Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

Massachusetts Turnpike

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
1958 – present

I‑91 →


East end:
Route 1A in Boston

222.2 km

Highway system
U.S. Turnpike Roads

Massachusetts Turnpike

West end:
I-90 / Berkshire Connector in Canaan, NY

Berkshire County, Massachusetts

Massachusetts turnpike toll plaza demolition and reconstruction

The Massachusetts Turnpike (locally called the Mass Pike or the Pike) is a toll road in Massachusetts, maintained by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). Spanning 138 miles (222 km), the highway constitutes the easternmost portion of Interstate 90 (I-90); it begins near Logan International Airport at the eastern border of Boston and becomes part of the New York State Thruway at the Berkshire Connector in Canaan, New York, where I-90 continues towards its western terminus in Seattle, Washington. The turnpike traverses the state, and connects Boston with the major cities of Springfield and Worcester.


Map of Massachusetts Turnpike, Massachusetts, USA

Construction of the Massachusetts Turnpike began in 1955, and was opened in 1957. It originally travelled from the western border of Massachusetts, near Route 102, across the state until its interchange with Route 128 (now concurrent with I-95) in Weston. The turnpike became part of the Interstate Highway System with its designation as I-90 in 1959; it was lengthened through Allston in 1962, and extended through downtown Boston via the Central Artery in 1965. The Big Dig provided for the creation of the Ted Williams Tunnel, which carries the highway towards its current terminus at Route 1A near Logan International Airport; construction of the tunnel began in 1991, and was opened to the general public in 2003.

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, the original agency that maintained the highway, experienced administrative conflicts with the state government in the early 2000s. This contributed to the formation of MassDOT in 2009, which consolidated state transportation agencies into a single entity. Further, the implementation and removal of tolls in some stretches of the turnpike have been controversial in their own right; presently, travel between most, but not all, exits require payment. The Fast Lane electronic toll collection system was introduced alongside cash payment in 1998; it was later folded into the E-ZPass branding in 2012. The original toll booths were demolished and replaced by toll gantries with the transition to open road tolling in 2016, which eliminated cash payment in favor of E-ZPass transponders and "pay-by-plate" billing.

Massachusetts turnpike will no longer have toll plazas

Route description

The Massachusetts Turnpike is the major east-west highway in Massachusetts, connecting three of its major cities: Springfield, Worcester, and Boston. It is also the easternmost portion of Interstate 90. The roadway begins at the New York border and continues in a south-easterly direction until the junction with Interstate 84 in Sturbridge; from that point it continues in a north-easterly direction into Boston. The roadway terminates in East Boston at Route 1A, just outside Logan International Airport.

Between the New York border and the I-84 junction, the roadway is a four-lane divided highway, two lanes in either direction. Between I-84 and exit 17 in Newton, it is a six-lane divided highway which grows to eight lanes between the Newton and Copley exits where it drops back to six lanes. It stays as a six lane roadway until the Ted Williams Tunnel where it drops back to four lanes until the exit of the tunnel in East Boston.

The highest point on the Turnpike is in the Town of Becket in the Berkshire Hills, at elevation 1,724 feet (525 m) above sea level; this is also the highest point on Interstate 90 east of South Dakota.

Construction and opening

Plans for the Turnpike date back to at least 1948, when the Western Expressway was being planned. The original section would have connected Boston's then-proposed Inner Belt to Newton with connections with US 20 and Route 30 for traffic continuing west. Later extensions would take the road to and beyond Worcester. From the beginning, the corridor was included in federal plans for the Interstate Highway System, stretching west to the New York state line and beyond to Albany.

Also included in the route was the planned Springfield Bypass, which had been proposed to provide a bypass of US 20 in the Springfield area. Part of this route (and that of the eventual Turnpike) used the grading from the never-opened Hampden Railroad. Similarly, the West Stockbridge Bypass provided a new route of Route 102 from Route 183 in Stockbridge west to Route 102 just east of the state line in West Stockbridge; this latter route was built prior to the Turnpike.

