This 2003 photo shows the northbound Fall River Expressway (I-93) approaching its northern terminus at EXIT 21 (I-93 / old MA 128 / Yankee Division Highway) in Randolph. (Photo by Jim K. Georges.)
FROM ROUTE 128 TO FALL RIVER: In 1947, the Massachusetts Department of Public Works (MassDPW) announced plans for a "Relocated Route 138" that was to handle traffic from the Boston area south to the Fall River area. The north-south highway was to be not only part of a comprehensive statewide expressway plan, but also part of an effort to revitalize the old port city of Fall River.
Work began on the Fall River Expressway in 1950, and two years later, the first section of expressway from Assonet to Raynham opened to traffic. Little by little, the expressway, which was ceremonially renamed "Amvets Highway" not long after it opened, was extended to the north and south. By 1956, the expressway was substantially completed to Fall River; by 1958, the original 39 miles of "Relocated Route 138" was opened north to MA 128 (now I-93) in Randolph. When it was completed, the expressway received a new designation: MA 24.
During 1973 and 1974, the existing four-lane expressway was widened to six lanes from I-93 (Yankee Division Highway) in Randolph south to I-495 (Outer Circumferential Highway) in Raynham.
EXTENDING INTO RHODE ISLAND: In 1953, officials from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York devised plans for an expressway along the southern New England coast. The 260-mile-long expressway, which was to link New York City with Provincetown, Massachusetts, at the eastern tip of Cape Cod, was to be "the most direct and shortest highway route between the present and potentially major urban-industrial and recreational concentrations, and between significant military installations of the shore route area."
Part of the expressway plan through Fall River included the present-day MA 24 (Fall River Expressway) south of I-195, and I-195 itself east of MA 24. The final three-mile-long section of MA 24 south of I-195 was completed in 1966.
Connecting the two independent sections of the Fall River Expressway is a short, 0.8-mile-long overlap with I-195. The I-195 / MA 24 multiplexed section was completed in 1963.
ROADWAY LAYOUTS AND TRAFFIC COUNTS: The different sections of MA 24 are described as follows:
Massachusetts-Rhode Island border to EXIT 3 (I-195) in Fall River: This four-lane section, which was constructed between 1963 and 1966 as the "Tiverton Connector," carries approximately 35,000 vehicles per day (AADT). A trumpet interchange with I-195 marks the northern end of this section. The speed limit on this section is 55 MPH.
EXIT 4 (I-195) in Fall River to EXIT 9 (MA 79) in Assonet: This four-lane section, which was constructed between 1954 and 1956, carries approximately 50,000 vehicles per day. From 1956 to 1965, the expressway ended at a "T"-intersection with US 6, just south of I-195. Between 1961 and 1965, the present-day EXIT 4 (a "Y"-interchange) was constructed with I-195 (originally proposed as "Relocated US 6"). The speed limit is 55 MPH from EXIT 4 to EXIT 7 (MA 79 / Western Fall River Expressway), and 65 MPH from EXIT 7 to EXIT 9.
EXIT 9 (MA 79) in Assonet to EXIT 13 (US 44) in Raynham: This initial four-lane section of the Fall River Expressway, which was constructed between 1950 and 1952, carries approximately 50,000 vehicles per day. The speed limit on this section is 65 MPH.
EXIT 13 (US 44) in Raynham to EXIT 18 (MA 27) in Brockton: This section of the Fall River Expressway was originally constructed as a four-lane route between 1953 and 1955. In 1963, a new interchange at EXIT 14 was constructed to connect to the MA 25 Expressway. North of this interchange, the existing four-lane section of MA 24 was widened to six lanes in 1974. In 1983, the interchange at EXIT 14 was expanded to accommodate the new I-495. The four-lane sub-section from EXIT 13 to EXIT 14 (I-495 / Outer Circumferential Highway) carries approximately 60,000 vehicles per day, while the six-lane sub-section from EXIT 14 to EXIT 18 carries approximately 85,000 vehicles per day. The speed limit along the entire section is 65 MPH.
EXIT 18 (MA 27) in Brockton to EXIT 21 (I-93 / US 1 / Yankee Division Highway) in Randolph: Originally constructed as a four-lane section between 1955 and 1958, this section, which was widened to six lanes in 1974, carries approximately 105,000 vehicles per day. It terminates at a "Y"-interchange with I-93; there were no provisions to extend the expressway north to Boston. The speed limit along this section is 65 MPH.
This photo from the mid-1960's shows the Fall River Expressway (MA 24) at EXIT 10 (North Main Street) in Assonet. (Photo by Massachusetts Highway Department.)
SHOULD ROUTE 24 BECOME AN INTERSTATE? In 1997, officials from the Massachusetts Highway Department (MHD) and the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD) initiated studies of necessary improvements in order to convert the Fall River Expressway into an Interstate highway. The Old Colony Planning Council adopted the proposal in 2006 as part of its 25-year transportation plan.
