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The Capital Beltway, a looping road connecting Maryland and Virginia, turns 50 years old this weekend. Its one of the most famous interstate highways in the country. Take a drive through history with the following photos, comparing stretches of the road then and now. (WTOPDave Dildine)
The Capital Beltway, a looping road connecting Maryland and Virginia, turns 50 years old this weekend. It's one of the most famous interstate highways in the country.

Take a drive through history with the following photos, comparing stretches of the road then and now. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
As drizzle tapered and clouds parted above Hillandale, Maryland, on Aug. 17, 1964, Gov. Millard Tawes declared a road of opportunity open. The ceremony was held near the New Hampshire Avenue Interchange. A famous photo taken on that day faces west and shows the entrance ramp to the Inner Loop from northbound New Hampshire Avenue.Since then, enhancements such as additional lanes, overhead lighting and better signage are not enough to conquer the roads chronic congestion. A truck wreck in late July 2014, pictured, snarled traffic at the very spot where drivers and politicians held high hopes for a congestion cure-all 50 years earlier. (Star CollectionD.C. Public LibraryWashington Post and WTOPDave Dildine)
As drizzle tapered and clouds parted above Hillandale, Maryland, on Aug. 17, 1964, Gov. Millard Tawes declared a "road of opportunity" open.

The ceremony was held near the New Hampshire Avenue Interchange. A famous photo taken on that day faces west and shows the entrance ramp to the Inner Loop from northbound New Hampshire Avenue.

Since then, enhancements such as additional lanes, overhead lighting and better signage are not enough to conquer the road's chronic congestion. A truck wreck in late July 2014, pictured, snarled traffic at the very spot where drivers and politicians held high hopes for a congestion cure-all 50 years earlier. (Star Collection/D.C. Public Library/Washington Post and WTOP/Dave Dildine)
A 1963 photo of the Beltways Outer Loop at U.S. 50 in Landover, Maryland, shows a six-lane highway and a simple clover-leaf interchange. The Beltways median has since been sacrificed to add capacity and the U.S. 50 junction has been upgraded to a three-tier clover-stack interchange to improve traffic flow. (Maryland State Highway Administration and WTOPDave Dildine)
A 1963 photo of the Beltway's Outer Loop at U.S. 50 in Landover, Maryland, shows a six-lane highway and a simple clover-leaf interchange.

The Beltway's median has since been sacrificed to add capacity and the U.S. 50 junction has been upgraded to a three-tier clover-stack interchange to improve traffic flow. (Maryland State Highway Administration and WTOP/Dave Dildine)
The Beltways original design through Springfield, Virginia, was a simpler one. A photo from 1963 faces east from the Shirley Highway I-95 Interchange and shows four through lanes leading toward and away from Alexandria. Fast-forwarding to 2014, the Springfield Interchange sports a dizzying array of ramps, flyover bridges and exchanges between carpool, E-ZPass Toll and mainline highways. At its widest approach, this section of the Beltway carries 16 lanes of traffic in and out of the large stack interchange. (Virginia Department of Highways and WTOPDave Dildine)
The Beltway's original design through Springfield, Virginia, was a simpler one. A photo from 1963 faces east from the Shirley Highway I-95 Interchange and shows four through lanes leading toward and away from Alexandria.

Fast-forwarding to 2014, the Springfield Interchange sports a dizzying array of ramps, flyover bridges and exchanges between carpool, E-ZPass Toll and mainline highways. At its widest approach, this section of the Beltway carries 16 lanes of traffic in and out of the large stack interchange. (Virginia Department of Highways and WTOP/Dave Dildine)
For decades, the Shirley Highway-Capital Beltway Junction was known as the Mixing Bowl because of stressful merges that often confounded drivers. Since the completion of the massive Springfield Interchange Project in 2007, many of the conflict points were eliminated through a superior network of connections and elongated acceleration zones. (Douglas KerrRand McNalley and WTOPDave Dildine)
For decades, the Shirley Highway-Capital Beltway Junction was known as the "Mixing Bowl" because of stressful merges that often confounded drivers. Since the completion of the massive Springfield Interchange Project in 2007, many of the "conflict points" were eliminated through a superior network of connections and elongated acceleration zones. (Douglas Kerr/Rand McNalley and WTOP/Dave Dildine)
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Pictured in its infancy, the Inner Loop of the Beltway diverges from the southern terminus of the I-270 Spur. The bridge in the background is the Outer Loop, nicknamed the Big Curve, as it spanned the spur route before dropping down alongside the Inner Loop. Vegetation appears sparse inside the interchange after it opened in November 1963.Today, a total of twelve lanes carry traffic through Bethesda at this busy exchange.(Star CollectionDC Public LibraryWashington Post and WTOPDave Dildine)
Pictured in its infancy, the Inner Loop of the Beltway diverges from the southern terminus of the I-270 Spur. The bridge in the background is the Outer Loop, nicknamed the "Big Curve," as it spanned the spur route before dropping down alongside the Inner Loop. Vegetation appears sparse inside the interchange after it opened in November 1963.

Today, a total of twelve lanes carry traffic through Bethesda at this busy exchange.

(Star Collection/DC Public Library/Washington Post and WTOP/Dave Dildine)
The railroad bridge that spans the Beltway in Silver Spring, Maryland, west of Georgia Avenue is colloquially known as the Surrender Dorothy Bridge. Passersby, inspired by the nearby Mormon Temples likeness to a scene in The Wizard of Oz, have painted the words on the side of the bridge several different times over the decades. Each occurrence of graffiti has been whitewashed since the fad began in the early 1970s.(United Press International and WTOPDave Dildine)
The railroad bridge that spans the Beltway in Silver Spring, Maryland, west of Georgia Avenue is colloquially known as the "Surrender Dorothy Bridge."

Passersby, inspired by the nearby Mormon Temple's likeness to a scene in "The Wizard of Oz," have painted the words on the side of the bridge several different times over the decades. Each occurrence of graffiti has been whitewashed since the fad began in the early 1970s.

(United Press International and WTOP/Dave Dildine)
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