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This 2014 photo shows the westbound Franklin-Mulberry Expressway (US 40) at Mount Street. This stretch of highway was designated I-170 from its early planning stages in 1969, when it was proposed as part of Baltimore's "3-A" expressway plan, until 1983. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)


1.4 miles (2.3 kilometers)

A VESTIGE OF THE UNBUILT EAST-WEST EXPRESSWAY: The Franklin-Mulberry Expressway was designed as a spur route, I-170, under the city's 1969 3-A Interstate highway plan as a compromise that kept the long-proposed East-West Expressway out of downtown Baltimore. The original 3-A plan called for the construction of the parent route, I-70, from the Security Boulevard terminus (current EXIT 94) east through Leakin Park before I-170 was built. Under revised plans approved by Mayor William Schaefer in 1972, I-170 was to be built first.

The first and only contract on Franklin-Mulberry Expressway was 1.4-mile-long segment that originally was estimated to cost $29 million. Construction of this section required the removal of 900 homes, 60 businesses, and a school. Most of the demolition work was completed between 1966 and 1971, prior to the final approval of the city's 3-A expressway plan.

Beginning at the Social Security complex (then under construction, now closed) in the east, there is a westbound expressway ramp from Franklin Street and an eastbound expressway ramp leading to Mulberry Street. After crossing over Martin L. King, Jr. Boulevard (formerly Harbor City Boulevard), as well as two additional slip ramps built to serve Martin L. King, Jr. Boulevard, the expressway descends into a below-grade alignment mostly along the southern edge of the block between Franklin and Mulberry Streets. Built to Interstate standards, the expressway has a speed limit of 50 MPH.

The expressway now ends at Payson Street, where there is a westbound ramp to Franklin Street and an eastbound ramp from Mulberry Street. As originally built, mainline stubs for I-170 extended west to Pulaski Street, and unused slip ramps to the westbound expressway and from the eastbound expressway were built at Monroe Street. A 30-foot-wide grassy median was reserved for a future line of the Baltimore Metro subway system. The design of the expressway allowed for 16 acres of land for future development along Franklin Street, though to this day, nearly all of this land remains vacant.

Work on the Franklin-Mulberry Expressway began in November 1974 with the construction of eight street overpasses and two pedestrian overpasses over the expressway, as well as the expressway viaduct over Martin L. King, Jr. Boulevard. Much of the bridge work was completed by 1977. The expressway was opened to traffic on February 5, 1979, though work continued for several more months on construction of the retaining walls. By the time this section of I-170 opened, its cost had more than tripled to $100 million.

This photo, which dates to not long after the completion of the Franklin-Mulberry Expressway in 1979, shows a rare I-170 shield along the expressway. The I-170 signs were removed from the route by 1983. (Photo by Scott Kozel,

I-170 NO MORE: In light of intense community opposition to the routing of I-70 through Leakin Park, the remaining section the I-70 connection between Security Boulevard and I-95 was canceled in 1981. Without a connection to I-70, the already-built section of I-170 seemed destined to remain an orphaned section. The city then devised a plan to extend I-170 south by 1.8 miles to I-95 along the Amtrak-MARC right-of-way, as was originally designed, and then south along the original I-70 alignment to an already-built interchange on I-95 at EXIT 51. The $200 million extension, along with the existing I-170, was to be redesignated I-595. However, with little support to build the connection, the city withdrew its request in July 1983. Soon thereafter, the city replaced I-170 shields with US 40 shields.

DEMOLISHING THE RAMPS TO NOWHERE: In September 2010, the city began work on an $8.5 million project to remove the expressway stubs west of Mount Street, as well as demolish the unused ramps to and from Monroe Street. The project removed 51,000 cubic tons of concrete and steel. Where the stubs used to stand, the city built two parking lots for 335 cars, adding to the parking capacity at the MARC-West Baltimore station. The new parking lot was designed to accommodate the proposed Red Line light rail station, which is planned to extend from the I-70 park-and-ride lot at the city line east to downtown via Leakin Park and the Franklin-Mulberry Expressway median. However, the Red Line remains an inactive proposal following Governor Larry Hogan's 2015 decision not to fund the light rail line.

