US 7 Expressway-Massachusetts (unbuilt)

THE PITTSFIELD BYPASS: In 1966, the Massachusetts Department of Public Works (MassDPW) devised plans for a 16-mile-long bypass of US 7 from the end of the existing Lenox Bypass north to Lanesboro. The $24 million expressway was to be a four-lane bypass of Pittsfield, and was to have a short spur east to MA 8. It was to have a 60 MPH design speed, a 60-foot-wide median, and a maximum grade of four percent. Construction of the bypass would have required the condemnation of 65 homes and one business. When completed, the bypass was expected to handle between 20,000 and 35,000 vehicles per day (AADT).

Interchanges were to be built at the following locations:

  • Lenox Bypass / terminus (US 7-US 20)
  • New Lenox Road
  • West Street
  • Lake Onata Boulevard
  • Dalton Connector (to MA 8); a "Y-interchange" was to be built for the connector
  • South Main Street (US 7)
  • Williamstown Road (US 7)

No plans were specified in the 1966 proposal for upgrading the existing four-lane Lenox Bypass, which offers partial access control but has four signalized intersections. However, the MassDPW did set aside right-of-way to upgrade the Lenox Bypass at a future date. The 1966 plan also did not specify a proposed connection to the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90), either at the existing EXIT 2 in Lee or at a new (or relocated) interchange.

A NEW INTERSTATE SPUR FOR WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS? In 1970, state officials submitted plans for an Interstate connection between the Massachusetts Turnpike and the Pittsfield area. The 11-mile-long connection may have comprised of a new turnpike connection in Lee, an upgrade of the existing Lenox Bypass, and a portion of the proposed Pittsfield Bypass. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) denied the state's request for the proposed Interstate, which may have been designated I-390 if it had been built.

PART OF A LARGER PLAN: The US 7 Expressway was planned as part of a much larger expressway proposal that was to parallel the existing US 7 through Connecticut, continue north through the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts and the Green Mountains of Vermont, and terminate at I-89 in Burlington, Vermont.

Proponents contended that the $2 billion expressway would not only alleviate congestion on the US 7 corridor, but also spur economic development in northwestern Connecticut, western Massachusetts and Vermont. They cited safety concerns, including the six-percent (or higher) grades and 500-foot sight distances that contributed to accident rates that were 50 percent higher than the statewide average for similar roads. To accelerate the project, proponents advocated Interstate funding, which would have guaranteed 90 percent Federal financing, for "Super 7." Opponents contended that the proposed expressway would contribute to air and water pollution, promote suburban sprawl, and destroy the rustic character of New England towns.

In December 1974, a U.S. appeals court ruled that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) was ordered to undertake its own environmental impact statement for the multi-state upgrade of US 7, effectively killing the US 7 Expressway in Massachusetts and Vermont, and curtailing progress of the highway in Connecticut.

SOURCES: "Connecticut Acts To Move Route 7," The New York Times (10/12/1961); "Pittsfield North-South Highway: Basic Design Report," Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1966); "Report on the Status of the Federal-Aid Highway Program," Committee on Public Works, U.S. Senate (1970); "Meskill Scarps Merritt Parkway Plans" by Michael Knight, The New York Times (12/08/1973); "Connecticut Road Builders Outflank Environmentalists" by Michael Knight, The New York Times (8/30/1974); "Report Asserts Fairfield Needs No New Expressways for Years" by Michael Knight, The New York Times (2/13/1975); Douglas Kerr; John Mara; Scott Oglesby.

  • US 7 and I-390 shields by Ralph Herman.


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