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority was created in 1952 by a special act of the Massachusetts General Court (legislature) upon the recommendation of Governor Dever and his Commissioner of Public Works, William F. Callahan. (1952 Acts and Resolves chapter 354; 1952 Senate Doc. 1.) The enabling act was modeled upon that of the Mystic River Bridge Authority (1946 Acts and Resolves chapter 562), but several changes were made that would prove of great importance fifty years later. Callahan served as chairman of the Authority until his death in April 1964.

Construction began in 1955, and the whole four-lane road from Route 102 at the state line to Route 128 (now also Interstate 95 in Weston) opened on May 15, 1957.

Interstate designation and expansions

The Interstate 90 designation was assigned to the Turnpike in 1959 with the completion of plans for the Interstate Highway System. Early proposals took I-90 across the northern part of the state, along Route 2, but this was rejected as too costly. With the completion of the Boston Extension, that too was designated as I-90. The Berkshire Thruway opened on May 26, 1959, connecting the west end to the New York State Thruway mainline south of Albany. Prior to its opening, traffic used Route 22 and US 20 in New York. At the Massachusetts/New York state line, one can see where the Turnpike made an abrupt right turn before terminating at Route 102, as the old pavement still exists for Turnpike Authority and State Police vehicles to access this remote stretch of highway.

After political and legal battles related to the Boston Extension inside Route 128, construction began on March 5, 1962, with the chosen alignment running next to the Boston and Albany Railroad and reducing that line from four to two tracks. In September 1964 the part from Route 128 east to exit 18 (Allston) opened, and the rest was finished on February 18, 1965, taking it to the Central Artery.

In the 1990s, then-Governor William Weld took the decision to turn over the assets of Boston's Big Dig project to the Turnpike Authority. During this time he appointed James Kerasiotes to the Turnpike Authority to continue the authority's oversight of the Big Dig project.

In 1991, construction began on the extension of the Massachusetts Turnpike to Logan Airport, via the Ted Williams Tunnel as part of the Big Dig interstate/tunnel project. The final extension opened in 2003; the eastern end of I-90 now merges into Route 1A.

The legislature separated the Turnpike into a western portion, from the New York border to Interstate 95, and the eastern Metropolitan Highway System, which includes a 15-mile (24 km) stretch of the Turnpike from Interstate 95 to East Boston, the Ted Williams, Sumner, and Callahan tunnels under Boston Harbor, and I-93 from Southampton Street through the Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill tunnel and the Leonard P. Zakim Bridge to the foot of the Tobin Bridge. Finances for the two parts of the Turnpike are accounted for separately.

In response to a fatality caused by the collapse of the ceiling of the eastbound I-90 connector tunnel approaching the Ted Williams Tunnel on July 10, 2006, and in response to Turnpike Authority Chairman Matthew J. Amorello's refusal (at the time) to resign, Romney took legal steps to have Amorello forcibly removed as head of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. This effort culminated in Amorello's resignation on August 15, 2006. The next day, John Cogliano was sworn in as the new Chairman of the Turnpike Authority by Romney.

On November 27, 2006, departing Attorney General Tom Reilly (Democrat) announced the state will launch a civil suit over the collapse of the ceiling in the Ted Williams Tunnel. The Commonwealth will be seeking over $150 million from project manager Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, builder Modern Continental Construction Co. and the manufacturer of the epoxy used to hold the ceiling bolts.

Planned and proposed improvements

Future plans call for the re-routing of the highway over the former Beacon Park Yard, in order to free up space and make the highway safer. As of July 2016, the project hopes to break ground in 2019.

There have been proposals to add exits in Becket, Blandford, Warren, and Oxford since the removal of the toll booths. There is a 30-mile (48 km) gap between exit 2 (Lee) and exit 3 (Westfield)—the longest gap between exits on the entire Pike—and a 17-mile (27 km) gap between exit 8 (Palmer) and exit 9 (Sturbridge). If a car misses the exit, it is an hour to return. If those exits were built, the distance from Blandford to Westfield would be 11 miles (18 km) and the distance from Lee to Becket would be 7 miles (11 km). The Warren exit would cut the distance in half.

