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Interstate 495 (Capital Beltway)

I-495 shieldCapital Beltway marker

Interstate 495
Capital Beltway
Route information
Auxiliary route of I-95
Length: 64 mi[1][2] (103 km)
Existed: 1961 – present
Star-Spangled Banner Scenic Byway
Major junctions
Beltway around Washington, D.C.

I-295 near Forest Heights, MD
US 50 / I-595 near Glenarden, MD
MD 295 (BW Parkway) in Greenbelt, MD
I-95 near College Park, MD
I-270 near Bethesda, MD
SR 267 near Tysons Corner, VA
SR 7 in Tysons Corner, VA
I‑66 near Falls Church, VA

I‑95 / I‑395 near Springfield, VA
Highway system
MD 491 MD MD 495
I‑464 VA US 501
I‑395 DC I‑695

Interstate 495 (I-495) is a 64-mile (103 km) Interstate Highway that surrounds Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States of America, and the city's inner suburbs in adjacent Maryland and Virginia. I-495 is widely known as the Capital Beltway, the DC Beltway or simply the Beltway, especially when the context of Washington, D.C., is clear. It is the basis of the phrase "Inside the Beltway," used when referring to issues dealing with American government and politics. I-95 utilizes the southern and eastern half of the Capital Beltway to circumnavigate Washington, D.C., and is cosigned with I-495 along that route.

This Montgomery County in Maryland, and Fairfax County and the independent city of Alexandria in Virginia.

The Cabin John Parkway, a short connector between I-495 and the Clara Barton Parkway near the Potomac River along the Maryland–Virginia border, is considered an Interstate spur (I-495X) by the Maryland State Highway Administration.


  • Route description 1
    • I-95/I-495 concurrency in the District of Columbia 1.1
    • I-95/I-495 concurrency in Maryland 1.2
    • I-495 in Maryland 1.3
    • I-495 in Virginia 1.4
    • I-95/I-495 concurrency in Virginia 1.5
  • History 2
    • College Park Interchange 2.1
    • Traffic congestion 2.2
    • Current roadworks 2.3
    • HOT lanes 2.4
    • Exit numbering 2.5
  • Exit list 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Route description

A Maryland stretch of Interstate 495 in October 2005.
Virginia-Welcomes-You sign on the Inner Loop over the Wilson Bridge. A short stretch of the bridge just before this sign is in the District of Columbia.

Except for the westernmost part of Woodrow Wilson Bridge south of downtown Washington (the water below is considered part of the District of Columbia), the Capital Beltway encircles Washington, D.C., in adjacent Maryland and Virginia. The two directions of travel, clockwise and counterclockwise (looking at a map), have become known respectively as the "Inner Loop" and the "Outer Loop". The route descriptions below follow the direction of the Outer Loop, starting at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge over the Potomac River, south of Washington.

Most Beltway interchanges provide access to Washington, with Clara Barton Parkway along the Maryland side of the river, and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, approaching Washington from the northeast.

Originally, the entire Beltway was simply I-495, and I-95 was planned to serve downtown Washington, D.C., from the south and north, intersecting the Beltway in Virginia and in Maryland. However, environmental litigation stopped completion of this plan, and the built portion of I-95 inside the Beltway from the south northward into downtown Washington was redesignated I-395 in 1977. The small built portion from the north was converted into a park-and-ride lot. I-95 was then rerouted (and so signed) along the eastern side of the Beltway, with the I-495 designation left only along the western side. In 1989, the I-495 designation was returned to the eastern portion as well, with the highway co-signed as I-95 and I-495 along this route.

I-95/I-495 concurrency in the District of Columbia

The Beltway (here I-95 and I-495 together), four lanes in each direction, travels over the Federal Highway Administration recognizes 0.11 miles (0.18 km) of the bridge as crossing the tip of the southernmost corner of the District of Columbia.[3] However, signage for these boundary crossings is lacking.

I-95/I-495 concurrency in Maryland

The Beltway (here I-95 and I-495 together) enters Maryland during its Potomac River crossing over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, west of Forest Heights and National Harbor. After crossing the Potomac, I-95/I-495 immediately meets the southern terminus of Interstate 295, known as the Anacostia Freeway, a route that serves downtown Washington to the north, connecting in Washington to Interstate 395. The highway next intersects MD 210, a major north–south route from southern D.C. to Indian Head in Charles County, Maryland.