According to the Maryland SHA, the Franklin-Mulberry Expressway carries approximately 40,000 vehicles per day (AADT).

This 2012 photo shows the only eastbound exit on the Franklin-Mulberry Expressway, which directs motorists to Martin L. King, Jr. Boulevard. The sign on the left was to read "Downtown Baltimore." (Photo by Alex Nitzman,

EARLY PLANNING FOR BALTIMORE'S EXPRESSWAYS: In 1942, with the U.S. involvement in World War II well underway, officials in Baltimore developed plans for an express bypass of the city. The city proposed two separate routes: a tunnel under Franklin Street (which later became US 40 / Franklin-Mulberry Expressway) and an elevated expressway above Pratt Street. Both routes were to have an east-west orientation. The Baltimore City Planning Commission (BCPC) approved this plan in 1943, though this decision was non-binding.

The following year, Robert Moses, who was the master planner for New York's arterial highway system, was hired as a consultant by the BCPC to develop its plans further. Although the plans contemplated parkway-like design treatment for the proposed East-West (Pratt) Expressway and the Franklin (Mulberry) Expressway, and Moses defended his designs by stating they would help defeat urban blight, the BCPC ultimately rejected Moses' plans.

Between 1942 and 1957, city planners developed nine separate plans for a city-wide freeway system. The most prominent of these was developed by City Engineer Nathan Smith in 1945. The "Smith Report," as it soon became known, formed the basis of Baltimore's expressway planning. The core of the plan was comprised of the following three routes, and ultimately was adopted by the Federal Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) in its 1955 "Yellow Book" proposal for new urban Interstate highway routes:

  • East-West Expressway (comprising I-95 through Baltimore City to the east and north, and what was to have been I-70N from Baltimore City west)
  • Southwest Expressway (comprising I-95 from Baltimore City south)
  • Jones Falls Expressway (comprising I-83)

The Smith Report gained acceptance within the planning community, but local leaders never really warmed to the plan, citing concern that the East-West Expressway in particular would be routed either through downtown Baltimore (via the Inner Harbor alignment) or north of the central business district (via the Biddle Street alignment, which was one mile north of the Inner Harbor alignment). Even without definitive alignments for two of the three routes, the BPR still approved all three routes submitted by the state and city--the East-West, Southwest, and Jones Falls Expressways--as part of the Interstate highway system in 1956.

This 1957 photo shows proposed routings for the East-West Expressway, which includes (1) a preferred routing along the edge of the Inner Harbor; (2) a southern alternate routing that was the basis of what later became the "Fort McHenry" alignment of today's I-95; (3) a northern alternate routing that would have taken I-95 north of downtown Baltimore and continued straight west as I-70N; and (4) an inner loop freeway encircling downtown Baltimore. The Jones Falls Expressway (I-83), which was to enter the city from the north, was included in all alternatives. (Map from City of Baltimore-Department of Planning archives.)

A NEW PLAN FOR THE INTERSTATE ERA: In 1958, Baltimore mayor Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr. named Phillip Darling of the city's planning department. Darling saw the threat posed by the construction of the Baltimore Beltway (I-695) in luring business out of the city, and thought it was necessary that the city respond by building radial expressways to not only address the needs of commuters and shippers, but also help the city retain and attract business.

After two years of study, Darling published the report, "A Study for an East-West Expressway," in 1960. The Darling plan maintained the same radial axes as the Smith Report from 15 years earlier, but there were key changes to the plan that represented an initial attempt to balance the needs of the business community with those of residents. All three radial expressways were to have been eight lanes wide.

  • I-70N: Continuing east from the Baltimore Beltway (I-695), I-70N was to have been routed through Leakin Park and Gwynns Falls Park, pass through the Rosemont neighborhood, and head east between Franklin Street and Mulberry Street, the latter part of which the current Franklin-Mulberry Expressway (US 40) stub exists today. I-70N was to then turn south near Pine Street (Martin L. King, Jr. Boulevard) and turn east again to follow an elevated highway just south of Pratt Street. The elevated I-70N was to continue east to the multi-level interchange with I-95 and I-83 at the edge of the Inner Harbor.

