Despite the highway, the Bayou's clientele continued to expand and the owners eventually built an add-on banquet area. DiDomenico's parents retired and sold the restaurant in 1982 to the current owner, Lou Ward, who continues to do a good business with diners and banquets.

In the first few years of the new highway, large local employers, such as Aberdeen Proving Ground and Bata Shoe, kept the Route 40 corridor afloat, William H. Cox Jr. said. Cox was a Harford delegate from 1971-91 and was involved in many of the ensuing changes and improvements made to the highway as it grew older, including the later addition of the Route 543 interchange in Riverside.

"Bata Shoe Company had a lot of employees, which helped to keep the area stabilized," Cox said. "But when Bata Shoe started slowing down in the 1970s," he said, many of the surviving locally owned businesses along the corridor folded or sold out.

After the closing of the Bata Shoe 40 factory, Aberdeen Proving Ground became Harford's economic engine, Cox said.

Safety Concerns

Prior to construction of the Northeastern Expressway, the safety of Route 40 had become a major concern.

Between Baltimore and Delaware, there were approximately 1,450 accidents per year and 950 personal injuries, The Aegis reported. On that stretch, there were 1,000 commercial and private entrances and 87 intersections.

To mitigate accidents on the new road, a number of safety features were implemented.

Driving up I-95 from Baltimore toward Harford County today, drivers often notice the slight twists, turns and hills in the highway.

According to newspaper accounts, the expressway was designed to prevent "turnpike hypnosis," which was called "a new hazard of modern driving." The Northeastern Expressway was full of strategically placed "hills" to present drivers with a slight challenge while driving, to keep them alert and awake.

Initially, a 35-officer, 28-vehicle police unit was established to patrol the Northeastern Expressway. It was based at a new administration building erected near the bridge toll barrier in Perryville, what is today the JFK Barrack of the Maryland State Police.

'Opening is celebrated'

During the ceremony to celebrate the opening of the highway, Robert B. Moses, superhighway and public facilities expert from New York, called President Kennedy the "chief architect of our modern highway system," The Aegis reported.

Hess, who was elected to the legislature at age 24, said he had not planned to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony until the governor invited him.

"Gov. Tawes was much older than me, I was a young buck," Hess said. "He said he was going up for the ribbon cutting and asked me if I wanted to go with him."

Hess said he drove up and met former Gov. Tawes at the ceremony.

During his speech the president said the highway "symbolizes the partnership between the federal government and states, which is essential to the progress of our people," The Aegis reported on Nov. 21, 1963.

"It was quite a performance up there," Hess recalled. "We had to wait for Kennedy to come in on a helicopter. Tawes was set to walk out with Kennedy; he told me 'walk out with me.'"

Hess said it was a great opportunity to have the governor walk him out to meet President Kennedy. He said it was his first time meeting a president and he witnessed the ribbon cutting up close.

Rough first days