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Constitution Avenue: Wikis


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Most state funeral processions in Washington have traveled down Constitution Avenue, like this one, for former president Ronald Reagan.

In Washington, D.C., Constitution Avenue is a major east-west street running just north of the United States Capitol in the city's Northwest and Northeast quadrants. The avenue carries heavy commuter traffic on weekdays and heavy tourist traffic on the weekends; it is also an important parade route.


Washington City Canal

L'Enfant plan showing canal

The segment of Constitution Avenue west of Pennsylvania Avenue was once the Washington City Canal.

Construction on the canal, which was part of Pierre L'Enfant's original plan for the city, began substantially in 1810. Tiber Creek was transformed into the northern portion of the City Canal, which ran along what is today Constitution Avenue, eventually working its way towards the U.S. Capitol and southward to the Anacostia River. The canal began operation in 1815.[1]

It is believed that early city plans called for an extensive network of canals snaking through the Northeast corridor of the United States. By the 1850s, the canal had fallen into disuse, and in the 1870s, the city began to convert the Tiber Creek portion of the canal to an underground tunnel. It had become common for Washington residents to throw their garbage into it, and the unsanitary conditions became a health concern. Additionally, plans for an extensive canal system were abandoned around this time in favor of a railroad system that would connect Washington to the West. These canal plans were not successful. After the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad built tracks into the city, city officials abandoned their plans for their own rail system. Other portions of the canal were also paved over.

Original street name

In Washington's Cartesian-coordinate-based street system, Constitution Avenue was originally known as North B Street. If it had stayed in the city's lettered street system, it would today be known as B Street NW and NE. The street on the other side of the Anacostia River corresponding to Constitution Avenue is called Blaine Street NE. B Street NW was regraded, repaved, and substantially widened between 1926 and 1927 after Congress passed a $75 million construction bill for the District of Columbia.[2] The new street was renamed Constitution Avenue in February 1931.[3]

Route numbers

Sections of Constitution Avenue are designated U.S. Route 1, U.S. Route 50, or both. Specifically, U.S. 50 runs along the road from its west end to Sixth Street NW (eastbound) and Ninth Street NW (westbound). U.S. 1 northbound uses the eastbound lanes of Constitution Avenue from 14th Street NW to Sixth Street NW; southbound U.S. 1 used to run west from Ninth Street NW to 15th Street NW but now continues straight through the Ninth Street Tunnel to I-395.


The western terminus of Constitution Avenue is the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge; thus, Constitution Avenue connects the city's ceremonial core with Interstate 66. The eastern terminus is at 21st Street NE, just short of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. Through traffic is diverted via North Carolina Avenue and C Street to the Whitney Young Memorial Bridge.

Locations of interest along avenue

Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium located at 1301 Constitution Avenue, NW in the Federal Triangle

In Northwest Washington, Constitution Avenue separates the National Mall from the Federal Triangle. The avenue is lined on its north side by the headquarters of several federal agencies, and on the south side by several Smithsonian museums, the National Gallery of Art, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Constitution Gardens, and the Lincoln Memorial. Other locations of interest include the Embassy of Canada, Organization of American States, National Academy of Sciences, and National Science Foundation. The relocated U.S. Capitol Gatehouses and Gateposts are at Constitution and 15th Street. In Northeast, the avenue passes through the Capitol Hill and Lincoln Park neighborhoods.

National Highway System

Between Louisiana Avenue and Interstate 66, Constitution Avenue is part of the National Highway System.


  1. ^ Heine, Cornelius W. (1953). "The Washington City Canal". 'Records of the Columbia Historical Society of Washington, D.C. 53-56: 1-27.   Now called Historical Society of Washington, DC.
  2. ^ "New Grandeur to Come to Washington." New York Times. February 8, 1925.
  3. ^ "'Constitution Avenue' Bill Passed as House Honors Dean." New York Times." February 8, 1931.

Coordinates: 38°53′31″N 77°02′42″W / 38.892°N 77.045°W / 38.892; -77.045



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