Massachusetts Route 128
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|Length:||57.5829 mi (92.6707 km)|
|Existed:||by 1927 – present|
|South end:||I-93 / I-95 / US 1 in Canton|
|I-95 in Peabody|
|North end:||Route 127A in Gloucester|
|Counties:||Norfolk, Middlesex, Essex|
Route 128, also known as the Yankee Division Highway (for the 26th Infantry Division), and originally the Circumferential Highway, is a partial beltway around Boston, Massachusetts, United States. It is also used to refer to the high-technology industry that developed from the 1960s to the 1980s in the suburban areas along the highway.
In local culture, Route 128 is seen as something of a dividing line between the inner municipalities of Greater Boston and the more far-flung suburbs. The road's roughly 10-mile (16 km) radius, for example, also delimits most of the area accessible by the MBTA rapid transit system. Much of the area within Route 128 was developed before World War II, while the area outside it was developed more recently.
Despite a majority of Route 128's length running concurrent with either I-93 or I-95, many area residents refer to the entire length of the highway as Route 128. This includes the portion of I-93 south of Canton, which is no longer 128 at all, and substantial portions of I-95 that are not noticeably signed as 128. The perception of Route 128 running the entire length of highway from Gloucester to Braintree dates back to the road's pre-Interstate era, and has become an established part of local culture.
Route description 
The route 128 number dates from the origin of the Massachusetts highway system in the 1920s. By the 1950s, it ran from Nantasket Beach in Hull to Gloucester. The first, 27-mile (43 km), section of the current limited-access highway from Braintree to Gloucester was opened in 1951. It was the first limited-access circumferential highway in the United States.
Route 128 runs concurrently with Interstate 95 from Canton north to Peabody and, when I-95 continues north from Peabody toward New Hampshire, east from Peabody to Gloucester. Until the early 1990s, it also ran concurrently with the present Interstate 93 from Canton to Braintree. This stretch of Interstate 93, which is now also designated as part of U.S. Route 1, though no longer officially part of Route 128, is still often referred to as "Route 128" by locals. The I-95 and I-93 signage were added in the mid-1970s when plans to construct I-95 through Boston, directly connecting the two I-95/Route 128 interchanges, were cancelled. An unused cloverleaf in Canton, now removed, was the one leftover structure from this plan.
Until 1965, while and shortly after the Route 3 freeway to Cape Cod was fully finished, the section of current Route 3 between exits 15 and 20 was also designated as Route 128. The route's southern end was then truncated to its intersection with Route 3 in Braintree. The non-freeway section of Route 128 from Route 3 through Hingham to Nantasket was redesignated Route 228. The Massachusetts Highway Department has tried twice, in 1997 and 2003, to truncate 128 even further, back to its intersection with I-95 in Peabody, but local opposition has convinced them to back down. A reflection of these attempts are along every interchange, where the main signage on the intersecting route indicates the highway as I-95, while smaller signage to the sides also identifies the road as Route 128.
The area along the western part of Route 128 is home to a number of high-technology firms and corporations. This part of Route 128 has been dubbed "America's Technology Highway", and through to the end of the 1980s, was second only to Silicon Valley.
Route 128 makes more than a 180-degree arc around Boston, and clockwise is "north" even when the road heads slightly south of east when approaching the Atlantic Ocean. Hackers in the area refer to this as going "logical north" on the route. Interstate 93, going north-and-south, intersects Route 128, which nominally goes north-and-south, at a right angle, about 15 miles (24 km) north of Boston. A traveller going "logical south" on 128 (compass west) from the I-93 interchange will soon find himself driving due west, travelling logically south on 128 and I-95, and north on US 3 in a wrong-way concurrency.
Like the I-95 signage mapping onto 128, the mapping of US 3 onto this stretch of 128 is due to US 3 as a separate limited access highway terminating in Burlington on 128 instead of further south at Route 2 in Lexington as originally envisioned. This abrupt termination requires the US 3 signage to continue along 128 for somewhat over a mile until it can interchange the old US 3 surface arterial. Moreover, when I-93 and Route 128 ran concurrently south of Boston, before the route was truncated to the I-95 interchange in Canton, they were signed in opposite directions, so it was possible to travel north on I-93 and south on Route 128 at the same time.
