This 2002 photo shows the northbound I-395 (Cal Ripken Way) approaching the split for Martin L. King, Jr. Boulevard approaching downtown Baltimore. Both I-395 and the boulevard were built as part of the city's revised "3-A" expressway system. (Photo by Jim K. Georges.)
A VESTIGE OF EARLIER EXPRESSWAY PLANS: Baltimore's I-395 - known today as Cal Ripken Way - survived as a vestige of the Southwest Freeway alignment from the city's 10-D Interstate highway plan of 1962. As it became clear that the 10-D plan would be too expensive and too disruptive to the Inner Harbor and surrounding areas, and as sentiment grew more negative nationwide - and particularly in Baltimore - against large-scale demolition of neighborhoods for highways, the city and state adopted a less disruptive plan ("the Baltimore 3-A Interstate and Boulevard System") after three years of collaboration with planners, engineers, business leaders, and community groups.
The 3-A plan dropped the East-West and Southwest expressways through the Inner Harbor, but kept a spur route from I-95 - which had been rerouted to the south away from downtown Baltimore - in the plan. The corridor originally was known as the "Sharp-Leadenhall Corridor," named for the two north-south streets that traverse Baltimore's oldest black enclave.
As proposed in the 3-A plan, the Sharp-Leadenhall Corridor, where the I-395 designation first appeared formally in 1971, was to provide a direct connection from I-95 to downtown and the Inner Harbor. A limited-access arterial boulevard - known originally in the 3-A plan as Harbor City Boulevard but later renamed Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard - was to veer from the I-395 mainline to the northwest. Under this revised plan, there was no direct connection to I-170 (Franklin-Mulberry Corridor) or I-83 (Jones Falls Expressway). I-395 was planned for a traffic load of 36,000 vehicles per day (AADT) by 1990.
Even before the 3-A plan was finalized, the city condemned more than 300 properties and displaced 3,000 residents in the Sharp-Leadenhall neighborhood to prepare for the expressway's construction. However, major construction of I-395 did not begin until 1976.
The six-lane I-395 mainline extends slightly less than three-quarters of a mile before splitting into four-lane eastern and western wyes at Ostend Street. All of the mainline I-395, its "direction-T" southern terminus interchange with I-95, and part of the western I-395 wye was built on viaduct; half of the mainline and nearly all of the I-95 / I-395 interchange was built over the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River. The 0.6-mile-long eastern wye empties onto South Howard Street at Conway (Camden) Street, while the western wye continues north as Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard at Washington Boulevard.
I-395 was opened to traffic along with Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard on December 9, 1982. A 0.6-mile-long section of I-95 from EXIT 54 (MD 2 / Hanover Street) to EXIT 55 (Key Highway) also opened on that date.
The expressway today carries approximately 65,000 vehicles per day between I-95 and Baltimore's central business district. The location of I-395 was a critical factor in the construction of new stadiums for baseball (Camden Yards in 1992) and football (M&T Stadium in 1998).
HONORING THE "IRON MAN": On July 27, 2007, the US House of Representatives presented HR 3218, which called for formally naming the I-395 mainline and western wye after longtime Baltimore Orioles star Cal Ripken, Jr. President George W. Bush signed the bill into law on September 28, 2007, and the formal re-dedication took place on May 30, 2008.
The portion of Interstate Route 395 located in Baltimore, Maryland, beginning at the junction of Interstate Routes 395 and 95 and ending at Conway Street shall be known and designated as "Cal Ripken Way."
Ripken, who played for the Orioles from 1981 to 2001 and was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame with the third-highest voting percentage in history in 2007, was known as baseball's "Iron Man" because of his streak of 2,632 consecutive games played lasting from 1982 to 1998, shattering Babe Ruth's old record of 2,130 games. Ripken's father, Cal Ripiken, Sr., spent 36 years with the Baltimore Orioles as a player, scout, coach, and manager.
The left photo shows the southbound I-395 (Cal Ripken Way) at the interchange for I-95 (left photo). The right photo shows the continuation of I-395 along the eastern wye toward Inner Harbor and Baltimore's two major sports stadiums. The flyover ramp shown here carries the western wye of I-395 toward Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. Both photos are from 2002. (Photos by Jim K. Georges.)
SOURCES: "Southern Leg of East-West Expressway Is Proposed To Bypass Downtown Area," The Baltimore Sun (8/23/1968); "Traffic Evaluation Summary," Urban Design Concept Associates (1968); "Baltimore Interstate Highway System 3-A: Facts and Features," Urban Design Concept Associates (1971); "Mayor Endorses Plan for 3-A Expressway" by James D. Dilts, The Baltimore Sun (4/08/1974); "Harbor City Road To Debut" by Frederic B. Hill, The Baltimore Sun (11/29/1982); "HR 3218," Congressional Record-Library of Congress (7/27/2007); "Sharp-Leadenhall Community Discusses Obama's Inauguration" by Kuren Redmond, WMAR-TV (12/18/2008); Scott Kozel; Mike Pruett; Alexander Svirsky; William F. Yurasko.
I-395 shield by Ralph Herman. Lightpost by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.