Massachusetts Road Network

By | October 13, 2022

Massachusetts has a dense road network, especially in the east of the state due to the high degree of urbanization. The highway network is extensive but old.

Road management

The state highway authority is the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, abbreviated MassDOT. It was established in 2009 as a merger of several agencies, including the Massachusetts Highway Department. This has its origins in the Massachusetts Highway Commission which was established in 1893 and merged into the Massachusetts Department of Public Works in 1919. In 1991 this was renamed the Massachusetts Highway Department. Massachusetts was one of the last states to call the Department the Department of Transportation.

MassDOT manages more than 4,500 kilometers of road and 5,000 bridges. Less than 10% of the bridges are in poor condition, but these are often somewhat larger bridges, 14% of the bridge surface was in poor condition in 2015. MassDOT also operates the Massachusetts Turnpike since 2009.

  • Bittranslators: State overview of Massachusetts, including geography, economy, population and history as well as introduction to major cities of Massachusetts.

Interstate Highways

I-95 on the south side of Boston.

Several Interstate Highways cross the state. Interstate 84 runs just a short stretch south of the state, ending at Sturbridge on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Interstate 90 is formed entirely by the Massachusetts Turnpike, the primary toll road in Massachusetts. The highway runs west to east throughout the state and ends at the Boston Airport. Interstate 91 forms a north-south route along the Connecticut River in the west of the state and passes through the city of Springfield. The Interstate 93 starts on the south side of Boston and then cuts across the city and continues north to New Hampshire. Interstate 95 forms a north-south route in the east of the state. The road forms Boston’s ring road and runs almost entirely through built-up areas. The Boston Beltway is known not only as I-95, but also as State Route 128.

In addition, there are some auxiliary routes, Interstate 190 forms a regional north-south route from Worcester to Leominster and Interstate 195 forms an east-west connection through the south of the state, from Providence, Rhode Island via Fall River and New Bedford to Wareham. Interstate 290 is a route through the city of Worcester, connecting it to I-90 and I-95. Interstate 291 forms the bypass of the western city of Springfield, and Interstate 295 forms the bypass of Providence that also runs through Massachusetts. Interstate 391 connects Springfield to Holyoke and Chicopee and is a short connection. The Interstate 395 forms a north-south connection through Connecticut ending at Worcester in Massachusetts. Finally, Interstate 495 forms a regional bypass along the south, west, and north sides of the Boston area, spanning nearly 200 miles.

  • Deluxesurveillance: Nickname of Massachusetts as The Bay State. Also covers geography, history, economy, politics and administration of the state.

US Highways

Several US Highways run through Massachusetts, but most routes have a secondary character due to the dense network of freeways. US 1 is briefly a freeway between Boston and Revere, the ‘Northeast Expressway’. US 3 forms a somewhat longer freeway from the northwest side of Boston through Lowell to the New Hampshire border. This highway runs parallel to I-93. US 5 forms a north-south route along the Connecticut River in the west of the state, with I-91 paralleling it a short distance. US 6 runs through the southeastern part of the state, ultimately being the main connection to Cape Cod, and has been built as a freeway between Sagamore and Orleans. The US 7 forms a north-south route through the far west of the state, passing through the town of Pittsfield. US 20 forms an east-west route across the state, but has secondary importance because the Massachusetts Turnpike parallels it a short distance. US 20 is the toll-free alternate route. US 44 runs in the southeast of the state and has been expanded as a freeway for a short distance at its terminus at Plymouth. US 202 is the state’s only three-digit US Highway and runs diagonally through the west and is a somewhat secondary connection. It coincides in northern Massachusetts with State Route 2, which is a grade -separated super two between Athol and Baldwinville.

State Routes

Route 2 in Lexington.

Massachusetts has a secondary road network made up of state routes. The state routes are a numbered network of roads, which, however, are not necessarily under the management of the state, within built-up areas they are often under the management of the municipalities. In addition, there are some state highways that are not ‘routes’ because they do not have a number. In 1922 the first road numbering system was introduced in Massachusetts, these were the Regional New England Highways, which formed a series of numbered roads in the New England region. In 1926 the US Highways were introduced, so the New England Highways had to be renumbered, after all, the main routes became US Highways. In the 1930s, this system of New England Highways was abolished. In 1929 state routes were introduced.