Much of Route 128 is now part of the Interstate system, being concurrent with I-95 (and formerly I-93). However, the vast majority of locals will refer to these stretches as 128; it is uncommon for a local to use the Interstate designation(s) in ordinary conversation or while giving directions.
The northernmost several exits along Route 128, past exit 12, are not grade-separated interchanges. Exit 10 is signed as the signalized intersection with Route 127, and there are two rotaries between that and exit 12 (the Crafts Road interchange).
In the 1990s, the exit system was changed from concurrency along 128 to a system using the I-95 exits. The exits, which had gone from Gloucester to Braintree, were renumbered along I-95, from the Rhode Island state line to the border with New Hampshire. Exit 37 had been the interchange with I-93, which also had its exit numbered 37 at that interchange. Coincidentally, with the renumbering, exit 37 remained exit 37.
The high-tech region 
In 1955, Business Week ran an article titled "New England Highway Upsets Old Way of Life" and referred to Route 128 as "the Magic Semicircle". By 1958, it needed to be widened from six to eight lanes, and business growth continued, often driven by technology out of Harvard University and MIT. In 1957, there were 99 companies employing 17,000 workers along 128; in 1965, 574; in 1973, 1,212. In the 1980s, the areas was often compared to California's Silicon valley, and the positive effects of this growth on the Massachusetts economy were dubbed the "Massachusetts Miracle".
Major companies with significant locations in the broader Route 128 area included:
Surface roads and south Circumferential Highway 
|Boston (Hyde Park)||Neponset Valley Parkway, Milton Street|
|Dedham||Milton Street, High Street, Common Street, West Street|
|Needham||Dedham Avenue, Highland Avenue|
|Newton||Needham Street, Winchester Street, Centre Street, Walnut Street, Crafts Street, Waltham Street|
|Waltham||High Street, Newton Street, Main Street (U.S. Route 20), Lexington Street|
|Lexington||Waltham Street, Massachusetts Avenue (Route 2A, now Route 4/Route 225), Woburn Street|
|Woburn||Lexington Street, Pleasant Street, Montvale Avenue|
|Stoneham||Montvale Avenue, Main Street (Route 28), Elm Street|
|Wakefield||Albion Street, North Avenue, Water Street, Vernon Street, New Salem Street, Salem Street|
|Peabody||Lynnfield Street, Washington Street, Main Street|
|Quincy||Washington Street, Hancock Street, Adams Street|
|Milton||Adams Street, Centre Street, Canton Avenue, Dollar Lane|
The first section of the new Circumferential Highway, in no way the freeway that it is now, was the piece from Route 9 in Wellesley around the south side of Boston to Route 3 (now Route 53) in Hingham. Parts of this were built as new roads, but most of it was along existing roads that were improved to handle the traffic. In 1931, the Massachusetts Department of Public Works acquired a right-of-way from Route 138 in Canton through Westwood, Dedham and Needham to Route 9 in Wellesley. This was mostly 80 feet (24 m) wide, only shrinking to 70 feet (21 m) in Needham, in the area of Great Plain Avenue and the Needham Line. Much of this was along new alignment, but about half — mostly in Needham — was along existing roads:
- Royall Street from west of Route 138 to east of Green Street (Canton)
- Green Lodge Street from Royall Street (now cut by Route 128) to Route 128 Station (Canton and Westwood)
- Greendale Avenue from Lyons Street and Common Street just south of the Charles River to Hunting Avenue (Dedham and Needham)
- Fremont Street north from Highland Avenue (Needham)
- Reservoir Street from Central Avenue to Route 9 (Needham and Wellesley)
From Route 138 in Canton east through the Blue Hills Reservation in Canton, Milton, Quincy and Braintree, Norfolk County acquired a right-of-way in 1927 and built the Blue Hill River Road. This tied into West Street in northwest Braintree, which itself had been taken over by the county in 1923.
The rest of the new highway, from Route 37 east to Route 3 (now Route 53), through Braintree, Weymouth and Hingham, was taken over by the state in 1929. This was all along existing roads, except possibly the part of Park Avenue west of Route 18 in Weymouth.
