This 2006 photo shows the southbound John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway (MA 18) at the Purchase Street exit in downtown New Bedford. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
CONNECTING I-195 WITH THE NEW BEDFORD WATERFRONT: Planned originally as the "Downtown Connector" for the expressway section and "Waterfront Arterial" for the arterial section, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway traces its roots to the development of the US 6 Expressway before it became I-195 in the late 1950's. The six-lane route, which extends for slightly more than one mile south from I-195, was built with six lanes (three in each direction) to accommodate a projected 25,000 vehicles per day (AADT) by 1975.
The expressway, which does not have any numbered exits, ends just south of US 6 (Hillman Street) at a signalized intersection with Elm Street, at which point John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway continues for 1.5 miles south to Cove Street a four-lane arterial highway with partial access control. Although there are traffic lights, this section of MA 18 has a few freeway design features. There are two southbound slip ramps (at School Street and Rivet Street) and a northbound slip ramp at Walnut Street; there also are two pedestrian overpasses at Delano Street and Rodman Street.
The work on the expressway portion of MA 18 was done in conjunction with the I-195 construction project just to the west between 1963 and 1966. At the time, the MA 18 interchange served as the eastern terminus of I-195; the Interstate was not extended east of here until the early 1970's. Work on the arterial section of MA 18 south of Elm Street also was not completed until the early 1970's.
According to the Massachusetts Highway Department (MHD), the six-lane section of MA 18 carries approximately 40,000 vehicles per day.
RETHINKING ROUTE 18: In the late 1990's, city officials drafted plans to redevelop the arterial section of MA 18 as a four-lane boulevard with a lower design speed and more pedestrian-friendly access between the city's South End and the State Pier. Originally scheduled for completion in 2005 with an estimated cost of $15 million, the MA 18 reconstruction had been shelved because most of the state's project funds were diverted to Boston's Big Dig project.
The proposed redesign would include the following changes:
The northbound flyover ramp at Walnut Street / 2nd Street, as well as the two pedestrian overpasses at Delano Street and Rodman Street, would be removed.
Walnut Street and Elm Street would be the primary access points between the South End and MA 18. These signalized intersections would have pedestrian crossings.
A reconfigured intersection with a new signalized pedestrian crossing would be created at Union Street to improve pedestrian access to the State Pier.
A new ramp would be built to connect northbound MA 18 with eastbound US 6 (Fairhaven Bridge).
In addition, the existing intersection with Coggeshall Street at the north end of the MA 18 Expressway--one of the most dangerous intersections in the state--would be improved with new signals and signs.
This proposal has the backing of South End community groups such as the Waterfront Historical Area League (WHALE) that desire improved access to the State Pier and the waterfront, but business leaders fear the loss of business during not only the reconstruction period, but also afterward as it would motorists take more time to travel between I-195 and the South End.
AND A RE-DESIGNED INTERCHANGE WITH I-195: To address safety concerns at the I-195 / MA 18 interchange at the city's North End--specifically the traffic conflicts caused by the two loop ramps in close proximity on westbound I-195, the MHD and the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD) developed plans to close the existing loop ramp from northbound MA 18 to westbound I-195. In a two-year study completed in 2002, the report cited 36 crashes within a 400-foot section of westbound I-195 between the two ramps.
One proposal has traffic turning right from MA 18 onto Coggeshall Street in the city's north end and then onto the existing slip ramp from Coggeshall Street onto westbound I-195, about one-half mile east of the existing loop ramp. This would be carried out in conjunction with a widened Coggeshall Street. Another proposal features the creation of a new signalized left-turn from northbound MA 18 onto an extended Cedar Grove Street, which would serve as a service road for I-195 and from which a new slip ramp for westbound I-195 would be built.
SOURCES: "The Massachusetts Highway Story (1949-1969)," Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1969); "Southeastern Massachusetts Comprehensive Transportation Plan," Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1969); "Route 18 Solution Will Be Easy" by William Corey, The Standard-Times (9/09/1998); "Mayor Appoints Panel To Steer Route 18 Fixup" by Jack Spillane, The Standard-Times (8/01/2000); "Interstate 195 Study," Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (2005); "Road to Prediction: Behind Schedule, Route 18 Development Is About To Hit Second Gear" by Rob Margetta, The Standard-Times (3/19/2006); Regional Transportation Plan, Southeastern Massachusetts Metropolitan Planning Organization (2007); Alexander Svirsky.
MA 18 shield by Barry L. Camp. Lightpost by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.