This 2000 photo shows the northbound I-95 at EXIT 47 (MA 114) in Danvers. This section of I-95 was built in the 1970's. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
RELOCATED ROUTE 1 NORTH OF BOSTON: In 1947, the Massachusetts Department of Public Works (MassDPW) announced plans for a "Relocated US 1" that was to provide expressway service from Boston and its northern suburbs to the northern New England. The highway was to continue south of MA 128 (Yankee Division Highway-Circumferential Highway) as the Northeast Expressway, whose route plans were announced in a 1948 MassDPW report. To the north, the highway was to connect to the New Hampshire Turnpike and the Maine Turnpike, both of which were constructed (in their original four-lane configurations) in the late 1940's.
The "Relocated US 1" replaced a three-lane section of existing US 1 along North Shore communities from Danvers to Salisbury. On the existing US 1, the middle lane was used as a passing lane, contributing to the high accident rate of existing US 1. Initially, the MassDPW planned to widen and upgrade the existing US 1 to four lanes (providing two lanes in each direction). However, after analyzing the impact along homes and businesses along the route, the MassDPW decided to construct a new dual-carriageway route that would provide three lanes in each direction.
Construction of the "Relocated US 1" began in 1951, and by 1954, the 20.8-mile-long, $18 million expressway had been opened to traffic. Beginning at the current EXIT 50 (US 1) in Danvers, and ending just south of the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border, the "Relocated US 1" was built to contemporary standards for the early 1950's: three 12-foot-wide travel lanes in each direction, a 30-foot-wide grassed median for traffic separation and drainage runoff, and 14-foot bridge clearances. The "Relocated US 1," part of a national network devised by the Federal Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) as early as the 1940's, officially became part of I-95 in 1956.
This original section is highlighted by the 1,346-foot-long John G. Whittier Bridge, which carries I-95 over the Merrimack River to connect Newburyport with Amesbury. The Whittier Bridge, which was designed as a half-scale, double-barreled version of the Bourne Bridge and Sagamore Bridge, consists of a 308-foot-long main arch span. The roadway is suspended from the chords of the arches by steel cables. Flanking the main arch span are two 198-foot-long Warren truss side spans, which support the roadway from underneath. The southern (Newburyport) approach consists of two 220-foot-long Warren truss spans, which creates some visual awkwardness because of their slightly longer length relative to the side spans.
This 2002 photo shows the southbound I-95 at the John G. Whittier Bridge over the Merrimack River. Named for a local 19th century Quaker poet who was a leader in the Abolitionist movement, the John G. Whittier Bridge was modeled on the Sagamore and Bourne bridges leading to Cape Cod. (Photo by Jim K. Georges.)
INTERSTATE UPGRADE: As early as 1962 - less than a decade after completion - officials from the MassDPW contemplated upgrades to bring the existing 21 miles of I-95 up to Interstate standards. Originally, the MassDPW expected the upgrade to cost $7.6 million. In advance of the upgrade, the MassDPW re-striped the existing roadways: it converted the existing right lanes into emergency shoulders, thereby reducing capacity from six to four lanes.
In 1964, the MassDPW commissioned an engineering report on the Danvers-to-Salisbury section of I-95. The study, which was completed in 1966, recommended an eight-lane configuration from EXIT 45 (MA 128 / Yankee Division Highway) in Peabody north to the EXIT 57 (MA 113) in Newburyport, six lanes from EXIT 57 north to EXIT 59 (I-495 / Outer Circumferential Highway) in Salisbury, and eight lanes from EXIT 59 north to the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border. By the end of the decade, the MassDPW raised the cost estimate on the I-95 reconstruction to $30.5 million.
In a later report, the MassDPW further described the needs along the I-95 north of Boston as follows:
Since it precedes the Interstate highway system by almost a decade, (I-95) does not conform in all cases to Interstate design standards concerning speed, access control, bridge clearances, ramp geometrics, median width, alignment and safety criteria. In addition, increased traffic on this route, especially during weekend peak travel periods, indicated a need for additional capacity and increased motorist safety. The conditions of the existing road surface are poor, and rebuilding of the pavement and sub-base would be required whether the proposed improvement is adopted or not.