By 1933, the whole Circumferential Highway had been completed, and, except for the piece from Route 9 in Wellesley south to Highland Avenue in Needham, was designated as Route 128. Former Route 128 along Highland Avenue into Needham center was left unnumbered (as was the Circumferential Highway north of Highland Avenue), but the rest of former Route 128, from Needham center east to Quincy, became part of Route 135. Thus the full route of the Circumferential Highway, as it existed by 1933, is now the following roads:
|Hingham||Derby Street, Old Derby Street|
|Weymouth||Ralph Talbot Street, Park Avenue, Columbian Street|
|Braintree||Columbian Street, Grove Street, Washington Street (Route 37), Franklin Street (Route 37), West Street,
closed road in the Blue Hills Reservation (see Quincy)
|Quincy||closed road in the Blue Hills Reservation (partly upgraded on the spot to Route 128), then known as Blue Hill River Road|
|Milton||Blue Hill River Road, Hillside Street|
|Canton||Blue Hill River Road, Royall Street, Green Lodge Street (cut by the Route 128/Interstate 95 interchange)|
|Westwood||Blue Hill Drive (cut by Route 128 Station, and later upgraded on the spot as northbound Route 128)|
|Dedham and Westwood||upgraded on the spot as northbound Route 128 (under U.S. Route 1) and then mostly in the median|
|Needham||Greendale Avenue, Hunting Road, southbound Route 128 under Highland Avenue, Reservoir Street|
|Wellesley||inside the present Route 9 interchange|
At the same time as Route 128 was extended along the new Circumferential Highway, it was extended further into Hull. This alignment, not part of the Circumferential Highway, ran southeast on Route 3 (now Route 53) (Whiting Street) to the border of Hingham and Norwell, where it turned north on present Route 228 (Main Street) through Hingham and into Hull. The exact route through Hingham was Main Street, Short Street, Leavitt Street, East Street, and Hull Street. The end of the numbered route was at the south end of Nantasket Beach, where Nantasket Avenue curves northwest to follow the shore of Massachusetts Bay.
West and North Circumferential Highway and extension to Gloucester 
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Route 128/I-95/I-93 Add-A-Lane Project 
The $315 Million MassDOT Highway Division Project has started widening on the project to upgrade the existing 14.3-mile (23.0 km) six-lane section of highway to eight lanes from north of Route 9 in Wellesley to Route 24 in Randolph. The project consists of adding a lane on the inside of each carriageway, complete with a 10-foot inside shoulder. The existing 1950s bridges, 22 in total, will be replaced as well. The project will be constructed in five phases over a twelve-year period. Construction of Phase 1 began in 2004. The first phase of the project consisted of replacing the existing three-lane Route 128 bridges over University Avenue/MBTA/Amtrak and the Neponset River with new four-lane bridges in Canton. The project also included construction of a new two-lane ramp from Route 128 to I-95. The $33 million project was awarded to SPS New England of Salisbury.
During the initial construction of Route 128, a provision had already been made for a fourth lane within the widely-spaced median along the 1.5 mile (2.5 km) length of Route 128 running from just north of the U.S. Route 1 interchange in Dedham, MA, north-westwards to the Route 109 interchange, and this will finally be used for the Add-A-Lane project.
Construction on Phase 1 was officially completed in October 2009. Construction of Phase 2 of the project began in summer 2006. This phase of the project consisted of the replacement of the Route 1 and Route 1A bridges over Route 128 in Dedham along with the road widening between Exits 13 and 15 (US 1). Construction of four sound barriers between the US 1 and I-95 interchanges were also included. This phase was completed in the Spring of 2011.
Construction on Phase 3, begun in April 2009, is widening I-93/US 1 to 4 lanes in each direction from Route 24 to the I-95 interchange. This phase of the project was expected to be completed by September 2011, however now will not be finished until mid-2012. Phase 4 of the Project, which began in March 2011, is replacing 7 bridges and widens Route 128 (I-95) to 4 lanes in each direction from Route 109 to south of Highland Avenue in Needham. This phase of the project is expected to be completed by June 2015 with an estimated cost of $88 Million, the most expensive contract so far. The southeastern freeway that extends from Braintree to Cape Cod, MA Route 3, is also in the process of undergoing a similar "add-a-lane" project for much of its own 42 mile length.
