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Author Topic: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening  (Read 18770 times)

1995hoo

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50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« on: August 15, 2014, 02:01:54 PM »

This morning while getting dressed I heard a short report on WTOP radio about this weekend being the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Capital Beltway. They played a few recorded excerpts from some speeches made that day, though unfortunately they didn't play the remarks by Maryland's congressman Carlton Sickles, who apparently said simply, "I'm so happy, I can't express myself."

What you don't get on the radio, however, are the photos they have on their website. It's not a huge collection by any means, but the "then-and-now" format makes it interesting to look at (even though one of the pictures is of old I-95/current I-395 near the Beltway). What I find most interesting is photo #7. Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to embed it here due to the "gallery" format they use, so I'll just have to refer you to the link below. Photo #7 is of the Inner Loop at the split for the I-270 Spur. The "then" image shows old-style signs with no Interstate shields. The one that really catches my eye more says "I-495 BELTWAY/BETHESDA" with an upward-pointing arrow similar to the downward-pointing ones some New Jersey Turnpike signage (most notably the late, lamented southbound Exit 6 gantry) used for years. (The slash in the quotation denotes a line break, similar to the usage when quoting poetry.) I remember southbound I-95 in Maryland at the Beltway had a sign saying "BELTWAY EAST" without a route number up into the 1980s, though I don't have a picture of it—the sign was located at the loop-around ramp that carried the bulk of I-95 traffic heading to the eastern half of the Beltway because the current two-lane flyover that splits to the left didn't exist yet. Back then you either used the loop-around ramp (currently marked for traffic heading to College Park via US-1) or you used another ramp that curved around the back of the Park-and-Ride, made sort of a U-turn, and then used the ramp that would have connected unbuilt northbound I-95 coming from DC to the Inner Loop. I remember even as a kid finding that "BELTWAY EAST" sign to be strange because it didn't have a route number on it. Maybe cpzilliacus might remember that sign and know where to find an image?

Here is the link to the photo gallery, which does not have an accompanying article: http://www.wtop.com/862/3682358/Beltway-Looking-back-on-50-years#idx1

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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2014, 02:07:25 PM »

here's the 270 photo:

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1995hoo

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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2014, 02:26:04 PM »

Thanks. When I tried it in my browser it didn't look like it would work because of the format of the URL, but I guess I was wrong.

The other thing I find interesting about those old signs is the use of all-caps for everything. I'd love to see a color photo showing what shade of green they used back then.
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"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2014, 02:34:41 PM »

The comparison also underscores another item that I’ve been noticing a lot lately: Everything’s gotten incredibly overgrown in the past half-century. Particularly in the East.
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agentsteel53

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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2014, 02:36:54 PM »

The comparison also underscores another item that I’ve been noticing a lot lately: Everything’s gotten incredibly overgrown in the past half-century. Particularly in the East.

overgrown with humans, or with trees?
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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2014, 02:46:46 PM »

Well—I suppose both now that you mention it—but I was referring to the trees.

I’m certainly grateful for trees and appreciate the oxygen, erosion control, and so on that they provide, but comparing old highway photos with recent ones, many highways seem so much more claustrophobic now. And because of the traffic, of course.
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jeffandnicole

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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2014, 02:53:41 PM »

The Northeast/east/Mid-Atlantic region would be overgrown with vegetation if no one ever did anything. Not sure if it's because the weather over here, the fair amount of rain we get, the soils, or whatever it may be, but if it's not mowed, traveled on or walked on consistently, it will become an overgrown forest. 

In Agentsteel's picture, you may expect some growth after 50 years, but you notice that the interchange there has been redone since the original opening. So that forest-looking area is only a few decades old at most.
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agentsteel53

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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2014, 02:55:20 PM »

I like the trees.  unless one can give a reason why the growth isn't ecologically sound (i.e. invasive species like kudzu), I will have no problem with them.

if they obscure a sign - I say, move the damn sign!
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BrianP

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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2014, 03:01:56 PM »

That photo made me think of this one: (courtesy of MDRoads)

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1995hoo

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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2014, 03:04:20 PM »

Outstanding photo. Thanks for finding and posting that. Looks like the US-50/301 split on the Eastern Shore near where the Queenstown golf courses are today.
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"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

ixnay

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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2014, 09:20:32 PM »

Outstanding photo. Thanks for finding and posting that. Looks like the US-50/301 split on the Eastern Shore near where the Queenstown golf courses are today.

That it is.  Flimsy overhead signs and gantry by today's standards.  That flyover bridge carrying WB 50 still has its colonial-style brickwork decoration (similar to the over/underpasses on 50/301 near Annapolis).  The only difference is that that flyover (which eventually became 2-lanes; don't know if it was 1 lane or 2 in the '50s) was recently redecked (without a total closure on the flyover or underneath other than maybe to move equipment or hoist girders into place as necessary).  But the brickwork remains.

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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #11 on: August 16, 2014, 10:46:18 AM »

Washington Post: Circular reasoning: Beltway, now 50, was a 20th-century solution. Can we do better?

Quote
When the final portion of the Capital Beltway opened 50 years ago this weekend, the idea of building wider highways to solve transportation problems was at its zenith. Over the next half-century, the D.C. region would add many more highways, but others would be canceled as we made different choices.

