This 2008 photo shows the southbound MA 88 (Horseneck Beach Connector) approaching the exit for US 6 (State Road) in Westport. MA 88 narrows from four to two lanes south of US 6, although the concrete ("Jersey") barrier continues south to the intersection with Old Country Road. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
CONNECTING I-195 WITH THE BEACH: The Horseneck Beach Connector was designed in the 1950s to connect the then-proposed "Cape Cod Expressway"--which eventually became known as I-195--with Horseneck Beach State Reservation. The state acquired land for the park in 1955 after three hurricanes in 1938, 1944, and 1954 devastated the popular Horseneck Beach summer community.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Works (MassDPW) began work on MA 88 in 1957 with the construction of a new four-lane drawbridge over the Westport River that replaced a wooden bridge that had been in service since 1893. Upon completion of the new draw span in 1958, the MassDPW demolished the bridge.
North of the drawbridge, the state purchased rights-of-way as far north as the proposed I-195 for initial construction of a two-lane, single-carriageway, limited-access highway, with enough land set aside for ultimate conversion to a four-lane divided freeway. (However, MassDPW literature at the time did not show MA 88 as part of the statewide freeway network.) Construction began in 1961 north of Drift Road, and by 1965, the MassDPW completed the route north to I-195.
It was only in the immediate northern terminus of MA 88--near the I-195 and US 6 interchanges--that the Horseneck Beach Connector was built out to its intended four-lane freeway design. There is a grade-separated diamond interchange with MA 177 on the "super-2" section of MA 88, but there are five signaled intersections with Briggs Road, Old Country Road, Hix Bridge Road, and Drift Road. A parking area was built for southbound vehicles between Old Country Road and Hix Bridge Road. The highway widens back to four lanes over the Fontaine Bridge before ending at a rotary near Horseneck Beach State Reservation.
The speed limit on MA 88 is 55 MPH from the Fontaine Bridge north to I-195, but it is reduced to 45 MPH in the immediate area of the signaled intersections and 30 MPH on the Fontaine Bridge and its southern approach.
In the mid-1990s, the Massachusetts State Legislature studied a proposed upgrade of MA 88 to its originally proposed four-lane freeway design after citizens protested that the state failed to act on improving the highway. According to information obtained by the "Route 88 Action Committee," a local citizens' group, 28 people were killed on MA 88 between 1965 and 1994, with head-on collisions cited as the most frequent cause of fatal accidents. Although the Massachusetts Highway Department (MHD), the successor to the MassDPW, did not extend the four-lane divided section, it added a concrete ("Jersey") barrier to separate northbound and southbound traffic on the "super-2" section. This barrier was provided from the end of the four-lane divided section at US 6 south to Old Country Road, but there is no barrier south of Old Country Road.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), the successor to the MHD, the Horseneck Beach Connector carries 20,000 vehicles per day (AADT) from I-195 south to US 6, and 10,000 vehicles per day from US 6 south to the Horseneck Beach rotary. These volumes grow about 30% during the summer months, and MassDOT permits traffic on the shoulders during peak periods.
This 2010 photo shows MA 88 crossing over the East Branch of the Westport River. The Fontaine Bridge, which was built in the late 1950s, replaced an old wooden bridge on the site. In 1993, the bridge was named after Normand Fontaine, one of two Westport residents killed in combat in the Vietnam War. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
REBUILD MA 88 AS AN EXPRESSWAY: The MA 88 Connector should be rebuilt as a full four-lane freeway from US 6 south to the Fontaine Bridge. Interchanges should be built at Drift Road, Hix Bridge Road, and Old Country Road, while emergency ramps should be built at Briggs Road to serve a nearby fire station.
Exits on the MA 88 Expressway should be numbered as follows:
EXIT 1A: John Reed Road / Horseneck Beach State Reservation EXIT 1B: Cherry and Webb Lane EXIT 2: Drift Road EXIT 3: Hix Bridge Road EXIT 4: Old Country Road EXIT 5: MA 177 EXITS 6 E-W: US 6 EXITS 7 E-W: I-195
To minimize potential environmental impacts, MA 88 should be rebuilt as a single carriageway, though the two through lanes in each direction should be separated by a tall concrete ("Jersey") barrier, similar to what was done with RI 99 (Woonsocket Industrial Highway) and RI 403 (Quonset Freeway) in recent years.
SOURCES: "A Report of Progress," Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1962); "The Massachusetts Highway Story (1949-1969)," Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1969); "Fatality-Free Route 88 Stands As Testament to Perseverance," The Standard-Times (7/28/1998); Westport by Westport Historical Society, Arcadia Press (2008); Massachusetts Department of Transportation; The General Court of Massachusetts.