eliminated by 1984.

U.S. 240 followed Maryland 355 (Rockville Pike) south from Rockville, Maryland to Washington via Wisconsin Avenue. Within Washington, the route varied between routes along Wisconsin and Massachusetts Avenues to the west and Connecticut Avenue to the east. Reconvening along 23rd Street NW, U.S. 240 ended at U.S. 50 (Constitution Avenue) by the National Mall in the 1960s. It previously ran across the Potomac River, via the Arlington Memorial Bridge, to an end in Arlington, Virginia in the 1940s.

D.C. Arterials and Streets


Suitland Parkway

One of several Washington area National Park Service-maintained roads, Suitland Parkway joins South Capitol Street with Maryland 4 (Pennsylvania Avenue) at Andrews Air Force Base.

District of Columbia Street Scenes

14th Street NW
14th Street NW north meets Pennsylvania Avenue NW at back to back intersections as the street swaps places with E Street between 15th and 13th Streets NW. 07/05/10
14th Street SW
14th Street SW southbound at one of the entrances to the Department of Commerce. An Interstate 495 trailblazer directs motorists southward as 14th Street SW becomes part of U.S. 1. 08/01/05
15th Street SW
15th Street SW southbound at Independence Avenue SW and Raoul Wallenburg Place. Raoul Wallenburg Place heads south to Maine Avenue and Basin Drive to Interstate 395. Independence Avenue leads west to Ohio Drive SW by the Lincoln Memorial. Ohio Drive SW links the avenue with Interstate 66 & U.S. 50 at the east end of the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge. 08/01/05
Views of the Washington Monument west of 15th Street on the National Mall. 08/01/05
Jefferson Drive SW begins at 15th Street SW just east of the Washington Monument. Jefferson Drive flows east along the National Mall to 3rd Street SW. 08/01/05
15th Street NW
Looking south at 15th Street NW at Pennsylvania Avenue NW with Washington Monument rising on the horizon. 08/01/05
Pennsylvania Avenue NW becomes E Street NW west of 15th Street NW. The road is closed to traffic as it passes between The Ellipse and The White House. 08/01/05
New York Avenue NW travels east from 15th Street NW and the Department of Treasury to Mt. Vernon Square. 08/01/05
17th Street north
17th_st_nb_after_independence_av.jpg 08/04/13
Rising to 555 feet tall, the National Monument was completed in 1884. The foundation consists of an 80-foot square step pyramid composed of blue gneiss. The remainder is composed of marble.
An earthquake in 2011 damaged the National Monument, leading to a 32-month closure for repairs as shown here. It reopened to visitors on May 12, 2014.8 08/04/13
17th Street NW leaves the National Mall at the intersection with Constitution Avenue NW. Constitution Avenue doubles as U.S. 50 west to I-66 and east to 6th Street NW. 08/04/13
E Street consists of a one way couplet between 20th Street NW and 18th Street NW. Extending one block further as a one way street east, E Street ends at 17th Street NW by the Ellipse. The street east to 15th Street NW is closed to the public. 08/04/13
The next block sees 17th Street NW intersect State Place west and New York Avenue NW west. New York Avenue becomes E Street NW west at 18th Street to the E Street Expressway to Interstate 66 (Potomac River Freeway). 08/04/13
The intersection of 17th Street NW and F Street NW by the Old Executive Office Building. 08/01/05
Pennsylvania Avenue NW veers away from 17th Street NW to Washington Circle at K Street (U.S. 29). Pennsylvania Avenue between 17th and 15th Streets NW is closed to vehicular traffic, but open to pedestrians as it passes between Lafayette Square and The White House. 08/01/05
17th Street south
17th Street NW south at Constitution Avenue NW (U.S. 50) and the National Mall. 07/05/10
Constitution Avenue doubles as U.S. 50 west to the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge (I-66) and east to 6th Street NW alongside the National Mall. This shield, replaced by 2014, directs 17th Street SW motorists onto U.S. 50 east between The Ellipse and the Washington Monument. 07/05/10
The Washington Monument comes into at the southeast corner of 17th Street NW and Constitution Avenue NW. 07/05/10
17th Street NW becomes SW as it passes by the National World War II Memorial to the east. 07/05/10