  • I-95: Beginning at the Baltimore Beltway (I-695), I-95 was to enter Baltimore along the Southwest Expressway alignment, similar to the current alignment. Beginning in the area of the current EXIT 53 (I-395 / Cal Ripken Way), I-95 was to veer northeast through the South Baltimore and Sharp-Leadenhall neighborhoods on its way to the Inner Harbor, where a 50-foot-high bridge was to cross the Inner Harbor. At the edge the harbor, in the vicinity of Pratt Street and President Street, there was to have been a multi-level interchange between I-95, I-70N (East-West Expressway), and I-83 (Jones Falls Expressway). I-95 was to continue the "East-West Expressway" name east along the "Harbor" alignment through the Fells Point neighborhood. It was to have ended at the current I-895 (Harbor Tunnel Thruway), north of which the existing Harbor Tunnel Thruway would have been widened from four to eight lanes north to the thruway's terminus at US 40. (The I-95 designation was to continue north as the Northeast Expressway / John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway, as it does today.

  • I-83: The Jones Falls Expressway, which already was under construction when the 10-D Report was released, was to enter Baltimore as it does today, though it was to have continued as an elevated highway along President Street to the I-83 / I-95 / I-70N interchange.

This map shows Expressway Consultants' response to the 10-D plan devised by the Baltimore City Planning Department. Under this plan, I-95 would have avoided downtown Baltimore, while there would have been separate interchanges with I-70N (East-West / Franklin-Mulberry Expressway) and I-83 (Jones Falls Expressway). (Map from City of Baltimore-Department of Planning Archives.)

MAKING CHANGES TO THE 10-D PROPOSAL: The city hired a locally-based consortium called Expressway Consultants to review Darling's 10-D proposal. The consortium was comprised of J.E. Greiner Company, which worked on the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and the William Preston Lane Jr.-Chesapeake Bay Bridge; Remmel, Klepper & Kahl, which worked on the Baltimore Beltway, and Knoerle, Graef, Bender & Asssociates, which worked on the Jones Falls Expressway.

The key differences between the Expressway Consultants plan and Darling's 10-D plan were as follows:

  • I-70N: Beginning at the I-95 (Southwest Expressway) interchange, I-70N was to head northwest toward the Franklin-Mulberry alignment, then head west toward Leakin Park and the current alignment for I-70.

  • I-95: The route was to enter the city as the Southwest Expressway, but was to continue on a straight line northeast toward Carroll Park then veer east in the area of Carey Street en route to the Inner Harbor. There was to have been an interchange with the East-West Expressway (I-70N) in the area of Scott Street. I-95 was to cross the Inner Harbor between Federal Hill and Fells Point on a 50-foot-high bridge, then intersect with the Jones Falls Expressway (I-83) at President Street in the Fells Point neighborhood. I-95 was then to continue east roughly along Eastern Avenue, Boston Street, and O'Donnell Street to the Harbor Tunnel Thruway, where it was to continue north along the Harbor Tunnel Thruway alignment to the Northeast Expressway.

  • I-83: Beginning at I-95 in the Fells Point neighborhood, I-83 was to have been built along the eastern edge of the Inner Harbor, then north along President Street toward the current I-83 alignment.

The Expressway Consultants alternative addressed concerns about routing the East-West Expressway along the northern edge of the Inner Harbor, including the need to fill in parts of the harbor. However, neither alternative addressed concerns about the effects of the I-95 Inner Harbor bridge and approach viaducts in the Federal Hill and Fells Point neighborhoods. Moreover, neither proposal addressed environmental concerns about the I-70N section of the East-West Expressway through Leakin Park. By the mid-1960s, groups favoring the 10-D proposal and those favoring the Expressway Consultants proposal had reached an impasse.

