This 2006 photo shows the eastbound Henry E. Bodurtha Highway (MA 57) approaching its eastern terminus at the rotary for US 5 and the South End Bridge in Agawam. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
CONNECTING I-91 TO AGAWAM: In 1953, the Massachusetts Department of Public Works (MassDPW) proposed a two-mile-long expressway connecting the then-proposed US 5 Expressway (now I-91) with MA 159 (Main Street) in Agawam. The MA 57 Expressway was planned as an extension of the unbuilt Outer Belt Expressway (MA 21) that was to continue to the northeast to the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90) in Ludlow.
The MassDPW built the initial section of the MA 57 Expressway between 1958 and 1961. This 2.5-mile-long section began at the rotary connecting to US 5 and the South End Bridge (both of which were completed in 1954); it continued west to a diamond interchange at MA 75 (Suffield Street). The expressway was built with six lanes from the US 5 (South End) rotary west to MA 159 and four lanes from MA 159 west to MA 75. Opposing traffic flows were separated by a 36-foot-wide grassy median.
For more than 30 years, the MA 75 ramps leading to MA 57 westbound and from MA 57 eastbound sat vacant. Construction of the MA 57 Expressway did not begin again until 1991.
The 2.3-mile-long extension brought the MA 57 Expressway, which had new interchanges at Mill Street, Garden Street, and MA 187 (Westfield Street), closer to Southwick, but it still was two miles from its planned terminus at the Agawam-Southwick town line. Like the earlier section, the new four-lane section was built with a wide grassy median. In a nod to environmental concerns, the Massachusetts Highway Department (MHD) built a ten-foot-wide wildlife tunnel underneath the expressway. The MHD opened the MA 57 extension to traffic in 1995. Mainline stubs at the MA 187 interchange hint at a possible westerly extension of the MA 57 Expressway to Southwick.
According to the MHD, the MA 57 Expressway carries approximately 45,000 vehicles per day (AADT) from US 5 west to MA 75 and 30,000 vehicles per day from MA 75 west to MA 157. The expressway was named in honor of Henry Bodurtha, a philanthropist member of a longtime Springfield family who died in 1959.
REBUILDING THE SOUTH END BRIDGE AND ITS APPROACHES: The MHD has proposed an $80 million project to rebuild the South End (Julia Buxton) Bridge and its approaches. At the west end of the bridge, the state plans to replace the existing rotary between MA 57 and US 5 with a grade-separated, high-speed interchange. Improvements also are planned to permit the expansion of I-91 to three (from two) lanes in each direction at the east end of the bridge; this would require the relocation of bridge piers. No timetable has been established for construction.
This 2005 photo shows the westbound Henry E. Bodurtha Highway (MA 57) one mile from its current western terminus at MA 187 (Westfield Street) in Agawam. (Photo by Douglas Kerr, www.gribblenation.com.)
THE SOUTHWICK EXTENSION: The on-again, off-again project to extend the Henry E. Bodurtha Highway (MA 57) two miles west to MA 57 (Feeding Hills Road) at the Agawam-Southwick town line appears to be off again. Although the extension appears in the Pioneer Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) five-year plan for 2006-2010 (though not as a funded project), Governor Mitt Romney placed the $34 million project on indefinite hold in June 2005.
Nevertheless, the project - dubbed "Phase II" of Route 57 - continues to attract support from local officials. In July 2005, Agawam City Councilor Joseph Mineo sent the following letter to Romney:
Approximately 13 months ago the Agawam City Council passed a resolution opposing your decision to indefinitely place on hold the extension of Route 57.
I am asking you to reconsider that decision. Route 57 is a major connector to Interstate 91 as well as Route 5. The extension of Route 57 Phase II of the project, would improve traffic flow and reduce the potential for accidents that currently exists with the Phase II area. I am also requesting that you direct the (MHD) to provide interim improvements to the roadway, particularly to the Feeding Hills intersection (between existing MA 57 / Springfield Street and MA 187 / Westfield Street) to improve safety and reduce congestion.
Environmental groups oppose the extension on the grounds that it would expedite suburban sprawl through mostly rural Southwick. The MHD acquired rights-of-way for the extension during the mid-1990's.
This 2005 photo shows the westbound Henry E. Bodurtha Highway (MA 57) at its current western terminus at MA 187 (Westfield Street) in Agawam. Note the concrete barrier over the mainline stub directing traffic to the diamond ramp to MA 187. (Photo by Dan Vincent.)
The existing MA 57 Expressway, its westerly extension to Southwick, and the rebuilt South End Bridge (US 5) should become part of the new I-591. The designation is derived from its status as a connector between I-91 and US 5.
SOURCES:"Master Highway Plan for the Springfield Metropolitan Area," Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1953);"Transportation in Connecticut: Trends and Planning Data," Connecticut Department of Transportation (June 2006); "Councilor Calls for Answer" by G. Michael Dobbs, The Metrowest Reminder (7/26/2006); Massachusetts Highway Department; Alexander Svirsky; Dan Vincent.
MA 57 shield by Barry L. Camp. I-591 shield by Scott Colbert. Lightposts by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.