Route 128 Corridor Study 
The Boston area MPO studied the Route 128/I-95 Corridor from approximately 2005–2010. The study focused on the heavily congested section from I-90 (Newton) to US 3 (Burlington), and was completed in November 2010. As of 2010, the highway carried over 200,000 vehicles per day. Some possible improvements to Route 128 include HOV Lanes, reconstruction of shoulders, ramp metering, bus on shoulder, and fiber optic traffic system improvements. More studies will need to be completed before projects will begin.
|Signs installed before Interstate 95 was moved onto Route 128 in the 1970s prominently displayed the Route 128 designation. Even though it was built to freeway standards, Route 128 was never initially intended to be part of the Interstate system.
The left sign was an overhead on Route 9 westbound for the interchange with 128 in Wellesley. This sign was replaced in 2009 with one indicating only the I-95 designation.
The right sign was located on Washington Street approaching Elm Street in Dedham, and has since been removed.
|Signage on Interstate 90 - the Massachusetts Turnpike - clearly shows both routes.
Westbound Exit 15 signage also shows both routes, and the signs remain present.
|After I-95 was moved to Route 128, new signs instead featured only that designation, with Route 128 marked only on separate sign assemblies.
The left signage is present on US-1 northbound at its junction with I-95 (Exits 15A-B) in Dedham.
The right signage is present on Walnut Street in Lynnfield, at the Exit 43 ramps to/from I-95.
|Other than on the Mass Pike, the only overhead signs to include both I-95 and Route 128 are near their northern split in Peabody.
All signage in both directions for the I-95/Route 128 split was replaced in 2009 with I-95 the sole designation south of the split (with ground signage for 128 present). The right signage (at Exit 44 southbound) is the only remaining overhead on I-95 showing the Route 128 designation.
|The overhead sign on U.S. Route 1 north at the exit to Route 128 in Lynnfield, near the split in Peabody, originally indicated both directions of Route 128. (I-95 is only marked south because a more direct ramp to I-95 north exists straight ahead.) A standard sign assembly for Route 128 south was also installed.|
|When the above sign was replaced in 2003 or 2004, Route 128 south was removed.|
|Overhead signage on the ramp from US 1 north to Route 128 similarly only shows Route 128 north.|
|Until 1997, Route 128's south end was at the Braintree Split in Braintree. Several signs for Route 3 in that area still indicated that in 2001.|
Sign upgrade projects on Route 128 
As of the end of 2011, the state is between resigning projects on Route 128 that are replacing the 25-year-old signs with new exit, regulatory and route signs. Starting in 1998 and continuing through 2002, signs were replaced through a $1.1 million project between Reading and Lynnfield. Progress continued in 2005 and 2006 during a $2.2 million project which replaced the signs on from Peabody to Gloucester, and continued with a $1.4 million project in 2008 and 2009 that replaced signs in Peabody and the remaining ones in Lynnfield. A $2.9 million federal stimulus project helped replace exit and highway signs in 2010 and 2011 along Route 128 from US-3 in Lexington to I-93 in Reading.
A project valued at $4.5 million is expected to begin in the Fall of 2012 that will replace exit & guide signs on Route 128 from Route 9 (Exit 20) in Wellesley to Routes 4/225 (Exit 31) in Lexington. And starting in Summer 2014 a new project is to replace a variety of signs from Highland Avenue in Needham to Route 109 in Dedham. New signage was put up between I-95 and US 1 in 2010 and most of the signage between I-95 and Route 24 has been replaced as of December 2011. New mileage markers were placed every 2/10 of a mile along the highway in 2010 (except for the area covered by the widening project) for I-93 between Braintree and Canton and I-95 from Canton to Peabody. New markers put along Route 128 from Peabody to Gloucester reflect the state highway's total mileage from Canton, indicating MassDOT's change of heart in decommissioning the route where it shares the road with I-95. The previous mile markers (reflected in the exit list below) had mile 0 in Peabody.
