This 2009 photo shows the northbound Baltimore-Harrisburg Expressway (I-83) approaching EXIT 16 (Timonium Road) in Timonium. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
A REPLACEMENT FOR OLD US 111: The Baltimore-Harrisburg Expressway was conceived in 1944 as part of a nationwide network of postwar Interstate highways, as the expressway was intended to replace the existing US 111 (now MD 45) from the Baltimore Beltway (I-695) to the Maryland-Pennsylvania border. Action on the highway had to wait until World War II was over, and even then, the state had to find a way to finance its 50% share of design and construction.
The expressway received a boost in 1947 when the Maryland State Legislature approved its construction as part of a massive statewide highway-building program, which included construction of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (MD 295) and the Bay Bridge (US 50-US 301). The legislation, which Governor William Preston Lane signed into law shortly thereafter, directed the State Roads Commission to build the expressway, which was to be financed through a bond issue. Upon completion, the Baltimore-Harrisburg Expressway was to receive the US 111 designation.
Construction of the initial four-mile stretch between EXIT 16 (Timonium Road) in Timonium and EXIT 20 (Shawan Road) in Cockeysville began in 1948. The dualized highway was ready for use in July 1951, but the connections at Timonium Road and Shawan Road were not built because of right-of-way disputes at the interchanges. Although these disputes were resolved, completion of this initial section also was delayed because of the difficulty of blasting through a rock sub-base.
Once the interchange connections to the unused section were completed, this initial section opened to traffic in December 1953. The Baltimore Sun reported that Governor Theodore McKeldin, who had succeeded Lane, had grown "bored" at dedications of projects started by his predecessor, including the Bay Bridge and the Baltimore Beltway.
A second section, also four miles long, was opened to traffic in April 1954. This project extended the expressway from EXIT 20 north to EXIT 24 (Belfast Road) in Sparks. Additional work extended the expressway north to EXIT 27 (MD 137 / Mount Carmel Road) in Hereford in 1957. Unlike the original stretch of highway, however, the seven-mile-long stretch from EXIT 20 north to EXIT 27 was built with a single two-lane carriageway ("super-2"), with rights-of-way reserved for future expansion to a dual-carriageway design.
INTERSTATE FUNDING EXPEDITES COMPLETION: The inclusion of the Baltimore-Harrisburg Expressway into the Interstate highway system made the route eligible for 90% Federal financing, which enabled officials to press ahead with completion of unbuilt sections and upgrade the existing "super-2" section between Cockeysville and Hereford. The expressway now was to receive the I-83 designation, though it actually was not signed as I-83 until 1963, when a large portion of the Jones Falls Expressway to the south was completed. (It also was in 1963 that the US 111 designation was removed in Maryland and Pennsylvania.)
The one-mile link of the Baltimore-Harrisburg Expressway from EXIT 16 in Timonium south to the Baltimore Beltway, along with a "directional-Y" interchange with the beltway, was completed in 1958; this coincided with the opening of the adjacent section of the beltway. The following year, a four-mile stretch from EXIT 33 (MD 45 / Old York Road) in Parkton north to the Maryland-Pennsylvania border opened to traffic. In 1960, the missing six-mile link of the expressway between EXIT 27 in Hereford and EXIT 33 in Parkton opened to traffic. That same year, the "super-2" stretch between Cockeysville and Hereford finally was dualized.
EXPANSION AND MODERNIZATION: In the 1970s and 1980s, the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), the successor agency to the SRC, expanded I-83 to six lanes (three lanes in each direction) from four lanes between the I-695 junction and EXIT 20, added new ramps at EXIT 16, built a new interchange at EXIT 18 (Warren Road) in Cockeysville, and converted the existing partial cloverleaf interchange at EXIT 20 into a full cloverleaf.
The SHA made these improvements instead of building a 3.7-mile-long western spur of the Baltimore-Harrisburg Expressway that would have led directly to the Jones Falls Expressway. Although the $33 million expressway spur (its estimated cost in 1972) would have provided an easier transition between the two I-83 expressways and eased congestion on the Baltimore Beltway, intense opposition stopped its construction. (Had the link to the Jones Falls Exprssway been built, the new link likely would have been designated I-83, while the bypassed section of the Baltimore-Harrisburg Expressway south of the Jones Falls extension may have received the I-483 designation, though this never was made official.)
THE BALTIMORE-HARRISBURG EXPRESSWAY TODAY: The expressway functions as an important commuter route between the Baltimore Beltway and the Cockeysville-Hunt Valley area, and has aided commercial and industrial development along this corridor. However, I-83 serves primarily interstate through traffic from EXIT 20 north to Pennsylvania. According to the SHA, the Baltimore-Harrisburg Expressway carries approximately 140,000 vehicles per day (AADT) from the I-695 junction north to EXIT 16, about 90,000 vehicles per day from EXIT 16 north to EXIT 20, and about 50,000 vehicles per day from EXIT 20 north to the Maryland-Pennsylvania border.
This 2009 photo shows the southbound Baltimore-Harrisburg Expressway (I-83) approaching the junction with the Baltimore Beltway (I-695) in Tinomium. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
AN EARLY PROPOSAL TO LINK TO THE JFX: In early 1953, the SRC proposed extending the Baltimore-Harrisburg Expressway south of the Baltimore Beltway to provide a direct link to the Jones Falls Expressway near Mount Washington. Although the route was to follow an existing railroad right-of-way (which now is used for the MTA Light Rail line), citizens in the Ruxton and Riderwood communities opposed the expressway link, and the SRC subsequently shelved this proposal.
SOURCES: "New Harrisburg Road To Pass Through Ridertown, Ruxton," The Baltimore Sun (1/09/1953); "Roads Panel Ditches Ruxton Highway Plan," The Baltimore Sun (3/01/1953); "Road Stretch Set To Open," The Baltimore Sun (12/11/1953); "McKeldin Bored at Dedicating Projects Inaugurated by Lane," The Baltimore Sun (12/28/1953); "Road Opening Due Tuesday," The Baltimore Sun (4/16/1954); "Expressway Bit To Open," The Baltimore Sun (10/15/1957); "Expressway Completed," The Baltimore Sun (11/24/1960); "20-Year Highway Needs Study," Maryland State Roads Commission (1968); "State Primary Highway System," Maryland Department of Transportation (1972); "Major Transportation Milestones in the Baltimore Region Since 1940," Baltimore Metropolitan Council (2006); HistoricAerials.com; Alex Nitzman; Mike Pruett; Alexander Svirsky.
I-83 and US 111 shields by Scott Colbert. Lightposts by Millerbend Manufacturing Company.