Several state routes have been developed as freeways. The most famous is State Route 128, which coincides with I-95 around Boston. It is one of the few highways in the United States that is better known by its state route number than the Interstate Highway number, the ring road is mainly referred to as ‘Route 128’ by locals. However, I-95 does not completely coincide with Route 128, east of Peabody, Route 128 forms a self-contained freeway with no I-number.

The state routes that are a freeway;

  • Route 2: Greenfield – Acton (partly a super two )
  • Route 3: Boston – Sagamore
  • Route 24: Boston – Fall River
  • Route 25: Wareham – Buzzards Bay
  • Route 57: Agawam – Springfield
  • Route 79: Fall River – Assonet
  • Route 128: Boston – Gloucester (part I-95)
  • Route 140: New Bedford – Taunton
  • Route 146: Worcester – Providence (Rhode Island)
  • Route 213: Methuen bypass

Toll roads

Massachusetts has a few toll roads, the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90) being by far the most important. This highway runs east-west across the state and is Boston’s primary approach from the western suburbs. In addition, there are two toll tunnels in Boston, the Sumner Tunnel and the Ted Williams Tunnel (I-90) to Logan International Airport. The Tobin Bridge of the US 1 in Boston also has to be paid.

The toll can be paid electronically with an E-ZPass. More than three quarters of toll transactions in Massachusetts are with an E-ZPass.


Boston I-90.

Roads were built in Massachusetts as early as colonial times. Several classic turnpikes were built in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, most notably from Boston to the surrounding country, as well as two east-west routes to the west of the state. Transport was mainly by wagon because Massachusetts had few navigable rivers. After 1850, most turnpikes ceased to exist.

In 1893 the Massachusetts Highway Commission was established, this was the first highways commission in the United States. 90 percent of the roads in Massachusetts were in poor condition at the time. The first state highway in Massachusetts was a 1-mile paved road through Ashby in 1894-1895. The road network was quickly paved in the early 20th century. The first road numbering system was introduced in 1922, part of the New England Highways, a regional network of numbered roads that was intended to be rolled out across the country at the time, but became obsolete after the introduction of the US Highways in 1926. numbers assigned to local roads.

Plans for the first freeways were unfolded in 1948, and in the early 1950s construction of the first freeways began in the Boston metropolitan area, which was already extensive at the time. In 1951, the first section of what would later become I-95 opened around Boston, Massachusetts’s first highway. In 1950-51 Storrow Drive was also used as a semi-grade grade parkway built in Boston. The original 1956 plans envisioned I-95 through downtown Boston, which used to be part of the Northeast Expressway (US 1). In the early 1950s, quite a lot of highways were built in and around Boston. In 1959, I-93 through downtown Boston was completed. In 1964 and 1965, the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90) through Boston opened to traffic. In 1970 it was decided to delete all highways within the ring road (I-95). Only a missing link of I-93 in the north of the metropolitan area has yet to be built. No new routes have opened in Boston since 1965.

The Massachusetts Turnpike through the west and center of the state was completed in 1957, the part in Boston was the last part to open. In the second half of the 1960s, I-91 was built as a north-south route through western Massachusetts. Massachusetts’ highway network was largely completed by 1970, but there were some missing links. For example, 10 kilometers from I-95 on the north side of Boston, which opened in two phases in 1975 and 1988, was missing. I-495 as a regional bypass of Boston also had a missing link for a long time, the last 23 kilometers between Taunton and Mansfield south of Boston opened to traffic in 1982.

In more recent years there have been some major reconstructions. The largest US road project was to take the Central Artery (I-93) underground through downtown Boston. Running on a 2×3 lane overpass through downtown, this highway was in poor condition, a visual barrier and insufficient capacity. This has been replaced by a tunnel, a project called the ‘Big Dig’. The Big Dig was bigger than that though, it also included the extension from I-90 to Logan Airport through the Ted Williams Tunnel and the Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge on the north side of downtown Boston. In 2014-2016, the elevated highway of Route 79 in Fall River was demolished.

Beginning in 2020, Massachusetts – wide exit numbering has changed from sequential exit numbering to distance -based exit numbering.

Massachusetts Road Network