Exit list 
Exit numbers along the I-95 portion of Route 128 are in accordiance to the I-95 exit numbering scheme in Massachusetts. The stretch north of I-95, as well as the rest of the length before I-95 exit numbering was applied, has decreasing exit numbers traveling northbound, contrary to almost all highways in the US with numbered exits. Route 128 is also the only highway in the state to contain directional exit designations (N/S or E/W after the number, as opposed to the traditional A/B/C in Massachusetts). Route 128 currently has 18 numbered interchanges, starting at 29 (southbound) and continuing downwards to 10 (former Exit 27, an at-grade intersection, was removed, and there is no Exit 11).
|County||Location||Mile||km||Old exit||New exit||Destinations||Notes|
||Braintree||–||–||I-93 north / US 1 north / Route 3 north – Boston||Former southern terminus of Route 128|
|69||7||Route 3 south – Cape Cod||Former exit on Route 128, now on I-93 / US 1
Exit 20 on Route 3
|68||6||Route 37 – West Quincy, Braintree, Holbrook||Former exit on Route 128, now on I-93 / US 1|
|Randolph||67||5||Route 28 – Randolph, Milton||Former exit on Route 128, now on I-93 / US 1
Split into exits 5A (south) and 5B (north)
|66||4||Route 24 south – Brockton, Fall River||Former exit on Route 128, now on I-93 / US 1
Northern terminus of Route 24; Exit 21 on Route 24
|Milton||65||3||Ponkapoag Trail – Houghton's Pond||Former exit on Route 128, now on I-93 / US 1|
|Canton||64||2||Route 138 – Stoughton, Milton||Former exit on Route 128, now on I-93 / US 1
Split into exits 2A (south) and 2B (north)
|0.00||0.00||–||I-93 north / US 1 north – Boston||Southern terminus of Route 128 and concurrency with US 1; Exit 1 on I-93 / US 1|
|0.00||0.00||63||12||I-95 south – Providence, RI||Southern terminus of concurrency with I-95|
|Dedham||62||13||University Avenue – MBTA / Amtrak station|
|Westwood||61||14||East Street / Canton Street|
|Dedham||60||15||US 1 south to Route 1A – Norwood, Dedham||Northern terminus of concurrency with US 1; Split into exits 15A (north) and 15B (south)|
|59||16||Route 109 – Westwood, Dedham||Split into exits 15A (east) and 15B (west)|
|58||17||Route 135 – Needham, Natick||Norfolk County Correctional Center is in the median of Route 128, access from Route 135|
|Needham||57||18||Great Plain Avenue – Dedham, West Roxbury|
|56||19||Highland Avenue – Newton Highlands, Needham||Split into exits 19A (Newton Highlands) and 19B (Needham)|
|Wellesley||55||20||Route 9 – Brookline, Boston, Framingham, Worchester||Split into exits 20A (east) and 20B (west)|
||Newton||54||21||Route 16 – Newton, Wellesley, Waban||Split into exits 21A (west) and 21B (east, signed with exit 22)|
|53||22||Grove Street – MBTA Station|
|Weston||52||23||Recreation Road||Northbound exit and entrance|
|51||24||Route 30 – Newton, Wayland||Interchange located after Exit 25 northbound|
|50||25||I-90 / Mass. Pike – Boston, Worchester||Exits 14-15 on I-90|
|Waltham||49||26||US 20 – Waltham, Weston|
|48||27||Third Avenue / Wyman Street / Totten Pond Road / Winter Street||Split into exits 27A (Third Avenue / Wyman Street) and 27B (Totten Pond Road / Winter Street)|
|47||28||Trapelo Road – Belmont, Lincoln||Split into exits 28A (Belmont) and 28B (Lincoln) northbound|
|Lexington||46||29||Route 2 – Arlington, Cambridge, Acton, Fitchburg||Split into exits 29A (east) and 29B (west); Exits 52A-B on Route 2|
|45||30||Route 2A – East Lexington, Concord, Hanscom Field||Split into exits 30A (east) and 30B (west)|
|44||31||Route 4 / Route 225 – Lexington, Bedford||Split into exits 31A (south / east) and 31B (north / west)|
|Burlington||43||32A||US 3 north – Lowell, Nashua, NH||Southern terminus of concurrency with US 3; Exit 25A on US 3|
|42||32B||Middlesex Turnpike – Burlington, Arlington|
|41||33||US 3 south / Route 3A north – Winchester, Burlington||Southern terminus of concurrency with US 3; Southern terminus of Route 3A
