The Massachusetts Turnpike: a Westborough controversy
By Glenn Parker, Contributing Writer
This is an article in an occasional series about important events or things from Westborough’s past.
Westborough – In 1948 it was determined by the Massachusetts Department of Public Works that the westerly routes at the time from Boston were sadly inadequate and that the existing Boston and Worcester Turnpike that opened in 1932 was not a viable alternative to a controlled access commercial route between Boston and New York. Route 9 was described as being obsolete, inadequate to handle the increased traffic to the growing western communities and a traffic safety nightmare. Although local, state and federal officials were all in agreement that something must be done, Massachusetts at the time was heavily in debt and unable to take financial responsibility for such a monumental project.
In 1952 William F. Callahan proposed the formation of a new authority. Initially called the Boston-Springfield Highway Authority, it was renamed the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority when Callahan introduced legislation for its creation in the Massachusetts Statehouse. In May 1954, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority floated a $239-million bond issue to finance the proposed turnpike. Following the success of other turnpike issues in the Northeast, the Mass Pike bonds were sold out in three hours.
In the early 1950s, when the Turnpike Authority was finalizing the layout of the new road and acquiring property along the route, the town was made aware that the new toll road was engineered to bisect the town within a ½ mile south of the rotary. The residents as well as local businessmen and selectmen were furious and petitioned loudly to state officials. Westborough, they agued, would be destroyed by this plan. The plan was to traverse from the east the Great Cedar Swamp and maintain a westerly route that paralleled Route 30 as close as possible into Grafton. Locals exerted pressure on legislators and got the road moved to its present location away from downtown and closer to the Upton town line.
Construction of the initial section of Turnpike from West Stockbridge to Weston began in January 1955 and completed through Westborough in 1956. The privately owned 122- mile toll road was completed in 1957 at a cost of $257 million dollars. It was designated as Route I-90 in 1959.
In 1964 Route I-495 was being constructed through Westborough and connected to Route 9 in 1967 but was not officially opened until 1968. Although Route 495 passed over the Massachusetts Turnpike, the two roads were not approved to connect.
As early as 1967 a connection of Route I-495 and the Mass Pike was requested but was denied by the Federal Utilities Commission as being unnecessary. At the time the closest access from the Pike to Westborough was in Millbury Exit 10 and Framingham at Exit 11.
However, there were political issues prior to completion concerning a federally-funded interstate, Route I-495, being linked to a for-profit private highway, the Massachusetts Turnpike. The Federal Highway Commission would not allow the connection and Governor John Volpe and state DPW Commissioner Frank Sergeant weren’t pleased. Not to have the two major highways connected in the middle of the fastest growing area in the commonwealth was absurd. So the governor decided that the state would initiate the design layout, secure the necessary land, get the finances and then pressure the Feds into taking action. It finally took a fast-track bill initiated by Representative Francis X. Davoren to finalize the plan.
But it was not until 1969 that the Massachusetts Turnpike was connected to Route I-495 and immediately became the busiest and most profitable interchange outside the Route 128 loop.
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