I-95/I-495 and I-295 interchange in Maryland seen from the air above the Potomac River (2012)

Heading northeastward, the Beltway (I-95/I-495) interchanges with various local highways, including MD 5 and MD 4 on either side of Andrews Air Force Base, which the Beltway travels near its northern edge. (Both MD 5 and MD 4 extend westward into D.C., and southeastward into Southern Maryland.) Past the MD 4 interchange, the Beltway turns north through Glenarden, interchanging with MD 202.

The Beltway then interchanges with US 50/unsigned I-595, a major highway from downtown Washington eastward to Annapolis, Maryland, and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to Maryland's Eastern Shore. Both US 50 and MD 450 (which interchanges with the Beltway slightly northward) provide access to the New Carrollton Metro, MARC commuter rail, and Amtrak stations, and the New Carrollton area.

Turning northwest, the Beltway then enters Greenbelt Park, intersecting the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (B-W Parkway) in the northeastern edge of the park. Just after the B-W Parkway, I-95/I-495 passes an interchange with MD 201, which connects to the southern terminus of the B-W Parkway at US 50 near the D.C. line. Now turned fully west, the Beltway runs through the northern edge of College Park, interchanging with the access roadway for the Greenbelt Metro and MARC commuter rail stations, then US 1.

Diagram of the College Park Interchange

Beyond the US 1 interchange, I-95 separates from I-495 at the College Park Interchange. I-495 continues west, alone, on the Capital Beltway, while I-95 turns northeast towards Baltimore, New York City, and Boston. The interchange includes access to a Park and Ride lot which was originally paved as part of I-95's route within the Beltway.

I-495 in Maryland

Continuing west from the College Park Interchange, I-495 crosses into Northwest Branch Park, the Beltway interchanges with MD 193 and US 29 south of Four Corners; the two interchanges are little more than 1/2 mile apart. Southbound US 29 is the main route into downtown Silver Spring, continuing into Washington.

Squeezing past Argyle Park and Sligo Creek Golf Course, the Beltway interchanges with MD 97 northwest of Silver Spring, then follows an alignment formerly known as Rock Creek Parkway.[1] The route twists along the alignment, through and around Rock Creek Park, then interchanges with MD 185 near the National Naval Medical Center. Turning northwest, I-495 soon encounters the southern terminus of Interstate 270, which extends westward to meet I-70 in Frederick, Maryland.

I-495/I-95 Northbound in Maryland, at the Rhode Island Ave. overpass

I-270 and I-495 split at a highly complex Y-junction, with separate HOV connections to I-270's HOV lanes and separate ramps to and from MD 355 (formerly US 240). The old Rock Creek Parkway alignment follows I-270 north, while I-495 turns west and enters the only other six-lane segment of the Beltway still in existence; significant levels of traffic exit onto I-270 north, leaving the six-lane segment west of the split adequate.

Interchanging with MD 187, I-495 soon meets the Interstate 270 Spur, the other side of the I-270/I-495 triangle. I-495 joins I-270 Spur at a converging wye junction; Inner Loop traffic exits from itself at the southern terminus of I-270 Spur, while Outer Loop traffic crosses the spur and enters it from the right. The two carriageways of I-495 temporarily widen to five lanes each until the MD 190 and Cabin John Parkway interchanges. (MD 190 provides access to the northwestern portion of Washington, D.C., and to the Potomac and Great Falls, Maryland areas of Maryland's Montgomery County, while the Cabin John Parkway extends to the Clara Barton Parkway along the Potomac River.)

After these interchanges, the Beltway then narrows to eight lanes again. Turning sharply to the west, I-495 meets the Virginia over the ten-lane American Legion Memorial Bridge.

I-495 in Virginia

I-495 in Virginia, seen from the Yellow Line of the Washington Metro

Immediately after crossing into trumpet interchange; the Parkway provides a scenic route to Arlington, Virginia, and downtown Washington. The Beltway then continues south, next interchanging with VA 193 south of Dranesville District Park, then reaches the extensive triangle of interchanges between I-495, the Dulles Airport Access Road, VA 267, and VA 123. The eastbound Dulles Access Road here also provides access to I-66 for Outer Loop Beltway traffic. The former interchange with the toll road (VA 267) is a directional interchange, while the latter is a cloverleaf; the entire complex occurs east of the Tysons Corner business district.