This illustration shows the 3-A expressway system as approved by the Federal government in 1969, with updates through 1981. Although the 3-A system mileage was only half-completed, all of the I-95 mileage was opened in 1985 with the completion of the Fort McHenry Tunnel and immediate approaches. (Map adapted from the original Interstate Division for Baltimore City, 3-A System Current Status Map [1981].)

COLLABORATING FOR A BETTER SOLUTION: In response to concerns expressed by pro-expressway groups and community advocates, the City of Baltimore and the Bureau of Public Roads (later the Federal Highway Administration [FHWA]) collaborated on a new technique of highway planning which included participation by the public in the planning stages of a project and consideration of public comments for proposed plans. This technique is commonplace in modern highway planning, but was a novel concept in the 1960s.

What emerged from this collaboration was the Urban Design Concept Associates (UDCA), known internally as the "Concept Team," which was formed in 1966 from Expressway Consultants (which had worked earlier on an alternative to the 10-D plan), two technical consulting firms (Parsons, Brinckeroff, Quade & Douglas and Wilbur Smith & Associates), architects from Skidmore Owings & Merrill, and other experts. In early 1969, the UDCA published their reasoning for developing a new highway plan as follows:

While environmental and social factors had been previously considered in expressway planning, it was not until major parts of urban Interstate roads were finished, or being finished in other cities, that their impact on the environment and socioeconomic structure of the cities could be assessed. These impacts, which were more severe in fact than in plan, alerted city, state, and Federal officials to the need for a new approach to urban freeway design.

In response to these concerns, the City of Baltimore and the Federal Highway Administration (then the Bureau of Public Roads) pioneered a technique of highway planning which included participation by the public in the planning stages of a project and consideration of public comments for proposed plans. The task was to seek methods that would preserve the physical and environmental qualities of the city and at the same time provide the needed transportation network. Baltimore's solution was to establish a multi-disciplinary team consisting of experts in the fields of highway engineering, planning, architecture, and urban planning, as well as specialists in sociology, housing, and systems analysis. The UDCA, known as the "Design Team," was charged with the task of designing a highway system that would… "provide for the social, economic, and aesthetic needs of the city's environment, as well as provide an efficient transportation facility.

INTRODUCING THE 3-A PLAN: On August 22, 1968, the UDCA team presented to the City/State Policy Advisory Board the results of its traffic analysis of the 10-D plan, as well as five other alternate proposals. Although the early plans kept an "East-West Expressway" through downtown, the southern bypass theoretically was seen as a second "East-West Expressway." The double East-West Expressway plan became known as the "3-C" plan. However, the proposed southerly bypass, along with the freeway-and-boulevard spur, would provide downtown access without having to build a new Interstate highway downtown. The plan without the East-West Expressway through downtown, and only the southern bypass, became known as the "3-A" plan.

On December 22, 1968, Mayor Thomas D'Allesandro, the father of future House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, decided on the 3-A plan after a two-and-one-half hour closed-door meeting with the UDCA team, and that he would seek Federal financing for the plan. The plan was to cost $600 million, with the Federal government paying $500 million of the cost, though it was not a traditional 90% Federal reimbursement because the plan included surface-level boulevards that were not eligible for Interstate funding. Nevertheless, the plan was seen as a victory as the 3-A plan saved $60 million, and spared as many as 1,400 homes, relative to the 3-C plan that initially had been favored by the UDCA team. The FHWA gave final approval to the 3-A expressway plan on January 17, 1969.

In its final report published in December 1970, the UDCA team gave its blessing to the 3-A plan as follows:

The 3-A System is based on the fundamental principle that the heart of the city, the Central Business District (CBD) and its immediate environs, should continue to serve as the center of commerce and culture of the Baltimore Metropolitan Area. As such, the highway network should maximize accessibility to the CBD, but minimize impacts by routing "through" traffic around this area through other corridors.

This principle dictates the separation of local CBD-destined traffic from "through" traffic and required major changes in the 10-D System, including the following:

  • Reduction in size and type of facility in the Inner City. Rather than I-95 and I-70N passing through the Inner City, a non-Interstate "City Boulevard" (now Martin L. King, Jr. Boulevard) was proposed which would ring the CBD and utilize existing at-grade city streets.