South Capitol Street north
South Capitol Street turns northwest from its merge with Suitland Parkway and rises to cross the Anacostia River along the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge. 01/02/08
Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge passes over Anacostia Drive and Anacostia Park on its turn across the Anacostia River. 01/02/08
Drivers touch down from the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge at Potomac Avenue. A $27 million project undertaken between 2007 and 2008 removed a two-block section of viaduct (Potomac avenue to O Street) from the bridge northward. The viaduct was replaced with a new surface boulevard to coincide with construction of Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals MLB franchise. 01/02/08
Traveling through the intersection with P Street adjacent to the Nationals Park. P Street leads west to Fort Lesley J. McNair. Before the viaduct was removed, South Capitol Street passed over P Street without access. 01/02/08
N Street crosses South Capitol Street on the northwest corner of the Nationals Park. N Street heads west to Canal Street and east to the Southeast Federal Center. 01/02/08
South Capitol Street dives below M Street; frontage streets travel alongside the four lane boulevard above to provide access. M Street joins the Washington Navy Yard with Maine Avenue. 01/02/08
South Capitol Street prepares to split with ramps to Interstate 395 (Southwest Freeway / Center Leg Freeway) north of I Street. 01/02/08
The northbound frontage street returns to South Capitol Street at K Street. K Street is bisected from South Capitol Street; there is no access from the South Capitol Street mainline to K Street east. 01/02/08
I Street intersects South Capitol Street at the split with ramps to Interstate 395. I Street leads west to 7th Street and east to New Jersey Avenue. 01/02/08
Ascending onto the ramps for Interstates 395 south (Southwest Freeway) and 395 north (Center Leg Freeway). South Capitol Street meanwhile passes under Interstate 695 (Southeast Freeway) en route to Washington Avenue and D Street. 01/02/08
The northbound ramp to Interstate 395 splits with ramps to the Center Leg Freeway north to U.S. 50 (New York Avenue) and D Street SW near the Rayburn Building. 01/02/08
Turning west, drivers partition into the ramps for Interstate 395 north to U.S. 50 (New York Avenue) and Interstate 395 south to Arlington, Virginia. 01/02/08
Independence Avenue SW
Independence Avenue SW eastbound at U.S. 1 (14th Street SW) across from the Department of Agriculture. 08/01/05
Interstate 395 trailblazer posted along Independence Avenue SW westbound between U.S. 1 (14th Street SW) and Raoul Wallenburg Place. Raoul Wallenburg Place south to Basin Drive SW leads drivers onto Interstate 395 south at the George Mason Bridge. This sign was replaced by 2014. 08/01/05
Independence Avenue splits into separate roadways west of 15th Street SW. Westbound leads to Maine Avenue SW and 17th Street SW. 08/01/05
L'Enfant Promenade north
L'Enfant Promenade travels northward underneath L'Enfant Plaza between the Interstate 395 westbound Frontage Road and D Street SW. Pictured here is the Promenade northbound after Frontage Road SW at the public parking garage entrance. 08/01/05
An original guide sign over L'Enfant Promenade north still eludes to Interstate 95 District of Columbia via D Street east. Interstate 95 was signed along what is now Interstate 395 until 1977. 08/01/05
L'Enfant Promenade ends at D Street SW. D Street heads west to intersect 12th Street SW at Maryland Avenue SW, south of the 12th Street Expressway tunnel under the National Mall. 08/01/05
D Street continues east from L'Enfant Promenade to 7th Street SW, which leads drivers south to Interstate 395 (Southwest Freeway) east of its junction with Interstate 695 (Southeast Freeway) and the Center Leg Freeway. I-395 represents the former alignment of I-95; the Southeast Freeway connects with I-295. This is why Interstate 95 and 295 D.C. shields were signed here. 08/01/05
D Street SW east at L'Enfant Promenade south, under L'Enfant Plaza. 08/01/05
Lincoln Memorial Circle