Now running south, the Beltway interchanges with VA 7 (Leesburg Pike) east of Tysons Corner; passing Dunn Loring to the east, I-495 soon reaches the complex interchange with Interstate 66, which extends westward to I-81 in the Shenandoah Valley near Strasburg, Virginia, and eastward to Arlington and downtown Washington. In a similar design as the I-270/I-495 interchange, dedicated HOV connections exist between I-495 and I-66, with many reversible and other directional ramps providing the remaining connections. There is no access between the Outer Loop and eastbound I-66 at this interchange. Instead, Outer Loop traffic must use the eastbound Dulles Access Road exit 3 miles (5 km) to the north in order to reach I-66 East.[2] There are multiple ramps from I-66 east to the Inner Loop, with one ramp exiting from the left side of I-66 east and the other exiting from the right.

South of the I-66 interchange, the Beltway crosses under US 29 and VA 237 with no access, then encounters a large braided interchange between I-495, US 50, and two local roads; the direct interchange between I-495 and US 50 is a full cloverleaf, while the braided local interchanges between I-495, US 50, and the local roads are modified SPUIs. The entire complex is bounded on the northeast side by Fairview Lake and on the southwest side by an office complex.

Continuing due south, the route then interchanges with Gallows Road, then skirts the eastern edge of Mill Creek Park before interchanging with VA 236 southwest of Annandale Community Park. Running along the eastern edge of Wakefield Park, the Beltway turns southeast and interchanges with VA 620 before turning east near Flag Run Park and entering Springfield, meeting the Springfield Interchange with I-95 southeast of the Shirley Industrial Complex.

I-95/I-495 concurrency in Virginia

"Maryland Welcomes You" sign on the Outer Loop over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Well before this shoreline point, in actuality, the highway leaves Virginia at the low-water mark,[4] briefly passes over an underwater corner of the District of Columbia, and enters Maryland for the rest of the Potomac River crossing.

I-95 joins the Beltway within the Springfield Interchange. I-495 also meets the southern terminus of Interstate 395 within the same massive interchange complex.

Running due east away from the interchange, crossing to the south of Backlick Stream Valley Park, the Beltway (now I-95/I495) interchanges with VA 613 a mile east of the Springfield Interchange. Continuing east, the Beltway encounters a diamond interchange with a connector road linking to Eisenhower Avenue, which parallels the Beltway for a short distance. Skirting the northern edges of Loftridge Park and Burgundy Park the two routes enter Alexandria and soon reach VA 241, a direct route into the city, currently under major reconstruction. Within the interchange, the Beltway nears the western approach to the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge.

Continuing east the two routes encounter US 1, a major north-south highway providing access to Alexandria, Arlington and downtown Washington, as well as various points south in Fairfax County, Virginia. Finally, beyond this complex interchange, I-95 and I-495 together cross Alexandria's Jones Point Park and exit Virginia via the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.


The idea of building a highway around the Washington suburbs had been discussed at least since 1944, when Fred W. Tummler, director of planning of the National Capital Park and Planning Commission, proposed an Inter-County Metropolitan Freeway.[5] The Senate Public Works Committee backed the idea of building the highway in 1951, asking the Public Roads Bureau to prepare plans for the highway.[6] Backed by Senator Francis Case of South Dakota, the plan called for the highway to begin in Beltsville at the nearly completed Baltimore-Washington Parkway, continue west through Silver Spring and Bethesda, cross the Potomac River over a new bridge, head south near Tysons Corner and Falls Church, turn east by the Shirley Memorial Highway, and end at Route 1 in Gum Springs.[7] A 1952 amendment called for continuing the highway past Alexandria, over the Potomac River on a new bridge, and reconnect to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in Maryland.[8] By December 1952, the plan had evolved into a highway that fully encircled Washington's suburbs.[9] The highway was intended to reduce traffic and also to offer an alternative route for the military in case of emergency.[6] The federal government gave final approval for the construction of the Capital Beltway (also known as the Circumferential Highway in the planning stages) on September 28, 1955. The first section of the 64-mile (103 km) long Beltway (including the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River) was opened on December 21, 1961; the highway was completed on August 17, 1964.

