What was “to 395” will become 695. (Adam Froehlig)

Well, not really — it’s getting a new Interstate highway number.

Well, not really — it’s getting new signs with an old Interstate highway number.

Confused yet?

So, too, perhaps will be drivers who will be faced with Interstate 695 signage for the first time in decades when the new 11th Street Bridge opens in the coming months. Highway enthusiast Adam Froehlig snapped a picture yesterday of the new signs on the bridge’s eastern approach

The stretch of highway extending between the entrance to the Third Street Tunnel/Center Leg Freeway (into which I-395 follows) and Barney Circle has been designated I-695 in the eyes of federal officials since 1958 — when it was just a short leg in what was to be a extensive system of interstates crisscrossing central Washington. But much of that system was canceled in the face of community protests, and no signs with the 695 numbering have been posted in decades, owing to its short length. Instead, signs on the road have directed drivers “to” connecting interstates 295 and 395.

John Lisle, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Transportation, said the new 695 signage comes after the federal government approved moving the eastern terminus of the Interstate designation, to the I-295 interchange now being built on the east bank of the Anacostia River as part of the 11th Street Bridge project.

That, Lisle said, means that the portion of the Southeast Freeway between the 11th Street Bridge and Barney Circle has been decommissioned as an Interstate highway — a likely prelude to its conversion to a more community-friendly grade-level avenue.

For much more on the history of I-695 and how it fits into D.C.’s planned-but-mostly-unbuilt Interstate system, do consult the excellent resources at Roads to the Future and dcroads.net.