Middle Circumferential Highway (unbuilt)

ANOTHER BELTWAY FOR BOSTON: In its 1968 comprehensive report Recommended Highway and Transit Plan, the Massachusetts Department of Public Works (MassDPW) announced plans for a new beltway around the Boston area. Situated between MA 128 (Yankee Division Highway) and I-495 (Outer Circumferential Highway), the Middle Circumferential Highway was to provide a 66-mile loop while serving local traffic in the middle-ring suburbs.

The proposed beltway appeared on the MassDPW long-range (1975-1990) highway construction program, as described in the following excerpt from the report:

Route 128 has many sections that have 1990 projections higher than the road's capacity. Volumes of over 175,000 vehicles per day (AADT) are projected in the Waltham-Weston-Newton-Wellesley area and the Westwood-Dedham-Canton area, with several other sections over 150,000. The tremendous, unexpected development spawned by the highway's construction is a major contributing factor to its overloaded plight. Since eight lanes is presently thought to be the maximum practical width for an expressway, some other means of relief to sections of Route 128 must be found. The only apparent hope of relieving Route 128 is a continuous circumferential highway close to Route 128 that is capable of providing a reasonable alternate route.

The Middle Circumferential Highway has been proposed as a limited-access facility located between Route 128 and I-495. The primary objective of this expressway is to serve development in this area. This route would also supply a bypass around many congested town centers, while providing excellent accessibility from town to town. A secondary alternative of this proposal is to provide an alternate routing for circumferential traffic, thereby lightening the traffic load on parallel arterial route as well as on Route 128.

The distribution of traffic among the radial corridors could probably be handled by a high-quality system of arterials between I-495 and Route 128. However, such a system does not presently exist and would be nearly impossible to build. Therefore, something else is needed.

Beginning at MA 3 (Pilgrims Highway) in Norwell, and ending at I-95 in Boxford, the Middle Circumferential Highway was to provide relief to local roads such as MA 123, MA 27 and MA 62, as well as to MA 128 and I-495. The six-lane expressway was expected to handle 50,000 to 75,000 vehicles per day by the 1990 design year.

Major interchanges were to be provided at the following locations:

  • MA 3 (Pilgrims Highway): Norwell
  • MA 24 (Fall River Expressway): Avon
  • I-95: Sharon
  • MA 209 Expressway: Medfield
  • I-90 (Massachusetts Turnpike): Natick
  • I-290 (Worcester Expressway): Sudbury
  • MA 2 Expressway: Concord
  • US 3 (Northwest Expressway): Billerica
  • I-93 (Northern Expressway): Wilmington
  • I-95: Boxford

At the southern end, the expressway was to branch into the Hingham Spur (MA 228) and the Scituate Spur (MA 123). At the northern end, the expressway may have continued southeast through Ipswich to end at MA 128 in Gloucester.

The $171 million cost of the Middle Circumferential Highway was to be financed 50-50 between the state and Federal governments. (No definite state route designation had been given to the highway.) However, continued development and growing anti-highway sentiment in the Boston suburbs led officials to abandon plans for the beltway by the early 1970's.

SOURCES: Recommended Highway and Transit Plan, Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1968); Dan Moraseski.


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