Originally designated I-495, in 1977 the eastern portion of the Beltway was re-designated

  • I-495 @
  • Official Study Website published by the Maryland State Highway Administration
  • Capital Beltway (I-495 and I-95), by Roads to the Future
  • Steve Anderson's Capital Beltway (I-495 and I-95)
  • )Washington Post"Memory Lanes": 40th anniversary of the Beltway's opening (
  • Dangers of Driving on the Capital Beltway & Washington D.C.
  • Washington's Circumferential Highway: Fighting Over the Capital Beltway

External links

  1. ^ DeSimone, Tony (October 31, 2002). "Table 2: Auxiliary Routes of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System Of Interstate and Defense Highways as of October 31, 2002". Route Log and Finder List.  
  2. ^ Korr, Jeremy L. (August 15, 2004). "Memory Lanes".  
  3. ^ "Miscellaneous Interstate System Facts". Federal Highway Administration. April 6, 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2013. 
  4. ^ Reporter of Decisions (October 2003). "Syllabus: VIRGINIA v. MARYLAND" (PDF). Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved December 8, 2014. 
  5. ^ McDevitt, Betty (November 21, 1944). "Express Highway System Plans Revealed for Md.-Capital Area". The Washington Post. p. 1.   (subscription required)
  6. ^ a b "Senators Ask Plan for D.C. Belt Highway". The Washington Post. March 8, 1951. p. 2.   (subscription required)
  7. ^ Winship, Thomas (January 21, 1952). "Sen. Case to Seek D.C. Radial Route". The Washington Post. p. 2.   (subscription required)
  8. ^ "Cost Sharing Urged for Ring Route". The Washington Post. February 20, 1952.   (subscription required)
  9. ^ McDade, Matt (December 15, 1952). "Greater Washington's Roads of the Future in Color: Officials Favor $328 Million Road Plan; Cost Is Big Problem". The Washington Post. p. 17.   (subscription required)
  10. ^ Shaffer, Ron (June 25, 2006). "After 20 Years of Columns, Checking the Rearview Mirror One Last Time". The Washington Post.  
  11. ^ AASHTO SCOH. Report to the Special Committee on Route Numbering to the Executive Committee. Washington, DC: AASHTO. 10 June 1991. 
  12. ^ "The Beltway". Coalition for Smarter Growth. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  13. ^ "Virginia HOT Lanes". Fluor-Transurban. Retrieved December 8, 2008. 
  14. ^ "How HOT Lanes Work". Fluor-Transurban. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Virginia HOT Lanes Project Info". Fluor-Transurban. Retrieved September 30, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Turnkey Lump-sum Design-Build Contract" (PDF). Retrieved December 23, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Project Background". Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  18. ^ Highway Information Services Division (December 31, 2013). Highway Location Reference. Maryland State Highway Administration. Retrieved June 24, 2010. 
    • Prince George's County (PDF)
    • Montgomery County (PDF)
  19. ^ Traffic Engineering Division (2008). "Daily Traffic Volume Estimates Jurisdiction Report: Fairfax County" (PDF). Virginia Department of Transportation. Retrieved June 24, 2010. 
  20. ^ Traffic Engineering Division (2008). "Daily Traffic Volume Estimates Jurisdiction Report: Arlington County" (PDF). Virginia Department of Transportation. Retrieved June 24, 2010. 


  1. ^ Not the extant parkway in Rock Creek Park within D.C.
  2. ^ If a driver gets onto westbound I-66 at the Leesburg Pike (SR 7) entrance, the only choice for getting to northbound I-495 is to take I-66 west to the Nutley Street exit and then get on I-66 east. A similar situation occurs for going from the Dulles Access Road at Chain Bridge Road (SR 123) to southbound I-495, where it is assumed that the driver will know to continue along SR 7 or SR 123 directly to the Beltway.
  3. ^ Mileposts do not reset at the state lines.[18][19][20]
  4. ^ a b The Woodrow Wilson Bridge crosses through the District of Columbia for approximately 300 feet (91 m).


