The street's western terminus is at the "Starburst intersection" in the northeast quadrant of the city at Bladensburg Road, Florida Avenue, Maryland Avenue, H Street and 15th Street. It passed over the Anacostia River via the Benning Bridge into the neighborhood of Benning. It continues southeast across East Capitol Street into the southeast quadrant, crossing Southern Avenue and the D.C.-Maryland boundary into Maryland, ending at an intersection with Marlboro Pike (a former alignment of Maryland Route 4).
In the late 18th century, "Captain" William Benning came from Virginia and purchased 330 acres (1.3 km2) in the area. Around 1830 (though not all sources agree on the date), he bought what was then known as the Anacosita Bridge or the Upper Bridge as a toll bridge, one of the earliest crossings over the Anacostia River. The bridge would later be known as "Benning Bridge." "Benning's Road" appears on maps as far back as 1861, and the bridge was an important eastern route in and out of the District. An 1886 U.S. Geological Survey map shows Benning's Road ending at "Bowen Road", which was later named Marlboro Pike in Maryland (and routed as Maryland Route 4 through about 1960).
Benning Road was long bisected by railroad lines owned by the Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington Railroad and the B&O Railroad. In 1917 work began on the Benning Road Viaduct and Bridge that would carry the road over the tracks. That work was completed in 1920.
In 2007, the District Council voted to rename the Benning Road Viaduct and Bridge (By then called the "Benning Road Bridge) over the railroad tracks between 34th Street, N. E., and Minnesota Avenue, N. E. the Lorraine H. Whitlock Memorial Bridge; and in 2008, they renamed the Benning Road Bridge over the Anacostia the Ethel Kennedy Bridge after the widow of the late Robert F. Kennedy, for whom a nearby stadium was named. In a May 20, 2014 ceremony, the bridge was officially renamed the Ethel Kennedy Bridge to honor her for her devotion to many social and environmental causes during her later years, especially in the neighborhoods along and near the Anacostia River.
In 2009, work commenced on a $38 million improvement project for the road which included adding streetcar tracks. The DC Streetcar line was anticipated to open in 2014, but it did not actually open until February 27, 2016.
A Metro station was opened at the intersection of Benning Road and East Capitol Street in 1980 but this is not within easy walking distance of the local facilities as the neighborhood has a suburban style with access mainly by automobile.
- Ashley Halsey III (December 14, 2009). "Renovation of Benning Road in NE D.C. nears completion". Washington Post.
- Neibauer, Michael (September 29, 2014). "New Gateway to H Street NE? Mixed-Use Building Proposed for Site Next to Starburst Intersection". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved September 30, 2014.
- Linda Wheeler (October 25, 1997). "Benning Heights' Twists and Turns". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
- "Local roads scholars give streets'history". The Washington Times. June 25, 1992. Retrieved May 7, 2010.("Benning Road, for example, was named after the late William Benning. He was responsible for constructing the Anacostia toll bridge in 1805...."
- Lapp, Joe. Kenilworth: A D.C. Neighborhood by the Anacostia River Archived May 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. (Humanities Council of Washington D.C. 2006), Accessed May 7, 2010
- "Historic Bridges over the Eastern Branch" (PDF). 18 August 1912. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
- Joe Lapp (November 2005). "Kenilworth: A Northeast Neighborhood by the Anacostia River" (PDF). East of the River. Retrieved May 7, 2010.[permanent dead link]
- Upper Marlboro-East Washington, DC Quadrangle, Northwest Quadrant, USGS (1886)("Benning's Road" appears on 1886 USGS Map)
- Benning Road Corridor Redevelopment Framework Plan Archived May 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. (District of Columbia Office of Planning, 2008)("Benning Road has historically been a significant thoroughfare in the District")
- District of Columbia. Board of Commissioners (1921). Annual Report of the Commissioners of the District of Columbia, Volumes 1-2. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 87.
- Lorraine H. Whitlock Memorial Bridge Designation Act of 2007, 2007. Retrieved on 11 August, 2017.
- DeBonis, Mike (May 21, 2014). "Ethel Kennedy Bridge is dedicated, at long last". Washington Post. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
- Di Caro, Martin (July 15, 2014). "DDOT Best-Case Scenario Targets November Opening For D.C. Streetcar". WAMU Radio. Retrieved September 30, 2014.
- Washington at home: an illustrated history of neighborhoods in the Nation's capital, Columbia Historical Society (Washington, D.C.), 1988, p. 225
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