Recently a controversy emerged amongst historical researchers of Washington, D.C.’s truncated freeway system. It is centered upon claims that Dwight Eisenhower opposed urban freeways; these are based upon a story of his encountering freeway constructing in either in the NW area of Washington D.C. (which did not exist, e.g. the West Leg by the Kennedy Center started construction in 1961 or later) or just to the north of the construction of the circumferential Capital Beltway (which was under construction, though not an urban freeway). See the conversation thread here.
Perhaps seeing a portion of the Capital Beltway under construction through the Bethesda area inspired Eisenhower to think about these road’s right of way requirements- a thought making me ask if he ever questioned the use of eminent domain particularly as being used at the time of his Presidency in SW Washington, D.C. which leveled far more buildings then did the right of way for the SW Freeway which started construction by 1959.
However, what primary resources indicate that Eisenhower opposed urban freeways unequivocally? Deleting urban segments from the early stages of the construction of the national interstate highway system does not necessarily translate to never having urban segments, particularly as definitions of terms as ‘urban’ or ‘congested’ and conceptualizations of feasibility may vary, as can those of routing and design for reducing impacts?
Would Eisenhower agree, in the case of the Washington, D.C. area, of having I-95, I-66 and I-270 never extend within the Capital Beltway, nor favor today’s status quo of the past few decades of I-95, I-66 and the SE Freeway’s truncations?
The following suggests not.
Concerning the recent conversation about Eisenhower’s position on urban freeways, here’s what I just located, page 2 of a letter by Peter S. Craig (Gelman Library Special Collections)
A google search of ‘Burning Tree Country Club’ led me to this in Maryland, just outside NW Washington, D.C., and immediately inside the Capital Beltway segment between the western I-270 spur and the Potomac River.
The big question is who ‘in the White House’ is responsible for this pressure.
One member of the Executive Committee of the Northwest Committee for the transportation Planning reports that he heard the President himself wants the Wisconsin Avenue corridor because he was irritated by the traffic congestion in getting to Burning Tree Country Club.
All White House contacts should be pursued in an effort to pin down the source of pressure on Welling, Tallamy and others to push through the Wisconsin Avenue corridor routing.
It is something that comes up frequently in searches about Eisenhower, as he evidently spent a great deal of time there, as an avid golf enthusiast said to have played some 800 games throughout his 8 years as U.S. President, alongside many powerful people. Just 'google' the terms 'Dwight D. Eisenhower' with 'Burning Tree Country Club'.
Responding to barriers further south of denser, older Georgetown, and the political ban upon routing via the Glover Archbold Park (with only a brief cir 1957 consideration of a ‘Cathedral Heights Tunnel’- details unknown to me other then it running somewhere near the National Cathedral), official planning by 1958-59 went with planning the NW Freeway’s southern segment as the ‘Cross Park Freeway’. This would swing due east from the Wisconsin Avenue corridor just before Fannie Mae, skirting the northern edge of the Sidwell Friends School-Cleveland Park area, crossing below Connecticut Avenue and across Rock Creek Park to the Mt Pleasant area along Fort Adams Road and Irving Place before turning south some 500 west parallel to 14th Street, meeting the east-west I-66 North Leg of the Inner Loop between T and U Streets.
Almost all of this plan’s building displacement would be to Rock Creek Park’s east, in Mt Pleasant. Yet all of the 1959 revisions re-specifying certain segments as tunnels would be to the west, with the depressed Fannie Mae-Sidwell Friends and Cleveland Park-Connecticut Avenue segments respectively as drilled and cut and cover tunnels, though to east, only considering the options of sloped embankments versus retaining walls, despite the denser development resulting in greater displacement and greater local separation by the addition of the uncovered freeway.
That would not necessarily stop freeway planning, with a faction from Bethesda pushing the idea of constructing the 1959 Mass Transportation system’s North Central Freeway along Georgia Avenue- an idea with far greater impacts then the 1959 NW – Cross Park Freeway.
Meanwhile another faction or factions favoring I-70S uphill parallel (via the former trolley right of way) to the Canal Road corridor- seemingly a more direct route from the White House to this Burning Tree Country Club.
Clearly there is far more to this story to discover.