Massachusetts Turnpike Authority

Since 2001, the Turnpike Authority had come under fire from state politicians in a fight for control of the quasi-state agency. Beginning in 2001, former Massachusetts acting Governor Jane Swift (Republican) attempted to fire Christy Mihos, a former Turnpike board member and Jordan Levy, the current Vice Chairman of the board.

Mihos and Levy had cast votes on the board to postpone a toll hike. Swift objected, saying such a delay was "fiscally irresponsible" and saying the two men "interfered with the effective daily management of the Authority." Mihos and Levy refused to step down and sued Swift to retain their positions. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) ruled that the Turnpike was "not part of the machinery of the government" and therefore not subject to Swift's decisions.

Governor Mitt Romney, elected in 2002 during a fiscal crisis, ran on a political platform of streamlining state government and eliminating waste. Part of this was the elimination of the Turnpike Authority. Romney wanted to fold the Turnpike into MassHighway, the state highway department, operated under the Executive Office of Transportation. A first step to this was to replace the Chairman of the Board, Matthew J. Amorello with someone loyal to the Governor. The Governor has the power to appoint members to the board, but the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) advised in an advisory opinion that "nothing in G. L. c. 81A explicitly provides for the removal and reassignment of the chairperson to the position of "member."

Romney put pressure on Amorello to step down. Amorello announced he would do so in 2007, after Romney would have left office. Romney continued to press the legislature to give him the power to remove members from the board, specifically the chairman, pointing to a series of financial and construction mishaps over the last several years. However, the legislature instead sought to keep Amorello on board by extending the terms of various board members to prevent Romney from removing Amorello.

Massachusetts Department of Transportation

At a January 22, 2009, board meeting, the Turnpike decided to stop charging a one-time $25.95 fee for the acquisition of a Fast Lane toll transponder, replacing it with a 50-cent monthly recurring service fee. The implementation of the 50-cent monthly fee was canceled after long delays at toll plazas on Easter Sunday.

Under a plan to save state funds, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) announced plans to close eleven of its branches in leased locations and move the operations into facilities owned by MassHighway and the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority located in toll plazas, visitor centers, and offices. RMV branch closings were planned for Framingham, Lowell, North Attleboro, Cambridgeside Galleria Mall in Cambridge, New Bedford, Eastfield Mall in Springfield, Southbridge, Falmouth, Eastham, Beverly, and Boston. Also, a portion of the newly increased sales tax in the state averted a planned toll increase. The MTA will receive approximately $100 million from the state general fund over the next few years, alleviating the need for the toll hike.

Under legislation signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick on June 26, 2009, the turnpike was folded into a new super-agency that controls all surface transportation in the state. The new agency, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), operates all highways formerly under MassHighway and the Turnpike Authority as well as eight urban roadways formerly owned and maintained by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). In addition, MassDOT oversees the RMV, MBTA, regional transit authorities, and the state aeronautics commission. The new Transportation Department began operations on November 1, 2009. According to MTA board member Mary Z. Connaughton's blog entry for the Boston Herald, all of the pilgrim-hat signage unique to the Turnpike will be eliminated. However, in a personal correspondence with's road blog, a MassDOT official said that usage of the hat would actually increase. When guide signs on Interstates 95 and 495 are replaced, the current "MassPike" signage will be replaced with pilgrim hat shields.

The Turnpike Authority also owned the Callahan Tunnel and Sumner Tunnel, the other two road connections between downtown Boston and East Boston under Boston Harbor. Upon completion of the Central Artery/Tunnel Project, all tunnels constructed as part of the Big Dig, including the O'Neill Tunnel segment of I-93, were transferred to its control. The Authority received no state or federal government funding. Its revenues came from tolls, leases on air rights and service areas, and advertising. Its assets were all transferred to the new MassDOT agency as part of the restructuring of agencies.

