FROM WORCESTER SOUTH INTO CONNECTICUT: In 1947, the Massachusetts Department of Public Works (MassDPW) proposed a north-south expressway corridor through central Massachusetts. The "Relocated Route 12," which was to connect Worcester with Connecticut to the south, was indicated as an early action proposal on the statewide expressway plan. It was to handle traffic from the existing MA 12, a two-lane road constructed in the 1930's.
During the 1950's and early 1960's, new highways such as the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90) and the Worcester Expressway (I-290) were constructed through the Worcester area. With congestion growing on existing two-lane roads, it soon became apparent that new radial highway capacity needed to be added. In 1965, the MassDPW Central Corridor Traffic Study reiterated the need for the "Relocated Route 12" expressway. The study proposed that the MA 12 Expressway - which was re-designated MA 52 in 1967 - serve not only as an extension of I-290, but also as part of an expanded arterial network in the Worcester area. It was estimated to cost $20 million for right-of-way acquisition and construction.
Construction of the MA 52 Expressway began in 1965 at the intersection of I-90 (EXIT 7) and US 20 (EXIT 6) in Auburn. This early construction, which was part of the I-290 contract, was completed in 1968. One year later, MA 52 was completed through the town of Webster, from EXIT 3 (Cudworth Road) south to the Massachusetts-Connecticut state line.
HELD UP BY ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS: Just south of EXIT 6 (US 20) in Auburn, the proposed route of the MA 52 Expressway was to border Eddy Pond. Since it was considered 4(f) parkland area by the Federal government, the MassDPW was required to conduct studies on potential impacts on Eddy Pond, as required by 1966 Federal law. Later, with the passage of even tougher Federal and state environmental regulations in the early 1970's - new laws became retroactively applicable to previously approved Federal highway projects - the MassDPW had to develop a new environmental impact statement on the remaining 7.4 miles of the unfinished expressway.
The design characteristics of the MA 52 Expressway were revised as follows:
The two roadways (which were each to have two 12-foot-wide lanes and 10-foot-wide shoulders) were to be separated by a wooded median measuring 100 feet to 225 feet wide. This configuration was consistent with rural controlled-access highway design, and was intended to preserve wooded areas.
The project required the acquisition of 21.9 acres of land and water from Eddy Pond. In exchange, the MassDPW constructed an improved access road and boat ramp for a new 56-acre park.
In 1977, exactly three decades after it was first proposed, the MA 52 Expressway was finally opened to traffic.
THE MA 52 EXPRESSWAY BECOMES I-395: As early as 1972, officials in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire considered plans for a continuous Interstate highway corridor. Extending from Waterford, Connecticut north to Manchester, New Hampshire, the proposed route was to run along the existing CT 52, MA 52, I-290 and I-190, and continue north along a new corridor into New Hampshire. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) did not approve this initial plan.
More than a decade later, another opportunity arose to create an Interstate highway along the Route 52 corridor. In 1983, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) traded in the Interstate highway mileage for the once-proposed, but never built section of I-84 (between Bolton and the Connecticut-Rhode Island border) for the CT 52 Expressway. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) accepted the ConnDOT Interstate trade-in, and accepted the new I-395 designation for CT 52. At the same time, the FHWA extended the I-395 designation northward into Massachusetts, along the existing MA 52 Expressway.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Works, I-395 carries approximately 20,000 vehicles per day (AADT) at the Connecticut-Massachusetts border; this volume rises to approximately 40,000 vehicles per day near the I-395 / I-290 / I-90 junction in Auburn. North of EXIT 7 (I-90 / Massachusetts Turnpike) in Auburn, the four-lane I-395 becomes the six-lane I-290.
This 2001 photo shows the northern terminus of I-395 at EXIT 7 (I-90 / Massachusetts Turnpike) in Auburn. At this location, the route continues northeast as the Worcester Expressway (I-290). (Photo by Jim Teresco.)
SOURCES: "Central Corridor Traffic Study," Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1965); "Massachusetts Route 52: Final Environmental Impact and Section 4(f) Statement," Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1975); Matt Kivela; Dan Moraseski; Scott Oglesby; Alexander Svirsky.
I-395 shield by Ralph Herman. MA 52 shields by Barry L. Camp. Lightpost by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.