See also

State County Location mi[3] km Exit Destinations Notes
Potomac River 0.00 0.00 Woodrow Wilson Bridge
VirginiaDistrict of Columbia and District of Columbia–Maryland lines[4]
Maryland Oxon Hill 1.73 2.78 2 I-295 north – Washington, National Harbor Split into exits 2A (National Harbor) and 2B (I-295)
2.77 4.46 3 MD 210 – Indian Head, Forest Heights Split into exits 3A (south) and 3B (north) counterclockwise (outer)
4.33 6.97 4 MD 414 (St. Barnabas Road) – Oxon Hill, Marlow Heights Split into exits 4A (west) and 4B (east)
Temple Hills 7.30 11.75 7 MD 5 (Branch Avenue) – Waldorf, Silver Hill Split into exits 7A (south) and 7B (north)
Morningside 9.07–
9 MD 337 (Allentown Road) – Andrews AFB, Morningside
Forestville 10.78 17.35 11 MD 4 (Pennsylvania Avenue) – Upper Marlboro, Washington Split into exits 11A (south/east) and 11B (north/west)
Largo 13.14 21.15 13 Ritchie–Marlboro Road (MD 221A) – Upper Marlboro, Capitol Heights
14.78 23.79 15 MD 214 (Central Avenue) – Largo, Seat Pleasant Split into exits 15A (east) and 15B (west) clockwise (inner)
15.83 25.48 16 Arena Drive (MD 202F)
Landover 16.56 26.65 17 MD 202 (Landover Road) – Upper Marlboro, Bladensburg Split into exits 17A (south) and 17B (north) clockwise (inner)
Glenarden 18.54 29.84 19 US 50 (I-595 east) – Annapolis, Washington, Train Station I-595 is unsigned; split into exits 19A (east) and 19B (west); access to New Carrollton Station from clockwise (inner) ramp to westbound US 50
New Carrollton 19.59 31.53 20 MD 450 (Annapolis Road) – Lanham, Bladensburg Split into exits 20A (east) and 20B (west)
Greenbelt 22.12 35.60 22 Baltimore-Washington Parkway - Baltimore, Washington Split into exits 22A (north) and 22B (south)
23.04 37.08 23 MD 201 (Kenilworth Avenue) – Bladensburg, Greenbelt
24.25 39.03 24 Greenbelt Station clockwise (inner) exit and counterclockwise (outer) entrance
College Park 25.19 40.54 25 US 1 (Baltimore Avenue) – Laurel, College Park Split into exits 25A (north) and 25B (south) clockwise (inner)
26.11 42.02 27 I-95 north – Baltimore counterclockwise (outer) end of I-95 overlap
Montgomery Hillandale 28.14 45.29 28 MD 650 (New Hampshire Avenue) – White Oak, Takoma Park Split into exits 28A (north) and 28B (south)
Silver Spring 29.72 47.83 29 MD 193 (University Boulevard) – Wheaton, Langley Park no direct access from I-495 inner to MD 193 west or MD 193 east to I-495 outer
30.36 48.86 30 US 29 (Colesville Road) – Columbia, Silver Spring Split into exits 30A (north) and 30B (south) clockwise (inner); no direct access from I-495 outer to US 29 north or US 29 south to I-495 inner
Forest Glen 31.80 51.18 31 Silver Spring, Wheaton Split into exits 31A (north) and 31B (south) clockwise (inner)
Chevy Chase 34.00 54.72 33 MD 185 (Connecticut Avenue) – Kensington, Chevy Chase
Bethesda 35.53 57.18 34 MD 355 (Rockville Pike / Wisconsin Avenue) – Bethesda, Rockville
35.72 57.49 35 I-270 north – Frederick counterclockwise (outer) exit and clockwise (inner) entrance
36.63 58.95 36 Rockville, Bethesda
38.32 61.67 38 I-270 (via I-270 Spur) – Rockville, Frederick clockwise (inner) exit and counterclockwise (outer) entrance
39.87 64.16 39 MD 190 (River Road) – Washington, Potomac Split into exits 39A (west) and 39B (east) clockwise (inner)
40.34 64.92 40 Cabin John Parkway – Glen Echo counterclockwise (outer) exit and clockwise (inner) entrance
Carderock 41.72 67.14 41 Clara Barton Parkway – Carderock, Great Falls, MD, Glen Echo no direct access from I-495 outer to Clara Barton Parkway east or Clara Barton Parkway west to I-495 inner
Potomac River 42.24 67.98 American Legion Memorial Bridge
MarylandVirginia state line
Virginia Fairfax McLean 42.73 68.77 43 Washington
43.71 70.34 44 Langley, Great Falls, VA
I‑495 Express south counterclockwise (outer) exit and clockwise (inner) entrance
Tysons Corner 45.31 72.92 45A
SR 267 Toll west – Reston, Herndon, Dulles Airport (no toll via Dulles Access Road)
signed as exit 45 clockwise (inner)
45.31 72.92 45B SR 267 east to I‑66 east – Washington counterclockwise (outer) exit and clockwise (inner) entrance
46.23 74.40 46 SR 123 (Chain Bridge Road) – Tysons Corner, Vienna, McLean Split into exits 46A (south) and 46B (north)
47.16 75.90 47 SR 7 (Leesburg Pike) – Tysons Corner, Falls Church Split into exits 47A (west) and 47B (east)
Dunn Loring 48.98 78.83 49A I‑66 west – Vienna, Manassas, Front Royal signed as exit 49 counterclockwise (outer); timed HOV
48.98 78.83 49B I‑66 east – Washington clockwise (inner) exit and counterclockwise (outer) entrance; no access from southbound I-495 to eastbound I-66 or from westbound I-66 to northbound I-495
49.74 80.05 50 US 50 (Arlington Boulevard) to US 29 (Lee Highway) – Fairfax, Arlington Split into exits 50A (west) and 50B (east)
51.08 82.21 51 SR 650 (Gallows Road)
Annandale 52.43 84.38 52 SR 236 (Little River Turnpike) – Fairfax, Annandale Split into exits 52A (west) and 52B (east)
54.26 87.32 54 SR 620 (Braddock Road) Split into exits 54A (west) and 54B (east)
I‑495 Express north clockwise (inner) exit and counterclockwise (outer) entrance
Springfield Interchange 57.60 92.70 57A I‑95 south – Richmond clockwise (inner) end of I-95 overlap; I-495 clockwise (inner) follows exit 170A
57.60 92.70 169 SR 644 (Old Keene Mill Road / Franconia Road) – Springfield, Franconia signed as exits 169A (east) and 169B (west)
57.60 92.70 57B I‑395 north – Washington signed as exit 170B clockwise (inner)
57.60 92.70 I‑95 Express south / I‑395 Express north (Express Lanes)
Franconia 58.82 94.66 173 SR 613 (Van Dorn Street) – Franconia
  60.02 96.59 174 Eisenhower Avenue Connector – Alexandria
Huntington 62.43 100.47 176 SR 241 / SR 611 south (Telegraph Road / North Kings Highway) / to Eisenhower Avenue – Alexandria Split into exits 176A (south) and 176B (north)
Eisenhower Avenue clockwise (inner) exit and counterclockwise (outer) entrance (thru lanes only)
City of Alexandria 63.62 102.39 177 US 1 – Alexandria, Fort Belvoir Signed as exits 177A (south) and 177B (north)
177C SR 400) clockwise (inner) exit only
Potomac River 64.23 103.37 Woodrow Wilson Bridge
VirginiaDistrict of Columbia and District of Columbia–Maryland lines[4]
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