Toll collection

The Massachusetts Turnpike is a toll road; the 2009 reform law requires tolls collected on the Western Turnpike be spent there, and those collected on the Metropolitan Highway System must be spent there. After protests from Western Massachusetts residents that their toll money was funding the Big Dig, a Boston highway project, tolls were removed on a western portion of the freeway in July 1996: no toll was charged for passenger-vehicle travel between Springfield (Exit 6, Interstate 291) and the New York (Exit 1, West Stockbridge) border in either direction.

On October 18, 2006, the Turnpike board voted to remove all tolls west of the Route 128 Toll Plaza in response to a recommendation made by Eric Kriss, a former fiscal adviser to Romney, in which he had been asked to review the Turnpike situation following the July 2006 tunnel ceiling collapse.

On October 19, 2006, members of the Massachusetts Legislature Transportation Committee were quoted in The Boston Globe as saying that the Governor's actions may require state law to be amended for the toll removal to happen. In addition, questions have been raised in regard to how the State would fund the maintenance of the Turnpike after the removal of the tolls.

The issue of the removal of the tolls is highly charged politically. Several members of the state Democratic Party declared this as a political maneuver to bolster the gubernatorial campaign of Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, a Republican, who was behind in the polls at the time of the announcement. Also, because the MTA Board is composed of Romney appointees, Kriss's former association with the Romney administration and the ongoing election at the time, the issue was clouded by accusations of partiality and political agendas from both sides of the aisle.

In the November 9, 2006, edition of The Boston Globe, Romney announced his intention to try to remove the tolls before Governor-elect Deval Patrick, a Democrat, was inaugurated in January 2007, but this did not occur. As of November 2008, Patrick's plan was to remove all tolls west of Interstate 95, except at the West Stockbridge and Sturbridge tolls, but this also did not occur before the end of his term in January 2015. State law requires tolls to be removed west of Route 128 when its debt is paid and the road is in "good condition", but MassDOT plans to continue tolls after the bonds are paid off in January 2017, because the road will still need $135 million per year for repairs and maintenance.

Tolls were reinstated between exit 1 and exit 6 in October 2013 at the same toll rates from 1996. The tolls were reinstated because of a Massachusetts state transportation financing package approved in early 2013.

Previous methods

The Massachusetts Turnpike operated as a closed-system toll road from Exit 1 in West Stockbridge to Exit 14/15 (I-95 and Route 128) in Weston. A motorist would obtain a long-distance ticket upon entering one toll plaza, which they would surrender upon exiting through another; toll plazas existing for all travel from Exit 1 to Exit 14/15. Beyond this point, toll plazas appeared more sporadically; one existed at Exit 18/19/20 in Allston (in both mainline directions and on interchange ramps), and another on the westbound entrance to the Ted Williams Tunnel in East Boston. No toll was charged for travel between exits 16 and 17 in Newton, exits 21 through 26, or the eastbound-only Route 1A terminus.

Motorists could pay tolls in cash to toll-booth personnel until October 2016. Alternatively, they could have used the E-ZPass electronic toll collection system; transponders installed in the inner windshields of vehicles were recognized automatically in special lanes at toll plazas, and would withdraw the toll amounts from motorists' accounts. Prior to 2012, before their sponsorship contract expired, the E-ZPass system was named the Citizens Bank Fast Lane in Massachusetts. That September, MassDOT introduced prepaid E-ZPass transponders called E-ZPass "On-the-Go".

Open road tolling

In 2014, Raytheon won a $130 million contract to convert the Massachusetts Turnpike to all-electronic open road tolling. The stated goal of the change was to "make vehicle travel safer and more efficient". Additional changes include the elimination of toll booths and toll booth operators, as well as the demolition of existing toll plazas and reconfiguration of surrounding roadways. Overhead gantries between most exits will read EZPass transponders. Drivers without a transponder will "pay-by-plate", having their license plate photographed and an invoice sent to the registered owner. This method of payment adds a $3 surcharge per toll transaction, with payment made online, or in cash at a local retail location with an additional $2.95 fee. Installation of gantries began in January 2016; the "Go-Live" date was October 28, 2016. The inner segments of toll booths will be demolished in the 30 days after this date, allowing traffic speeds to be raised. Complete demolition of toll booths and reconstruction is expected by the end of 2017, except for the Sumner Tunnel.