The reconstruction of the 20.8 miles of I-95 progressed as follows:
From 1967 to 1969, the MassDPW reconstructed the existing I-95 to provide six lanes of traffic from the Merrimack River north to I-495 in Salisbury, and eight lanes of traffic from I-495 north to the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border. The reconstructed highway, which also featured emergency shoulders, a wider median and new bridges, was designed to handle the traffic loads of the newly completed I-495, as well as the then-proposed expansion of the New Hampshire Turnpike (I-95).
From 1973 to 1977, the MassDPW reconstructed the existing I-95 to provide eight lanes of traffic from the Merrimack River south to US 1 in Danvers. The northbound four-lane carriageway opened to traffic in 1974; both directions utilized the northbound carriageway until the southbound four-lane carriageway opened in mid-1977. In some areas (particularly in the area of the Whittier Bridge), I-95 was constructed on new alignment; the existing I-95 alignment was subsequently abandoned.
This 1962 photo shows the original six-lane I-95 -- which was built as "Relocated US 1" -- near EXIT 54 (MA 133) in Georgetown. After this photo was taken, the right lane in each direction was removed to provide a shoulder lane. This section was reconstructed as an eight-lane route in the 1970's. (Photo by Massachusetts Department of Public Works.)
COMPLETING THE MISSING LINK: While the MassDPW reconstructed the existing I-95 from Danvers north to Newburyport, it began construction on a 4.5-mile-long section of I-95 on new alignment from EXIT 50 (US 1) in Danvers south to EXIT 46 (US 1) in Peabody. Begun in 1969, the I-95 section, which runs just parallel to US 1, was opened to traffic in 1975.
The opening of the Danvers-to-Peabody section left one final section of I-95 unfinished: a 1.5-mile-long link from EXIT 46 (US 1) to EXIT 45 (MA 128 / Yankee Division Highway) within the town of Peabody. With the cancellation of the Northeast Expressway (I-95) through Lynn Woods in 1972, MassDPW engineers submitted new designs for the I-95 / MA 128 interchange. In 1984, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved plans for the missing link of I-95. The new design called for a six-lane section of I-95 on new alignment, and the realignment of the existing MA 128 through a new "semi-directional T" interchange. This final section was opened to traffic in 1988, thereby completing I-95 through Massachusetts.
THE BLUE STAR MEMORIAL HIGHWAY TODAY: According to the Massachusetts Highway Department (MHD), the Blue Star Memorial Highway section of I-95 carries approximately 75,000 vehicles per day (AADT) through the Peabody-Danvers area, approximately 60,000 vehicles per day in the area of the Whittier Bridge, and approximately 85,000 vehicles per day just south of the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border.
Some changes have been planned for the following interchanges:
EXIT 47 (MA 114) in Danvers: In February 2002, a new ramp from southbound I-95 to eastbound MA 114 opened to traffic. The $3 million ramp, which was constructed with state permits, was part of a traffic mitigation project spearheaded by nearby shopping centers.
EXIT 57 (MA 113) in Newburyport: There has been some discussion of reopening the abandoned northbound lanes of I-95 as an access road between MA 113 and a proposed industrial park. However, many residents have voiced opposition to this move.
This 2001 photo shows an abandoned section of I-95 in Newburyport, about two miles south of the Whittier Bridge. Constructed as part of the "Relocated US 1" in the early 1950's, this section was abandoned when I-95 was realigned and expanded in the mid-1970's. (Photo by Alexander Svirsky, massroads.com.)
SOURCES: Master Highway Plan for the Boston Metropolitan Area, Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1948); "A Report of Progress," Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1962); Recommended Highway and Transit Plan, Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1968); "The Massachusetts Highway Story (1949-1969)," Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1969); Boston Transportation Planning Review: Final Study Summary Report, Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1972); "Interstate 95, Peabody to Newburyport: Environmental Impact and Section 4(f) Statement," Federal Highway Administration and Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1973); "Access to I-95 from Route 114 Is Getting Near" by Mac Daniel, The Boston Globe (2/17/2002); Chris Commans; Dan Moraseski; Paul Schlichtman; Matt Smith; Alexander Svirsky.
I-95 shield by Ralph Herman. Lightposts by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.