  • Elimination of the I-95 bridge across the Inner Harbor.

  • Provision of three freeway "spurs" to carry local traffic to and from the CBD: I-395, I-170, and I-83. I-395 will be a spur from I-95 serving traffic to and from the south of the city. I-170 is to be a spur from I-70N serving traffic to and from the west, while I-83, when complete, will be a route between I-695 and I-95 serving traffic to and from the north and east, but also functioning as two spurs.

  • Extension of I-70N southerly to connect to I-95 and provide a through route from the west which bypasses the CBD.

A RAMP FROM NOWHERE: This 2010 photo show the unused slip from the never-completed eastbound I-170 to US 1 (Monroe Street / Fulton Avenue) in West Baltimore. The ramp, along with the companion westbound ramp, was demolished later that year and replaced with an earthen berm. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)

WEAVING A BYPASS THROUGH ROSEMONT: When it was proposed as the East-West Expressway under the 10-D plan, I-70N was to bisect the Rosemont community and Western Cemetery, a historic cemetery established in 1849 by the Beechfield United Methodist Church, between Leakin Park and the Franklin-Mulberry corridor. The new 3-A plan devised a new "Rosemont Bypass" for the I-170 connection to I-70N. In a 1969 corridor study, the city presented four alternatives that would extend I-170 west for two miles from the Franklin-Mulberry corridor to I-70N.

The recommended alternative from the 1969 study was to begin at the proposed I-70N / I-170 interchange, which was to be built near where Baltimore Street meets Gwynns Falls. Continuing northeast along the north side of the Penn Central (Amtrak-MARC) right-of-way, there were to be two parallel viaducts, each carrying three lanes of traffic, built 30 to 40 feet above the existing grade. The alternative was designed to minimize impacts to nearby residential communities, as well as to Western Cemetery. Just south of Mulberry Street, the I-170 viaducts were to cross over the railroad before the expressway transitioned to its below-grade alignment along the Franklin-Mulberry corridor.

The I-170 draft final environmental statement, which the city filed with the Federal government in 1975, introduced four additional alternatives, including boulevard and arterial alternatives. Nevertheless, the 1975 environmental impact statement maintained the recommended alternative from the study six years earlier, citing that it "reduced impacts to the (Western) cemetery, industrial areas, and residential areas, and was the alternative supported by the public."  (It was in 1975 that I-70N was re-designated as I-70.)

AFTER I-70 EXTENSION CANCELED, A LAST-DITCH EFFORT TO EXTEND I-170: In light of the growing unpopularity of the proposed I-70 extension through Leakin Park, as well as the lack of politically viable alternate alignments, the city and state requested withdrawal of I-70 east of Security Boulevard on July 28, 1981. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved this request on September 3, 1981.

With I-70 canceled, the city and state went forward with an alternative proposal that would extend the I-170 extension to Gwynns Falls, then extend the route south to I-95 via the remaining 2.2-mile-long former alignment of I-70 that had not been canceled. This former I-70 alignment, as well as the existing and proposed sections of I-170, was to assume a new designation: I-595. Although the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) approved the new designation in November 1982, no I-595 signs ever appeared on the completed section of I-170.

In January 1983, the city's Interstate highway division submitted a draft environment impact statement for the proposed I-595. The report presented three different freeway alternative, with a fourth alternative designed as a connecting boulevard. All of the alternatives would have assumed the I-70 / I-170 right-of-way, as well as a directional-T interchange with I-95. However, the freeway alternatives featured a grade-separated diamond interchange with US 1 (Wilkens Avenue) and MD 144 (Frederick Avenue), as well as a new connection to an extended Hilton Parkway. Cost estimates ranged from $140 million for the boulevard to $200 million for the most expensive freeway alternative, though only the freeway alternatives offered 90 percent Federal reimbursement for the cost.

The I-595 proposal never garnered much support, particularly as I-395 (Cal Ripken Way) already provided a direct access route to downtown Baltimore from I-95. On July 22, 1983, Governor Hughes and Mayor Schaefer requested withdrawal of I-595 from the Interstate System.  The FHWA and Urban Mass Transit Administration (UMTA) approved the withdrawal on September 29, 1983, with the funds earmarked for I-595 reallocated for transit improvements.

