This 2006 photo shows the westbound US 44 Expressway in Kingston. The overpass shown in this photo carries MA 80 (Bishops Highway) over US 44. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
CONNECTING ROUTE 3 TO CARVER: A freeway replacement for the existing US 44 through southeast Massachusetts has been discussed since the 1930's, but these plans picked up steam during the 1950's and 1960's when state plans mapped out official plans for a US 44 Expressway from Providence to Plymouth. During this time, the state began to purchase rights-of-way for the freeway parallel to (and north of) the existing US 44. However, with much of the attention diverted to completing the commonwealth's Interstate highway network, plans to build a new US 44 Expressway languished for decades.
In 1999, the state approved a bond issue that provided financing for the construction of the US 44 Expressway. Work on the 7.5-mile-long, four-lane freeway connector, which replaces a winding two-lane road between Carver and Plymouth, finally began on February 26, 2001. This work included the reconstruction of EXIT 7 on MA 3 (Pilgrims Highway) from a local interchange serving Cherry Street and Nicks Rock Road in Plymouth to a high-speed "trumpet" interchange connecting MA 3 with the new US 44.
A short 0.7-mile-long section from MA 3 west to Commerce Way opened in July 2004. The interchange serves new commercial and industrial development nearby, as well as local streets (Nicks Rock Road and Cherry Street) that were blocked off from MA 3 during the reconstruction of EXIT 7.
The remaining 6.8 miles of the $90 million project were completed on December 14, 2005 with additional interchanges at Spring Street in Plympton and MA 58 (Main Street) in Carver. The freeway section ties into the existing section of US 44 west of Carver.
The US 44 project used 92,000 tons of stone and gravel, 67,000 tons of asphalt, and 10,000 yards of concrete for five bridges, walls, and abutments. Engineers also built in environmental mitigation features such as recovery ponds and two small wildlife underpasses. Although the project required the acquisition of 12 acres of wetlands, engineers restored twice this amount along the corridor.
The new highway originally was forecast to carry 15,000 vehicles per day (AADT) by 2015, but rapid development along the new highway corridor has pushed this estimate up to 37,500 vehicles per day by 2015. Upon completion of the project, the existing two-lane US 44 through the area was handed back to local jurisdictions.
This 2006 photo shows the eastbound US 44 Expressway approaching the exit for Commerce Way ("To MA 80") in Plymouth. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
EXTENDING WEST TOWARD PROVIDENCE: In 1969, officials developed detailed plans for a network of expressways - in which the US 44 Expressway was to play an important role -- in the southeastern part of the state. The existing two-lane US 44 carried approximately 10,000 vehicles per day at the end of the 1960's, and this volume was expected to double by 1990.
The "Southeastern Massachusetts Comprehensive Transportation Plan" published that year described the route of the US 44 Expressway, which was to run from the Massachusetts-Rhode Island border to MA 3 in Plymouth, as follows:
US 44 should be reconstructed or rebuilt as a four-lane divided expressway. Relocation of US 44 through Middleborough, Carver, and Plymouth has been programmed by the Department of Public Works; this improvement as well as widening of existing US 44 through western Middleborough, Lakeville, and eastern Taunton are proposed prior to 1975. Relocation of the remainder of US 44 (from Taunton west to the Massachusetts-Rhode Island border) should be completed sometime after 1975.
Preliminary studies indicate that the expressway should extend along a new alignment through Seekonk, Rehoboth, Dighton, and Taunton to the vicinity of MA 24 (Fall River Expressway) in Taunton. Rehoboth town officials have requested an alignment with their town parallel to and south of existing US 44. From about MA 24 to Plympton Road (MA 105) in Middleborough, existing US 44 should be reconstructed from its current two-lane roadway to a four-lane divided highway. East of Plympton Road, a new alignment should be followed to a new interchange with MA 3 (Pilgrims Highway) north of the current US 44 interchange (now EXIT 6 / Samoset Street). Construction of the new interchange would avoid the need for costly expansion of the existing MA 3-US 44 interchange.
A new arterial should be constructed between the proposed MA 3 interchange and Allerton Street near Cushman Street. This new arterial would provide relief to Samoset Street, which is frequently congested in this vicinity. Determination of the precise location of the US 44 Expressway would be the subject of more detailed engineering studies.
New interchanges were to be built at the following locations:
MA 114A, Seekonk MA 118, Rehoboth Proposed I-895 (East Shore Connector), Rehoboth Forest Street, North Dighton Winthrop Street ("old" US 44), Taunton Highland Street, Taunton MA 138, Taunton Proposed MA 140 (New Bedford Expressway) Extension, Taunton Dean Street ("old US 44), Taunton MA 24 (Fall River Expressway), Raynham Locust Street / Church Street, Raynham I-495 (Outer Circumferential Highway), Middleborough MA 18 / MA 28, Middleborough Plymouth Street, Middleborough MA 105, Middleborough MA 58, Carver MA 80, Kingston MA 3 (Pilgrims Highway), Plymouth
West of the Massachusetts-Rhode Island border, the US 44 Expressway likely would have continued across the Henderson Bridge on its way to downtown Providence and the Huntington Expressway (current US 6-RI 10). However, the state never purchased land for the new US 44 Expressway west of Middleborough.
Between 1966 and 1968, approximately four miles of existing two-lane US 44 were upgraded to a limited-access "super-2" (a two-lane expressway with one travel lane in each direction and no median separation) from MA 58 in Carver west to MA 105 in Middleborough. An overpass was built to carry US 44 traffic over Carmel Street in Middleborough. At that time, the state appeared to have immediate plans to expand the highway to four lanes.
Although the Massachusetts Highway Department (MHD) has preserved right-of-way for a second carriageway since the 1960's, plans to create a dual highway along this stretch have failed repeatedly, the most recent instance of which happened in May 2004.
SOURCES: "The Massachusetts Highway Story (1949-1969)," Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1969); "Southeastern Massachusetts Comprehensive Transportation Plan," Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1969); "Middleboro Seeks Support for Widening of Route 44" by Terence J. Downing, The Enterprise (5/24/2005); "New Route 44 Changing Face of Region" by Alice C. Ellwell, The Enterprise (5/23/2005); "Route 44 Link Finally Ready To Go" by Jack Coleman, The Patriot-Ledger (11/01/2005); "Route 44 Opening Stalled by Snow" by Casey Meserve, The Plymouth Bulletin (12/07/2005); "Opening of Last Segment of New Route 44 Postponed Until Wednesday," The Patriot-Ledger (12/09/2005); "Road Debut" by Mac Daniel, The Boston Globe (12/11/2005); Massachusetts Highway Department; Steve Alpert; John F. Carr; Alexander Svirsky.
US 44 shield by Ralph Herman. Lightpost by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.