Quote
The biggest update in the Beltway design came in 2012, when the high-occupancy toll lanes opened. Now, the Virginia government is expanding the HOT lanes network to include 29 miles of Interstate 95/395 and is considering a project on Interstate 66 beyond the Beltway.
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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2014, 01:14:00 PM »

(even though one of the pictures is of old I-95/current I-395 near the Beltway).
The then picture of old I-95 (now I-395) was taken from the 1971 edition of the smaller/mid-size Rand McNally Road Atlas & Travel Guide, Interstate: Road to the Future article segment.
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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2014, 02:56:37 PM »

Well—I suppose both now that you mention it—but I was referring to the trees.

I thought you were referring to the shields.  Those are freaking huge in the photo.  And would it have killed Maryland to keep the control cities?
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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2014, 03:37:41 AM »

Well—I suppose both now that you mention it—but I was referring to the trees.

I thought you were referring to the shields.  Those are freaking huge in the photo.  And would it have killed Maryland to keep the control cities?

Well—now that you mention it—that too. Are those the biggest Interstate shields in official use anywhere?
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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #15 on: August 19, 2014, 08:43:28 AM »

I thought you were referring to the shields.  Those are freaking huge in the photo.  And would it have killed Maryland to keep the control cities?
If one looks how the road's striped today, it's worth noting that those BGS' are located past the beginning of the theoretical gore area.  All the BGS' prior to the gore feature normal-sized shields and control destinations.
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1995hoo

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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #16 on: August 19, 2014, 09:25:08 AM »

Well—I suppose both now that you mention it—but I was referring to the trees.

I thought you were referring to the shields.  Those are freaking huge in the photo.  And would it have killed Maryland to keep the control cities?

Well—now that you mention it—that too. Are those the biggest Interstate shields in official use anywhere?

I think there have been some threads over the years about largest shields. The largest one I can picture on a BGS is on the Capital Beltway's Inner Loop in Virginia between Van Dorn Street (Exit 173) and Springfield (Exit 170). It's definitely larger than those two at the I-270 Spur.

Picture from AARoads.com:

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"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

ixnay

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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #17 on: August 20, 2014, 09:23:36 PM »

Armor All Man, VDot just found your shield.

ixnay
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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #18 on: August 20, 2014, 09:36:52 PM »


Well—now that you mention it—that too. Are those the biggest Interstate shields in official use anywhere?

not counting shields painted directly on the lanes... probably.

as of 2006 there was a six or eight foot I-95 shield somewhere on the New Jersey turnpike, but that was more ceremonial than anything since, if I recall correctly, it was nailed to the side of a row of tollbooths.

there were also huge Pennsylvania Turnpike shields that served as their own BGS; easier illustrated than demonstrated:


but those are not interstate shields. 

48" high is the largest officially specified shield in various state MUTCDs for use on green signs.  I know Virginia's 1964 MUTCD allows for a 48x48; this may be a remnant of that kind of thinking.  I cannot tell if it is 48 or 60 inches tall.
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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #19 on: August 21, 2014, 06:13:05 PM »


Well—now that you mention it—that too. Are those the biggest Interstate shields in official use anywhere?

not counting shields painted directly on the lanes... probably.

as of 2006 there was a six or eight foot I-95 shield somewhere on the New Jersey turnpike, but that was more ceremonial than anything since, if I recall correctly, it was nailed to the side of a row of tollbooths.

there were also huge Pennsylvania Turnpike shields that served as their own BGS; easier illustrated than demonstrated:


but those are not interstate shields. 

48" high is the largest officially specified shield in various state MUTCDs for use on green signs.  I know Virginia's 1964 MUTCD allows for a 48x48; this may be a remnant of that kind of thinking.  I cannot tell if it is 48 or 60 inches tall.

The trailblazer from you know where.

And judging from the classic 'Stang at right and the Shell sign with SHELL on it' I'd say late '60s.

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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #20 on: August 22, 2014, 07:25:43 AM »

Moving back to the topic, the completion of the CB made possible a well-worn political metaphor.  How come nobody mentioned that?

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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #21 on: August 22, 2014, 08:53:39 AM »

And judging from the classic 'Stang at right and the Shell sign with SHELL on it' I'd say late '60s.
The metallic red car behind it looks of mid-70s vintage.  I can't quite make out the model but I do know metallic red (as opposed to just red) was a very common color during the 70s.
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ARMOURERERIC

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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #22 on: August 22, 2014, 09:19:18 AM »

And judging from the classic 'Stang at right and the Shell sign with SHELL on it' I'd say late '60s.
The metallic red car behind it looks of mid-70s vintage.  I can't quite make out the model but I do know metallic red (as opposed to just red) was a very common color during the 70s.

Note the cobra headed lighting mast.  Probably even more recent than that
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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #23 on: August 22, 2014, 09:23:56 AM »

photo was taken 1979 by Michael Summa.
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Re: 50th anniversary of the Capital Beltway opening
« Reply #24 on: August 22, 2014, 09:48:35 AM »


Well—now that you mention it—that too. Are those the biggest Interstate shields in official use anywhere?

not counting shields painted directly on the lanes... probably.

as of 2006 there was a six or eight foot I-95 shield somewhere on the New Jersey turnpike, but that was more ceremonial than anything since, if I recall correctly, it was nailed to the side of a row of tollbooths.

That is the shield on the New England Thruway section of I-95 north:



The other larger than average shields for the Capital Beltway are posted along I-95 south ahead of its merge with I-495:


 


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