This 2001 photo, which was taken from the Monroe Street (US 1) overpass, shows the stubs that were planned to extend I-170 west to I-70. The stubs were demolished in 2010. (Photo by Alex Nitzman,

This 2014 photo shows the expanded parking lot for the MARC-West Baltimore station, which was built in 2011 in the former I-170 right-of-way. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)

SOURCES: "Expressway Pool Plan Announced" by Louis O'Donnell, The Baltimore Sun (3/17/1945); "Plans To Push Expressway," The Baltimore Sun (8/07/1947); "Southwest Expressway Plan Mapped" by Joseph Sterne, The Baltimore Sun (12/16/1956); "Schaefer's Road Advice: Give Up Plan" by John E. Woodruff, The Baltimore Sun (8/21/1966); "Route Is Set on East-West Expressway," The Baltimore Sun (10/19/1968); "Group Supports Road Route Rejected by Design Team," The Baltimore Sun (12/08/1968); "Mayor's Route Choice Averts Harbor Span, Bypasses Rosemont" by John B. O'Donnell, Jr., The Baltimore Sun (12/24/1968); Transportation, Environmental, and Cost Summary: An Evaluation of Three Concepts for Expressway Routes in Baltimore City, Urban Design Concept Associates (1968); "City's 3-A Route Wins Approval of US Agency" by John B. O'Donnell, Jr., The Baltimore Sun (1/18/1969); "Three New East-West Routes Studied" by Kathy Kraus, The Baltimore Sun (5/20/1970); "New Boulevard Proposed for Downtown," The Baltimore Sun (8/10/1970); "Baltimore Interstate Highway System 3-A: Facts and Features," Urban Design Concept Associates (1971); Interstate Route I-170 from Pulaski Street to Pine Street: Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Federal Highway Administration, Maryland Department of Transportation-State Highway Administration, and Interstate Division for Baltimore City (1971); "Schaefer Confirms Plans To Proceed with 3-A Road" by G. Jefferson Price, The Baltimore Sun (5/26/1972); "Hearing Set for 3-A Spur" by James D. Dilts, The Baltimore Sun (7/25/1972); "Mayor Endorses Plan for 3-A Expressway" by James D. Dilts, The Baltimore Sun (4/08/1974);  "I-170 Work Set," The Baltimore Sun (11/27/1974); "High, Low Roads Coming Through," The Baltimore Sun (2/12/1975); "Franklin-Mulberry Highway's Cost Is Double 1972 Estimate" by James D. Dilts, The Baltimore Sun (10/01/1975); "I-170 Short Cut Is Too Slick To Save Drivers Much Time," The Baltimore Sun (2/08/1979); "Rosemont Won I-170 Battle; War Continues," The Baltimore Sun (6/01/1980); "Mayor Seeks To Divert I-70 Funds" by Eileen Canzian, The Baltimore Sun (3/20/1981); "AASHTO Route Numbering Committee Agenda," American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (11/19/1982); "City Weighing Gwynns Falls Interstate Plan" by David Brown, The Baltimore Sun (1/23/1983); Transportation Improvements in the Interstate 595 Corridor from I-95 to I-170: Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Federal Highway Administration, Maryland Department of Transportation-State Highway Administration, and Interstate Division for Baltimore City (1983); "Franklin-Mulberry: Plenty of Room for Everything" Gerald Neily, Baltimore Inner Space Blog (5/28/2006); "'Highway to Nowhere Heads to the Dump" by Julie Scharper, The Baltimore Sun (9/10/2010); Maryland Department of Transportation; Maryland Transportation Authority; Scott Kozel; Alex Nitzman; Mike Pruett.

  • US 40, I-170, I-70N, and I-83 shields by Scott Colbert.
  • I-95 and I-595 shields by Ralph Herman.
  • Lightposts by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.





  • Franklin-Mulberry Expressway (US 40) exit list by Steve Anderson.

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