TWO SPURS TO THE NORTH SHORE: In 1962, Massachusetts Department of Public Works (MassDPW) introduced for the first time a connector road from the proposed I-95 (Northeast Expressway) in Peabody to Salem and Beverly. Planning for the Beverly-Salem Connector was coordinated with the I-95 project. Four years later, the MassDPW proposed a new four-lane Beverly-Salem Bridge and interchange ramps to serve as the terminus of the proposed expressway connector. The new bridge was to replace a two-lane, low-level steel swing bridge constructed in 1897.
In its 1968 Recommended Highway and Transit Plan, the MassDPW officially added the Beverly-Salem Connector to the approved highway construction program. The MassDPW stated the purpose of the Beverly-Salem Connector as follows:
This area of the North Shore does not have other roadways capable of serving an additional 25,000 to 76,000 daily trips. Existing routes such as MA 1A, MA 107, and MA 114 are already congested during peak periods, and could not handle the added load. The Beverly-Salem Connector would provide excellent service to the communities of Salem, Swampscott, Marblehead and Beverly. It would provide an express routing around the business areas, and connect with expressways leading in all directions. The cities of Lynn and Revere will directly benefit from traffic relief, which will make MA 1A and MA 107 more usable for local requirements.
The volumes assigned to the connector are sufficiently high to justify and expressway facility, and no other reasonable alternative would provide the needed relief to MA 107, which is badly congested during peak periods at the present time.
Beginning at I-95 in Lynn just south of the Lynn-Peabody town line, the Beverly-Salem Connector, which did not have a known route designation, was to continue east through Peabody to MA 107 (Highland Avenue). Between I-95 and MA 107, the six-lane connector was expected to carry approximately 75,000 vehicles per day. In Peabody, the Beverly-Salem Connector was to split off into two spurs as follows:
The southern spur was to veer southeast along the Marblehead-Swampscott town line, ending at MA 129 (Atlantic Ave). The four-lane spur was expected to carry approximately 35,000 vehicles per day (AADT).
The northern spur was to veer northeast through Salem to MA 127 (Hale Street) in Beverly. A new bridge over Beverly Harbor was to be constructed, replacing the existing bridge carrying MA 1A (Bridge Street). The four-lane spur was expected to carry approximately 60,000 vehicles per day.
The connector, which was to comprise 8.1 miles of construction along new right-of-way, was estimated to cost $28 million, and was slated for completion by 1975. State officials submitted the connector for inclusion in the Interstate highway system (possibly as an I-x95 spur route) in the hope of obtaining 90 percent Federal funding for the project. However, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) rejected this proposal.
I-95 CANCELLATION PROMPTS CHANGES: In 1970, Governor Francis Sargent ordered a moratorium on all new expressway construction within MA 128 (Yankee Division Highway), and ordered a review of expressway and transit plans in the Boston area. The Boston Transportation Planning Review (BTPR), which resulted from the governor's action, ultimately canceled the unbuilt section of I-95 through Saugus and Lynn.
The cancellation of the "Lynn Woods" section of I-95 in 1972 led to the following change in the Beverly-Salem Connector proposal:
Since the Lynn Woods alignment is now officially dead, a connector that had been designed to connect Beverly, Salem and Swampscott to I-95 cannot be implemented. The Planning Review, however, has identified a corridor that runs mostly along existing railroad right-of-way from Salem through Peabody, in which a new four-lane arterial street could provide greatly improved access from North Shore communities to MA 128 with minimal disruption. The plan appears to command widespread support from officials and citizens of both Peabody and Salem. Improved access to from Marblehead and Swampscott to the Beverly-Salem Connector will also be studied.
The new project that grew out of the BTPR was the Peabody-Salem Connector, a four-lane arterial that was to connect to a rebuilt Beverly-Salem Bridge. It was to also provide relief for nearby MA 114. However, the MassDPW dropped the connector in 1982 because of opposition from Peabody officials.
This 2002 photo shows the Veterans Memorial Bridge (MA 1A) spanning the Danvers River between Beverly and Salem. Completed in 1996, the bridge was built with funds allocated for the unbuilt Beverly-Salem Connector. (Photo by Alexander Svirsky, massroads.com.)
THE BEVERLY-SALEM BRIDGE: Even with the cancellation of the connector, the need for a new Beverly-Salem Bridge was apparent by the late 1980's. By that time, the 90-year-old span had become functionally obsolete and structurally deficient. In 1990, the FHWA approved plans for a new four-lane, high-level Beverly-Salem Bridge across the Danvers River. The new span, which is named officially as the "Veterans Memorial Bridge," opened to traffic on August 2, 1996.
The new bridge - the third one on the site (before the 1897 span, another bridge was built in 1788 in the same location) - is a seven-span girder bridge with a main 220-foot-long main span, two 190-foot-long spans, two 170-foot-long spans, and two 120-foot-long spans. At the southern end of the bridge, there are four approach spans leading to Bridge Street in Salem. The Bridge Street approach ends at a T-intersection with the bridge and a currently unused four-lane, three-span approach that continues in a straight line south from the bridge.
THE BRIDGE STREET BYPASS: The Massachusetts Highway Department (MHD) is developing an unused approach to the bridge as part of the "Bridge Street Bypass," a four-lane limited-access bypass extends one mile south to the Washington Street traffic circle in downtown Salem. Construction of the $16 million bypass, which is routed along a railroad right-of-way, began in December 2005 and was completed on August 18, 2008.
SOURCES: Recommended Highway and Transit Plan, Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1968); "Report on the Status of the Federal-Aid Highway Program," Committee on Public Works, U.S. Senate (1970); Boston Transportation Planning Review: Final Study Summary Report, Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1972); "Salem-Beverly Transportation Project," Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1990); Boston Region MPO Transportation Plan (2000-2025), Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization (2002); "Bridge Project Delayed" by Steven Rosenberg, The Boston Globe (8/15/2004); "Bypass Road Opens Today" by Tom Dalton, The Salem News (8/18/2008); Steve Alpert; Scott Oglesby; Matt Smith.