This 2005 photo shows the westbound Metropolitan Boulevard (I-195) crossing over the Amtrak-MARC Northeast Corridor rail line. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
A LINK TO FRIENDSHIP (BWI) AIRPORT: The first section of Metropolitan Boulevard opened in 1952 as part of the original Baltimore-Washington Parkway (MD 295) construction. The four-lane, 1.8-mile-long expressway spur, which initially was designated MD 46 and called the "Friendship International Airport Access Road," linked to MD 295 at a directional-T interchange (current EXIT 2 on I-195) and had a diamond interchange with MD 170 / Aviation Boulevard (current EXIT 1) before terminating at the then-new airport in the unincorporated community of Linthicum.
Metropolitan Boulevard provided a critical role in the development of Friendship Airport as the old Baltimore Municipal Airport (now the site of the Dundalk Marine Terminal), though it was closer to downtown Baltimore, was not capable of handling increased air traffic, nor could it accommodate the new passenger jets of the 1950's. Through the MD 46 link, Friendship Airport also provided a viable alternative for Washington-area airport users prior to the opening of Dulles Airport in 1962, and underscoring the airport's service to the Baltimore-Washington area, the airport was renamed Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) Airport in 1973.
AND WEST TO I-95 AND UMBC: As plans were developed for the I-95 "Third Route" in the late 1950's and 1960's, the Maryland State Roads Commission (SRC) proposed an extension of Metropolitan Boulevard west to US 1 and I-95. In 1965, the route for the proposed freeway was extended west to MD 166 (Rolling Road) in the unincorporated community of Arbutus. This westerly extension, which was called "Relocated MD 166" in planning reports--in contrast to the MD 46 designation on the original route--was to serve the newly created University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) on part of the campus of Shady Grove State Hospital (now Shady Grove Hospital Center). The westerly extension of Metropolitan Boulevard was to be built with four through lanes, but be able to accommodate two additional through traffic lanes in the median to accommodate 50,000 or more vehicles per day (AADT) by 1990.
Construction of the next section of Metropolitan Boulevard between I-95 and US 1 (Washington Boulevard) began in 1969 at the interchange with I-95. Although I-95 opened in July 1971, the rest of Metropolitan Boulevard had yet to open as the freeway mainline remained under construction. In August 1974, this 1.2-mile-long section of freeway was completed and signed as part of MD 166.
The following year, the remainder of the MD 166 Freeway from the I-95 interchange west to the UMBC campus and Rolling Road was opened to traffic; this half-mile-long section also was signed as MD 166 as it remains to this day. One of the state's first park-and-ride lots was built in the center median of the Metropolitan Boulevard terminus at Rolling Road. Although the diverging carriageways at this location hint at a possible westward extension of the freeway, such an extension was unlikely given the close proximity of MD 166 to I-695 to the north and MD 100 to the south.
FILLING IN THE MISSING LINK: By the mid-1970's, all that remained to be built was a 1.5-mile-long link between the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and US 1. Planning reports designated this missing link as an extension of MD 46, but given the cancellations of several Interstate projects statewide, the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) succeeded in getting the I-195 designation for the 4.5 miles of Metropolitan Boulevard--encompassing both MD 46 and MD 166--between I-95 and BWI Airport through substitute mileage. However, the missing link went through Patapsco Valley State Park, a 14,000-acre park that serves as an important watershed and recreational area, and this required a lengthy environmental review.
With the SHA focused on completing I-95 through Baltimore City, construction of the final link in I-195 had to wait until 1985. This final link of I-195, which included a long viaduct spanning the park and the Amtrak-MARC commuter rail line (but not an interchange with I-895 / Harbor Tunnel Thruway, which was not in the original plan), was completed on June 20, 1990. At the same time, the former MD 46 section was upgraded to Interstate standards, including the configuration of the MD 295 and MD 170 exits as partial cloverleaf interchanges and the construction of a new pedestrian overpass. The combined cost of completing the missing link and the upgrading the existing MD 46 to I-195 was $79 million, well above the original 1972 estimate of $27 million.
I-195 TODAY: Traffic on I-195 has fallen shy of original estimates, negating the need for an expansion to six lanes for the foreseeable future. According to the SHA, I-195 carries approximately 40,000 vehicles per day east of MD 295 and about 20,000 vehicles per day west of MD 295. The speed limit on I-195 is 60 MPH, though it does go down to 30 MPH near BWI Airport.
The I-195 designation ends officially at I-95, and westbound signs on Metropolitan Boulevard denote the change from I-195 to MD 166. However, the eastbound lanes have I-195 signs installed along the entire length of the route.
This 2004 photo shows the eastbound I-195 (Metropolitan Boulevard) approaching EXIT 1 (MD 170 / Aviation Boulevard) in Linthicum. Exit numbers were added upon the freeway's completion in 1990 and run in ascending order from east to west, the reverse of the typical west-to-east numbering convention. (Photo by Alex Nitzman, www.aaroads.com.)
SOURCES: "Maryland 20-Year Highway Program (1977-1996)," Maryland State Highway Administration (1972); "I-195 Stretch to BWI Opening," The Washington Post (6/20/1990); "A Brief Early History of UMBC" by Larry Wilt, University of Maryland-Baltimore County (2001); "Major Transportation Milestones in the Baltimore Region Since 1940," Baltimore Metropolitan Council (2006); HistoricAerials.com; Scott Kozel; Alex Nitzman; Mike Pruett; Alexander Svirsky.
I-195 shield by Ralph Herman. MD 166 and MD 46 shields by Scott Colbert. Lightpost by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.