Split into exits 33A (US 3) and 33B (Route 3A)
|40||34||Winn Street – Woburn, Burlington|
|Woburn||39||35||Route 38 – Woburn, Wilmington|
|38||36||Washington Street – Woburn, Reading|
|Reading||–||37||I-93 – Boston, Concord, NH||Split into exits 37A (south) and 37B (north)|
|36||38||Route 28 – Stoneham, Reading||Split into exits 38A (south) and 38B (north)|
|Wakefield||35||39||North Avenue – Reading, Wakefield|
|34||40||Route 129 – Wakefield Center, Wilmington|
||Lynnfield||33||41||Main Street – Lynnfield Center, Wakefield|
||Wakefield||32||42||Salem Street – Wakefield|
||Lynnfield||31||43||Walnut Street –Saugus, Lynnfield|
|Peabody||30||44||US 1 / Route 129 – Boston, Danvers, Lynn||Split into exits 44A (south / west) and 44B (north / east)|
|29||I-95 north – Portsmouth, NH||Northern terminus of concurrency with I-95; Exit 45 on I-95|
|28||Forest Street / Centennial Drive|
|26||Lowell Street – Peabody Square, Salem|
|25||Route 114 / North Shore Mall Road / Lowell Street – Salem, Middleton, West Peabody||Split into exits 25A (Route 114 east / local streets) and 25B (Route 114 west)|
|23||Route 35 – Salem, Danvers||Split into exits 23S (south) and 23N (north)|
|22||Route 62 – Beverly, Middleton||Split into exits 22E (east) and 22W (west)|
|21||Trask Lane – Folly Hill||Northbound exit and entrance|
|21||Conant Street – Industrial Park||Southbound exit and entrance|
|Beverly||20||Route 1A – Beverly, Hamilton||Split into exits 20B (south) and 20A (north)|
|19||Sohier Road / Brimbal Avenue – Monteserrat, North Beverly||No direct access from Route 128 south to Sohier Road|
|18||Route 22 – Essex, Beverly|
|Wenham||17||Grapevine Road – Beverly Farms, Wenham|
|Manchester||16||Pine Street – Manchester, Magnolia|
|15||School Street – Essex, Manchester|
|Gloucester||14||Route 133 – West Gloucester, Essex|
|13||Concord Street – Wingaersheek Beach|
|12||Crafts Road – Rust Island|
|11||Route 127 north (Washington Street) – Annisquam||Grant Circle; Eastern terminus of freeway|
|10||Dory Road / Gloucester School Road||Blackburn Circle|
|9||Route 127 (Eastern Avenue) – Manchester, Rockport||At-grade intersection|
|8||Route 127A – Rockport, Bass Rocks, Eastern Point||Northern terminus; At-grade intersection|
Cultural References 
- Executive Office of Transportation, Office of Transportation Planning - 2005 Road Inventory
- "MassMoments: Route 128 Opens Boston's High-Tech Age." Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities. Accessed 05-18-2010.
- "Technically, It's Still Route 128", route128history.org
- "BOSTON'S ROUTE 128: COMPLEMENTING SILICON VALLEY", August 1997, Businessweek
- "Route 128: Birthplace of the Digital Age", July 6, 2010, http://bizcloudnetwork.com
- 1927 Rand McNally Boston and vicinity map
- 1928 map of numbered routes in Boston and vicinity, prepared by the Massachusetts Department of Public Works for the New England Affairs Bureau, Boston Chamber of Commerce
- MassHighway state highway layout plans:
- MassHighway state highway layout plan 3960
- MassHighway state highway layout plan 6741
- MassHighway state highway layout plan 1823 (June 24, 1919)
- MassHighway state highway layout plan 1765 (September 4, 1917)
- MassHighway state highway layout plans:
- 1933 General Drafting Boston and vicinity map
- 1937 Massachusetts Department of Public Works map of Hull
- Susan Rosegrant, David R. Lampe, Route 128: Lessons from Boston's High-Tech Community, Basic Books, 1992, ISBN 0-465-04639-8. The story of the Boston high-tech industry, starting from its 19th-century roots.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Massachusetts Route 128|
- The Route 128 Business Council
- http://www.bostonroads.com/roads/MA-128/ - Historical overview
- http://www.route128history.org/ - Links about the region's tech history
- http://www.bambinomusical.com/128 - Includes a "virtual tour" of the highway's early days and construction, as well as movies of the 1951 opening ceremony.