Exit list

Exit numbers on the Beltway have gone through several iterations. Originally, all exits on the Beltway were numbered sequentially in a clockwise direction, starting with exit 1 for US 1 in Alexandria. After the eastern half of the Beltway was renumbered in 1977 as Interstate 95, exits on the Maryland portion were renumbered to the current format, counterclockwise with exit numbers assigned to mileposts. This caused problems because there were some exits that had the same number in Maryland and Virginia. Around 2000, this problem was solved by renumbering all of the Virginia exits. The exit numbers between the American Legion Memorial Bridge and the Springfield Interchange – Interstate 495's intersection with Interstate 395 and I-95 in Virginia – became a continuation of the Maryland exit numbers from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to the American Legion Memorial Bridge. The exit numbers between the Springfield Interchange and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge became a continuation of the exit numbers of I-95 in Virginia; such exit numbers are much higher than those on the rest of the Beltway, but continue to increase in the counterclockwise direction. The counterclockwise numbering on the Capital Beltway is a rarity, as most similar loop highways, like the Baltimore Beltway, have their exit numbers/mileage set in a clockwise arrangement.

Exit numbering

In 2004, Transurban (USA) Development Inc. joined the Fluor team to serve as concessionaire and long-term operator of the HOT lanes. After a competitive procurement, the team was selected to deliver and operate the new HOT lanes. After a series of public meetings and environmental studies, the project was approved and funded in 2007. Construction began in the summer of 2008. The Express Lanes were opened for public access on 17 November 2012.[17]

The original scope of the HOT project is covered by a fixed-price $1.3 billion contract between concessionaire Capital Beltway Express LLC and contractor Fluor-Lane LLC.[16] The partnership has proposed extending the scope of the project to north to the Potomac River.

