East-West Expressway Collection, 1974

Movement Against Destruction, brochure, OH 8053Browse an inventory of the 9 oral histories in the collection

The East-West Expressway Collection, OH 8053 – OH 8061, is a series of interviews conducted in 1974 by Millie Rahn, a student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, on citizen response to the 3-A system, a highway plan developed for Baltimore. The collection contains interviews with people both in support of and opposed to the 3-A system, popularly known as the East-West Expressway. This was the first planned collection of oral histories undertaken by the Maryland Historical Society’s Oral History Office.

Planning for an urban expressway through Baltimore began in the early 1940s, with as many as a dozen proposals studied. The proposals offered varying routes for an expressway running east to west through the city, with ideas of connecting Route 70 with Interstate 95 in Highlandtown. By 1969 a plan known as the 3-A system was adopted by city planners, which proposed approximately 23 miles of highway running across the city and through many neighborhoods including an eight lane highway through Leakin Park, Fells Point, and Ft. McHenry.

Various community groups began to emerge in the mid to late 1960s opposing the proposed highway plans through their neighborhoods. These included the Southeast Committee Against the Road (SCAR), the Canton Improvement Association, the Society for the Preservation of Fells Point, Montgomery Street and Federal Hill, and the Movement Against Destruction (MAD). Eventually these groups coalesced under an umbrella organization, the Southeast Community Organization (SECO). Construction began on what was to be Interstate 170 in 1975, but the continued protests by community groups led to the cancellation of the project by 1981. The 1.4 mile stretch of highway that was completed, which begins near Lexington Market and extends to the intersection of Bentalou and Franklin Streets, has come to be known as the “Highway to Nowhere.”

Seven of the eight interviewees in this collection are with opponents of the road. These include Carolyn Tyson, president of Movement Against Destruction (MAD) from 1971 to 1973, John Gleason, president of the Society for the Preservation of Fells Point, Montgomery Street and Federal Hill, and Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Baltimore City Councilwoman in 1974. William Boucher, the executive director of the Greater Baltimore Committee, which was involved in transportation planning for the city, is the sole proponent of the highway system represented in the collection. Topics discussed include the social and economic impact of the planned highway; community opposition to the various highway plans; support for the proposed plan; history and background on the various community groups including the Movement Against Destruction (MAD), the Canton Improvement Association, and the Southeast Community Organization (SECO).

Materials available for this collection include audio recordings, tape indexes, background information on the project, correspondence, newspaper clippings, brochures, news releases and other documents relating to the highway plan. Most of this material can be found in OH 8053. A transcript is available for OH 8054, William Boucher. Tape indexes are available for the remaining 7 interviews.

To make a request to view transcripts or other materials from the East-West Expressway Collection, please contact the Special Collections Department at specialcollections@mdhs.org, or speak to the Special Collections Librarian at the desk in the library.

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