As there are no gantries between exits 4 and 7, or between exits 10 and 11, the Massachusetts Turnpike will essentially be free between those pairs of exits. Otherwise the plans are for the transition to open road tolling to be revenue neutral, meaning the tolls between any other pair of exits will only see small adjustments. Tolls will be slightly higher for out-of-state residents without an EZPassMA transponder, and no-transponder tolls will be higher still.

When all-electronic tolling went live on the Mass Pike, the Tobin Bridge, Callahan Tunnel, Sumner Tunnel, and Ted Williams Tunnel joined the system and were converted to charging a single toll in both directions, rather than a double toll in one direction. The Tobin Bridge was converted to all-electronic tolling for southbound only in July 2014.

In addition to license plate information, the gantries also collect vehicle speed data, which a MassDOT spokesperson said "will not be using the AET system to issue speeding violations". Toll data is not a "public record" which must be disclosed by Freedom of Information Act requests, and MassDOT "All data collected will remain secure and kept confidential." Toll data can be obtained by subpeona, and law enforcement will be able to specify license plate numbers that will generate an immediate email if detected by the system.

Service plazas

There are 11 service areas (plazas) on the Massachusetts Turnpike, named for the towns in which they are located. Each plaza offers Gulf gas stations and Gulf Express convenience stores. Most offer McDonald's restaurants, with some plazas having Boston Market and D'Angelo as the main food offerings. Some plazas also have secondary food such as Auntie Anne's pretzels, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Papa Gino's pizza, Original Pizza, and Fresh City restaurants. Some restaurants at some plazas also offer a drive thru.

The plazas are:

  • Lee Plaza between exits 1 and 2
  • Blandford Plaza between exits 2 and 3
  • Ludlow Plaza between exits 7 and 8
  • Charlton Plaza between exits 9 and 10
  • Westborough Plaza between exits 11A and 11 (westbound only)
  • Framingham Plaza between exits 13 and 12 (westbound only)
  • Natick Plaza between exits 13 and 14 (eastbound only)
  • All service areas except for the westbound Lee Plaza and the eastbound Blandford Plaza feature dog walk areas. All service areas except the westbound Lee, the Blandford, and the Ludlow Plazas offer special family restrooms.

    Air rights

    The MTA has leased much of the air space over the highway east of Exit 15; these are the structures that have been constructed or are planned:

  • The Shaw's Supermarket between exits 16 and 17.
  • The Crowne Plaza and Gateway Office complex in Newton Corner at exit 17.
  • The Copley Place Mall at exit 22 (1984).
  • The new One Beacon development at parcel 9, between Beacon St. and Brookline Ave., including a 23-story apartment complex and mixed use development.
  • New construction on parcels 8, and 10 adjacent to Fenway Park (2008–2018).
  • Near BU Bridge, Boston University announced long-term plans to extend its campus over the highway.
  • There is one major air rights property that the MTA does not own and that is the Prudential Center Complex constructed beginning in 1965. This property includes a Shaw's Supermarket, the Prudential Tower office and residential buildings, the Shops at Prudential Center mall, the Hynes Convention Center, and the Back Bay MBTA station.

    In 2001, the Turnpike Authority and the City of Boston agreed on guidelines for air rights development for the remaining parcels over the highway in Boston from the I-93 interchange to Commonwealth Avenue (with the exception of a parcel adjacent to the historic Fenway Studios). While development is not presently planned for all of this corridor, the agreement provides de facto zoning rules should it take place.

    Exit list

    The Mass Turnpike uses a system of sequentially numbered interchanges. Every interaction with the highway is numbered and named, regardless of whether an exit is available or not. All interchanges may be renumbered to mileage-based numbers with a two sign replacement projects scheduled for 2016 to 2018, however, the project contractors were told in May 2016 that they may be asked to put up the new signs with the existing numbers.


    Massachusetts Turnpike Wikipedia

    Similar Topics