Access point Direction of HOT lanes entry
Near Old Dominion Drive South (Northern terminus)
Dulles Toll Road (eastbound) South
Jones Branch Drive North and south
Westpark Drive North and south
Leesburg Pike South
Interstate 66 (eastbound) North and south
Interstate 66 (westbound) South
Lee Highway South
Gallows Road North
Braddock Road North
Springfield Interchange North (Southern terminus)

At the north and south termini of the HOT lanes, motorists will be able to transition directly between the HOT lanes and the I-495 general purpose lanes. However, elsewhere along the corridor, access to and from the HOT lanes will be only from cross roads. Some cross roads will provide access to both HOT lanes and general purpose lanes; others will have access only to one system or the other. Many HOT lane access points will serve traffic in only one direction of I-495, which is intended to complement typical commuting patterns. HOT lane interchanges are as follows:[15]

Drivers of vehicles with fewer than three occupants will be required to pay a toll to use the lanes. Tolls will change dynamically, with higher tolls charged during periods of heaviest congestion. Drivers using the HOT Lanes will be required to carry an E-Z Pass transponder to allow electronic toll collection, eliminating the need for toll booths.[14] Tolls will be waived for buses, carpools of at least three people, motorcycles, and emergency vehicles. If more than a specified number of carpools or buses use the lanes, Virginia must pay the tolls for the excess vehicles.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has authorized a public-private partnership to construct high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes in Northern Virginia. The project will add two lanes to I-495 in each direction from just west of the Springfield Interchange to just north of the Dulles Toll Road, and will include replacement of more than 50 bridges, overpasses, and major interchanges.[13]

495 Express Lanes (HOT lanes) under construction at the I-495 interchange with Route 123 in Tysons Corner. At the left is the elevated ramp to access the HOT lanes from Route 123 via Westpark Drive (Tysons Corner). In the background is the Silver Line viaduct.

HOT lanes

The Branch Avenue (Maryland Route 5) Interchange has also been recently improved.

Also, in association with the Wilson Bridge project, the Telegraph Road and U.S. 1 interchanges (exits 176 and 177) in Alexandria, Virginia are being rebuilt. The I-295 and MD 210 interchanges (exits 2 and 3) in Maryland have also recently been rebuilt.

The Woodrow Wilson Bridge underwent reconstruction in a major project that began in 1999; it now provides express and local lanes for both the Inner and Outer Loops. The new Wilson Bridge is higher and wider than the original 1961 span, which was demolished in 2006. The Outer Loop span opened in June 2006, and the Inner Loop span opened in May 2008.

The Springfield Interchange in Virginia completed reconstruction in 2007. The eight-year, nearly $676 million project worked to eliminate weaving among local and long-distance traffic between I-95, I-395, the Beltway, and State Route 644.

The Woodrow Wilson Bridge under reconstruction, June 2006

Current roadworks

The Beltway has been improved since it opened. The American Legion Bridge was expanded by two lanes. HOV lanes were added between River Road and the I-270 Spur in Montgomery County, Maryland. The interchange between I-95 and the Beltway in Prince George's County, Maryland was originally designed to be a cloverleaf to allow I-95 to extend southward toward the District of Columbia. After I-95 was realigned onto the Beltway, a flyover ramp was built to allow I-95 through traffic to have two high-speed lanes. The interchange between U.S. Route 50 and I-95/I-495 in Prince George's County, Maryland was upgraded from a simple cloverleaf to a hybrid turbine interchange. In the Beltway's original configuration, I-295 and Indian Head Highway had separate interchanges. As a result, north-south traffic between I-295 and Indian Head Highway was forced to merge onto a congested section of the Beltway for approximately one mile. As a congestion relief measure, I-295 was extended over the Beltway and continued parallel to it so that the two highways were directly connected independent of the beltway. However, these interchanges were redesigned and rebuilt to accommodate the expansion of the Wilson Bridge and the construction of dedicated ramps to National Harbor.