The idea of an Interstate designation along MA 24 is not a new one: in the 1970's, officials in Massachusetts and Rhode Island considered the MA 24-RI 24 Expressway corridor as a possible alignment for the canceled I-895. The conversion of MA 24 to Interstate standards is estimated to cost approximately $300 million, and would have to be constructed within 12 years that such an agreement is made for the new Interstate designation. The SRPEDD gave its full support behind the Interstate conversion plan as follows:
The Regional Transportation Plan supports the conversion for two principal reasons. First is the fact that the road truly serves as an interstate highway. Second and perhaps more important is the fact that so many aspects of Route 24 are not up to today's design standards. There are frequent periods of congestion that currently occur along Route 24. This congestion is associated with inadequate acceleration-deceleration lanes at the interchanges.
When it was constructed in the 1950's, the Fall River Expressway met contemporary design standards with its 12-foot-wide lanes, 24-foot-wide grassed median (on which there is a continuous guardrail) and 14½-foot bridge clearances. Over the years, the inadequacies of the highway - inadequate sight distances, short acceleration-deceleration lanes, narrow shoulders and low bridge clearances - became apparent.
Improvements to the expressway are expected to involve major upgrades to five interchanges; minor upgrades to another five interchanges; reconstructing four overpass bridges and widening seven others; raising 17 underpass bridges to adequate vertical clearance; drainage modifications; seismic resistance modifications; signage; design and right-of-way acquisitions. Longer-term improvements could include an expansion of the expressway to six lanes from EXIT 14 (I-495 / Outer Circumferential Highway) in Raynham south to EXIT 12 (MA 140 / New Bedford Expressway) in Taunton, and to eight lanes from I-495 north to I-93.
CHANGES FOR INTERCHANGES: Upon the recommendation of the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD), the MHD plans to rebuild EXIT 12 (MA 140 / New Bedford Expressway) in Taunton beginning in 2009. It is not known if the $18 million interchange reconstruction project is connected with the proposed six-lane widening of MA 24.
In addition, a new EXIT 8A may be built in Freetown to serve a proposed industrial park. Environmental studies for the industrial park, as well as for its direct access to MA 24, are underway.
This 2006 photo shows the northbound Fall River Expressway (MA 24) at EXIT 2 (Brayton Avenue / Eastern Avenue) in Fall River. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
The Fall River Expressway should be widened to three lanes in each direction from EXIT 14 (I-495) in Raynham south to EXIT 12 (MA 140) in Taunton, and to eight lanes north of EXIT 14. In conjunction with this project, the existing EXIT 12 should be reconstructed as a modified-cloverleaf interchange. The southbound lane drop should lead to a two-lane exit for EXIT 12, and should incorporate a flyover ramp from southbound MA 24 to MA 140.
Along the length of MA 24, bridges should be reconstructed, shoulders should be improved, and acceleration-deceleration lanes should be lengthened, as per the recommendations of the MHD and the SRPEDD. To facilitate these upgrades, the entire length of MA 24 - from I-93 south to the Massachusetts-Rhode Island border - should be re-designated I-695.
The southernmost three miles of the new I-695 (MA 24) would be part of a proposed Narragansett Turnpike that would extend through southern Rhode Island. The new turnpike, which would extend south and west along the RI 24-RI 138 in Rhode Island, would have a similar route to the once-proposed I-895, which was canceled in the early 1980's. To expedite construction, tolls may be used to finance the 40-mile-long Narragansett Turnpike. The 40-mile-long turnpike would achieve the following goals:
It would serve as a southerly bypass of the Providence metropolitan area, and by doing so, would improve traffic flow on local roads on the east and west sides of Narragansett Bay.
It would serve Interstate tourist traffic between the New York metropolitan area and southern New England.
Finally, it would connect important military installations in New London and Newport.
To expedite construction, tolls may be used to finance the 40-mile-long Narragansett Turnpike.
SOURCES: Master Highway Plan for the Boston Metropolitan Area, Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1948); "New England Road Project Backed," The New York Times (10/29/1953); "New England South Shore Highway," Interstate Study Committee (1953); "The Massachusetts Highway Story (1949-1969)," Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1969); "Southeastern Massachusetts Comprehensive Transportation Plan," Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1969); "Interstate 895: Final Environmental Impact and Section 4(f) Statement," Federal Highway Administration and Rhode Island Department of Transportation (1984); "Kings of the Road" by Ruth Trask, WPI Journal-Worcester Institute of Technology (July 1998); "State Says It Would Cost $200 Million To Make Route 24 an Interstate Highway" by Elisa Crouch, The Standard-Times (3/03/1999); "Route 24 Upgrade Is Urged" by Robert Preer, The Boston Globe (2/02/2003); "Route 24 Crash Rate Scrutinized" by Sandy Coleman, The Boston Globe (10/15/2006); Regional Transportation Plan, Southeastern Massachusetts Metropolitan Planning Organization (2007); Massachusetts Highway Department; Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District; John Cairns; John Carr; Bob Malme; Dan Moraseski; Paul Schlictman; Alexander Svirsky.
MA 24 shield by Barry L. Camp. I-695 shield by Ralph Herman. Lightpost by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.