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September 16, 2020

Rebuild of Mass. Pike interchange at I-495 gets $21M federal grant

Photo | Google The Massachusetts Turnpike, running horizontally, and I-495 meet at the Hopkinton-Westborough line. Since-removed toll booths are still visible in this aerial image.

A planned overhaul of the Massachusetts Turnpike and I-495 interchange got a major boost Wednesday with an announced $21-million federal grant.

The project will include the interchange itself, which was designed with all traffic moving through the same roadway for when the turnpike had toll booths. Those were removed in 2017 and replaced with automatic tolling, but the old traffic pattern remains.

The overhaul will make the highway interchange like a more traditional one, without ramp traffic needing to merge with other traffic, making the area safer and improving traffic flow. The total projected cost is $371.3 million.

Miles of roadway and bridges will also be improved. Plans call for work on 3.5 miles of I-495 on either side of where the highway meets the pike at the Hopkinton-Westborough line, and on 2.5 miles of the pike. That work will include replacing approximately six bridges and removing two other existing structures, the federal Department of Transportation said Wednesday in announcing the funding. The existing bridges were built between 1957 and 1968 and were nearing the end of their lifespans, the department said.

Photo | Courtesy | Massachusetts Department of Transportation
A rendering looking northbound shows how ramps would be built where toll booths once stood at the highway interchange.

Environmental improvements will be made, too. A culvert that carries Whitehall Brook under the turnpike will be replaced, which the federal transportation department said will mitigate impacts to wetlands, groundwater and other water resources.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has said construction could start in 2022 and be completed in four or five years. Other funding, in a mix of state and federal dollars, is still required before construction begins.

Proposed redesigns call for keeping ramps largely where the old tool booths stood, but with westbound Pike traffic going to 495 North no longer passing through that intersection, instead using a new ramp of its own. New ramp bridges would be constructed leading from 495 northbound to the Pike westbound, from the Pike westbound to 495 southbound, and from the Pike eastbound to 495 northbound.

The intersection is crucial for regional truck traffic, with nearly half of such traffic in Eastern Massachusetts passing through the interchange, according to the state. The interchange had 460 crashes between 2011 and 2015, including two that were fatal. A large number of these crashes occurred when interchange traffic backed up onto I-495, often during holidays and peak commuting times, the state said.

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