In April 2005, the Lexus Lanes" because of the potential high price for using the lanes in exchange for bypassing congestion. These new lanes are one stage of a controversial project to widen the beltway, with the second stage involving widening the beltway to 12 lanes; opponents have called for various alternatives to this project (as well as the controversial Intercounty Connector project) which would divert many vehicles off the northern beltway. The Maryland Transit Administration's proposed Purple Line light rail transit line is just one example.[12]

Two intersections on the Capital Beltway are ranked in the top 20 on a study of the "worst bottlenecks in the nation." They are the I-495 at Springfield Interchange, where I-395, I-95, and I-495 meet, was previously ranked fifth worst in the nation, but recent improvements have taken it off the top 20. Local commuters refer to the Springfield Interchange as "The Mixing Bowl," although this designation is reserved by highway officials for the even more complicated interchange complex adjacent to The Pentagon on the original Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway (currently better-known as Interstate 395) at State Route 27 in Arlington.

Despite numerous widening projects during its history, heavy traffic on the Beltway is a continuing problem. The Woodrow Wilson Bridge – where eight lanes were squeezed into six – was particularly onerous, with miles-long backups daily during commuter rush hours and on heavily traveled weekends. Relief for this bottleneck came on May 30, 2008, when the 12-lane replacement bridge opened to traffic in both directions (the six-lane span carrying Outer Loop traffic had opened in June 2006). Two of the lanes on the Wilson are being held in reserve for future use as bus rapid transit or rail transit.

Traffic congestion

Originally, travelers from southbound I-95 to the Inner Loop had to traverse the one-lane cloverleaf ramp in the southwest quadrant of the interchange; after exiting the ramp, traffic then had to weave through Inner Loop traffic headed for US 1. This unsafe condition was rectified by November 1986, when the flyover from southbound I-95 to the Inner Loop was constructed for I-95 southbound through traffic; the existing one-lane cloverleaf ramp was retained for access to the new C-D lane on the Inner Loop within the US 1 interchange, to segregate through traffic from southbound I-95 and local traffic for US 1. The stump end of the interchange was also modified into its present configuration, and the Park and Ride was built.

The College Park Interchange is the informal name for the northern interchange between I-95 and I-495 in College Park. The interchange was partially opened, along with the connecting segment of I-95, in 1971, completing I-95 between the Baltimore Beltway and the Capital Beltway. As originally planned, it was designed with the idea that mainline I-95 through traffic would continue straight through the interchange and south into Washington D.C. as the Northeast Freeway, joining the North Central Freeway within D.C. and running south towards the central business district. When the D.C. government canceled its segment of I-95 in 1977, I-95 was rerouted onto the eastern half of the Capital Beltway, which lost its designation as I-495 (this was restored in 1989, forming a concurrency of I-95 and I-495 on the eastern half). As a result of this rerouting, the interchange was placed under considerable pressure to cater for a traffic flow that it was not designed to handle.

College Park Interchange

The Beltway was originally envisioned as primarily a bypass for long-distance eastern seaboard traffic to avoid driving directly through Washington. However, the explosive growth both of housing and business in the Washington suburbs following the Beltway's completion quickly made the Beltway the area's "main street" for local traffic as well. Numerous large shopping malls, community colleges, sports and concert stadiums, and corporate employment centers were purposely built adjacent to the Beltway, and these added greatly to the traffic, as has the passenger growth of regional airports accessed by the Beltway. The formerly more affordable price of housing in Southern Maryland versus northern Virginia, also led tens of thousands of commuters to live in Southern Maryland and commute on the Beltway to Virginia. The newer Fairfax County Parkway in the 1990s helped ease some traffic on the Virginia beltway; however, various proposals to build another complete outer beltway in the outer suburbs has not gotten off the ground, because local governments in Maryland object to building additional Potomac River crossings as well as destroying protected "open space" and creating sprawl.

Traveling clockwise, the Beltway is designated as the "Inner Loop"; traveling counter-clockwise, it is designated as the "Outer Loop". This parlance too has led to its own confusion, with unfamiliar motorists imagining two separate, distinct highway alignments, one some distance inside the other. At entrance ramps to the Beltway and on the on-highway signage, "Inner Loop" and "Outer Loop" shields are posted in conjunction with the route marker shields, although the terms are not emphasized in signage.

In 1991, the I-495 designation was restored to the eastern portion, making it a dual I-95/I-495.[11]

There were signs stating that to continue on the Beltway, you had to get off at the next exit, when all you really had to do was keep going straight. Lots of resistance from bureaucrats, but eventually we got dual I-95/I-495 signs on the eastern half of the Beltway.[10]

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