August 17, 1964
In the Washington, D.C., area, the final segment of the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495) made its official debut in a big ceremony near the New Hampshire Avenue exchanges on the Maryland side of the recently completed route. Thousands of people were on hand for this event.
“There is a danger of using too many superlatives, but there is no doubt that the dedication of the Capital Beltway today is a major event for the entire Washington area,” proclaimed that day’s edition of the Washington Post. “A ring around the city has now been closed – 66 miles [106.2 kilometers] of superhighway will buckle together scattered suburbs.”
As a key part of the day’s festivities, Maryland Governor J. Millard Tawes officially opened that final portion of the superhighway by cutting a ribbon with a pair of golden scissors. Tawes predicted that the Capital Beltway would be a “road of opportunity” for not only his home state or even the general vicinity of Washington, D.C., but the entire nation.
Federal Highway Administrator Rex M. Whitton, who had once served as chief engineer of the Missouri State Highway Department and president of the American Association of State Highway Officials, also attended the ceremony. During his own remarks, Whitton likened the circumferential route to “a huge wedding ring for the metropolitan area, meeting all of its suburbs.”
The overall enthusiasm and expectations for the Capital Beltway were very much in evidence during its dedication on that Monday in August. “I’m so happy, I can’t express myself,” remarked Carlton R. Sickles, a U.S. congressman from Maryland, in what turned out to be the ceremony’s shortest speech. James Dykes, a mail carrier living in the city of Glenarden in Prince George’s County, said he intended to “do the whole works” and drive the entire length of the new highway.
With its completion, the Capital Beltway earned the distinction of being the first Interstate highway to serve exclusively as a ring road for a major city in the United States. The Baltimore Beltway surrounding Maryland’s largest city had been completed in 1962, but that route encompasses both an Interstate highway (I-695) and state highway (MD 695).
Photo Credit: The Federal Highway Administration
For more information on the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495), please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_Beltway
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