Maryland Roads - US 40/former I-170

US 40, former I-170

WB entering an interesting conundrum: apparently US 40 heads both left and right. You'll also notice that the sign on the right has a considerably older shield than the one on the left. Perhaps, just perhaps, there were some destinations on that left sign? Or the NJ-style sign might have been patched over something else? You shall learn, my young padawan.

Let me spin you a tale of an era when highways were simpler. As traffic mounted, freeways were built, along the corridors that needed relief. No miles-long loops, no rigid conformance to standards. If your freeway could only fit four ten-foot lanes and no shoulders, better than nothing. Well, during this great, enlightened period, Maryland and Baltimore teamed up on the radical proposal of finding a faster way to bring traffic into the city. Vehicles from the north could use I-83, which would obviously connect to I-95 one day somehow. Vehicles from the northeast and southwest would use I-95, while I-97 and MD 295 come in from the south and southeast. Almost everything had been covered, except that pesky I-70 was stuck at I-695. Now, there were grand plans afoot to bring I-70 along the US 40 corridor; the DOT immediately jumped on this idea and, between 1975 and 1979, built just over a mile of freeway through two blocks' worth of houses, before people realized that removing entire neighborhoods might be A Bad Idea. Rerouting I-70 to the south, to connect with I-95, didn't appease anyone either, and neither did connecting an I-595 to the existing freeway piece. Therefore, I-170, which would have remained 170 until either 70 connected under the original plan or 595 was built, finally died as a number in 1989.
Well, kids, we come to the moral of the story. Ask people nicely before you take things from them, and maybe find a way to take less. When you come to the bargaining table, ask for everything you want, and hope you get something you want. Thirdly, don't count your chickens before they hatch. What Baltimore is left with is a blighted area, a freeway with almost no traffic, and two concrete-laden stub ends. This is the tale of I-170, and its legacy follows:

WB on dead I-170, where the western stub clearly shows the path of the highway, with several hundred feet of completely paved and ready-to-drive roadway. There is even an onramp from US 1 to I-170 WB, forcing the braiding of the US 40 WB ramp. West of here, I-170 and US 40 would have diverged slightly, with I-170 roughly following the Penn Central Railroad right of way.

View from the WB frontage road (Franklin St.) that shows where the US 1 onramp would have branched off to the left, crossed the incoming US 40 offramp, and joined I-170. There are even crash cushions in the gore!

The mural painted over the last bridge abutment on the highway, which would have stayed level as Baltimore goes downhill. Community pride puts a 1" bandage over the gaping wound of the highway.

The I-170 EB ramp to US 1 is the most interesting part of it all, since it still has signs on it. That's right, the ramp signage for US 1 is usable by no one, and one can leave one's car and walk up to the ramp easily. These signs are the counterparts to the EB US 1 signage below, showing how there was anticipated heavy movement EB-NB. Click on the last photo for a juicy closeup of the US 1 shields.

The I-170 stub was featured on the 2010 Baltimore Road Meet, which of course means that people wanted to just climb all over the thing. Well, I bet all of the city residents on that block have never seen that many nerds swarming all over for photos of SIGNS and ROADS and outpopulating your standard block party while dancing about an abandoned ramp for 15 minutes of pure joy.

Advance signage on the EB frontage road (Mulberry St.) for US 1, which would have also been on an I-170 exit (except the first sign).

On the WB frontage road (Franklin St.), where it appears that the second sign could have read I-170 WEST with a straight arrow, while the first sign could have had a US 1 NORTH counterpart on the right side of the road that simply fell down over time and was replaced by an add-on.

A few views looking west (or north, in the last photo) at the I-170 EB mainline between the abutment and US 1.

EB entering the freeway at the western stub, and then a look back west at it from the EB lanes.

Piles of dirt on what would have been I-170 EB, then seen at the frontage road onramp merge (now the only EB access).

Signs approaching the end of the WB traveled way, though the freeway and stubby exit ramps extend a bit farther.

Looking west at the destruction necessary to construct this road. For thirty years, all this land has sat vacant, owned by the state. Oddly, there appears to be plenty of room to rebuild houses, but the construction of the freeway probably drove a large enough dagger into real estate value that it would cost more to construct something than would be recouped by seslling it.

The flush lettering I believe replaces button-copy City Boulevard, or it might have been left blank since the road didn't open until 1982.

The EB frontage road, which thanks to original signage is labelled as US 40 every bit as much as the freeway.

The WB onramp BGS from MLK Jr. Blvd. looks the same as the WB sign at top for the beginning of I-170. In other words, that said I-170 WEST, and left room for destinations.

The eastern end of the freeway. Some consider it a stub, since the overpasses were designed with a continuation in mind, but unlike at the western end, there isn't much additional pavement, and there is a much larger building blocking the way.

EB leaving the I-170 area, returning to the surface, and continuing with US 40 at the link below.

Continue west on US 40
Continue east on US 40
Back to US 40 main page

Onto US 1
Onto Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
See more of Baltimore
The April 2010 Baltimore Road Meet
Franklin-Mulberry Expressway on Steve Anderson's
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