Walking along the Lincoln Memorial Circle SW between Daniel French and Henry Bacon Drives. The roadway encircles Lincoln Memorial, with the eastern half closed to vehicular traffic. 07/05/10, 08/01/05
Facing east from the Lincoln Memorial Circle SW, in view is the Constitution Gardens, the Reflecting Pool, Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol dome. 08/01/05, 07/05/10
Lincoln Memorial Circle represents the historic endpoint of U.S. 240. U.S. 50 also used the circle between 23rd Street SW and the Arlington Memorial Bridge before it was relocated onto the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. This view looks north at 23rd Street NW from the Lincoln Memorial. 07/05/10
Loop ramps join the east end of the Arlington Memorial Bridge with Lincoln Memorial Circle and Ohio Drive below. The stone arch bridge was constructed in 1932 and previously carried U.S. 50 and U.S. 240. The Arts of War sculptures adorn the bridge ends. 07/05/10
Rock Creek And Potomac Parkway spans Ohio Drive and ties into Lincoln Memorial Circle from the northwest. I-66 & U.S. 50 enter Arlington, Virginia in the background. 07/05/10
23rd Street SW carries all traffic from the south end of Lincoln Memorial Circle to Independence Avenue SW and Ohio Drive SW at the John Ericsson National Memorial. 07/05/10
Maine Avenue SW
A wye interchange with two lane ramps connects Interstate 395 (Southwest Freeway) to Maine Avenue by L'Enfant Plaza. The ramps were constructed for the South Leg Freeway, that would have carried Interstate 695 northwest to I-66 & U.S. 50 at the east end of the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge. 08/04/13
A loop ramp joins Maine Avenue SW north with U.S. 1 (14th Street SW) south to Interstate 395 south to Arlington, Virginia. 08/04/13
A traffic light follows with Rauol Wallenberg Place north to 14th Street NW by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. 08/04/13
Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Pennsylvania Avenue NW west at 9th Street NW by the U.S. National Archives & Records Administration and the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building. 07/05/10
Eight lanes of Pennsylvania Avenue NW at the intersection with 10th Street NW at the Internal Revenue Service Building. The Old Post Office Pavilion rises beyond the IRS Building. 07/05/10
11th Street NW stems north from Pennsylvania Avenue NW to become part of U.S. 29 north of K Street. 07/05/10
12th Street NW intersects Pennsylvania Avenue NW. The street emerges from a tunnel below the National Mall ahead of Constitution Avenue NW (U.S. 50). 07/05/10
Pennsylvania Avenue NW veers westward at 13th Street NW by the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. 13th Street heads northward to Franklin Square. 07/05/10
13 1/2th Street serves the Ronald Reagan Building south from Pennsylvania Avenue NW and this signal. 07/05/10
14th Street NW intersects Pennsylvania Avenue NW at Pershing Park and Freedom Plaza. South of Constitution Avenue, 14th Street is a part of U.S. 1 to I-395 (Southwest Freeway). 07/05/10
Pennsylvania Avenue NW between 17th Street NW and 15th Street NW was closed to vehicular traffic due to security reasons. The White House faces the street northward. 07/05/10
Pennsylvania Avenue SE
Pennsylvania Avenue carries traffic from the east end of Southeast Boulevard across the Anacostia River to the Anacostia Freeway (D.C. 295). 06/22/05
Leaving the John Phillip Sousa Bridge, Pennsylvania Avenue SE east approaches a three-quarter cloverleaf interchange with District of Columbia 295 (Anacostia Freeway). 06/22/05
A left turn opposite Fairlawn Avenue SE joins Pennsylvania Avenue SE east with the Anacostia Freeway northbound on-ramp. D.C. 295 heads northeast to Kenilworth Avenue and the Benning section of the city. 06/22/05


  1. Washington, DC History, Washington city website.
  2. Arlington History, /Arlington_County_Virginia_local_history_facts _archive_about_records_museum_exhibit_VA.html
  3. Interstate 395 (District of Columbia–Virginia) @
  4. “11th Street Bridge Plans Gets Go-Ahead.” The Washington Post, September 22, 2009.
  5. Interstate 66 @
  6. Southwest Freeway (I-395),
  7. Center Leg Freeway (I-395),
  8. History & Culture – Washington Monument (U.S. National Park Service).

Page updated June 12, 2014.