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Looking west, crews work on the center pier columns of the new Route 2 East bridge within the I-95 median.

Looking west, crews work on the center pier columns of the new Route 2 East bridge within the I-95 median.

The cloverleaf interchange of Route 2 and I-95 in Lexington is undergoing major upgrades for the Route 2/I-95 Bridge Replacement Project.

The bridges that carry Route 2 East and West over I-95 are structurally deficient and their vertical clearance is substandard. MassDOT is replacing the two bridges to address these deficiencies, upgrade their capacity, meet current seismic criteria, improve safety, protect the environment, and reduce annual maintenance costs.

Route 2 is a main alternative to the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90) for east-west travel across the state, carrying approximately 67,000 vehicles per day. It spans the northern part of the state of Massachusetts from the New York border in Williamstown all the way east to the Boston Common. Not only is Route 2 one of the most scenic state routes, it is also one of the most historic.

Postcard of the Mohawk Trail Courtesy of The Boston Public Library, Tichnor Brothers Collection

Postcard of the Mohawk Trail Courtesy of The Boston Public Library, Tichnor Brothers Collection

One of the state’s earliest turnpikes, the Cambridge and Concord Turnpike, made up a portion of today’s Route 2. The Cambridge and Concord Turnpike Corporation was chartered in 1803 to connect the two towns. Its route began at the western end of the West Boston Bridge (the predecessor to the Longfellow Bridge) and extended to Concord Center, using a section of today’s Route 2 from I-95 to Route 2A (Concord Turnpike Cut-off). This segment runs through the project area, which spans from Spring Street in Lexington to Old County Road in Lincoln. Upgrades are also taking place at Crosby’s Corner at the intersection of the Lincoln and Concord town lines. It opened for traffic in 1807, but faced economic shortfalls quickly and became unprofitable due to construction of 115 public roads in Middlesex County between 1808 and 1822. These public roads were free and competed with the turnpike, which collected tolls. It was converted to a public highway in 1829. Also, the Cambridge and Concord Turnpike Corporation wanted the road to be as straight as possible, which caused it to bypass the busy town center of Lexington that would have provided more revenue.

CAPTION: Mohawk Trail (Route 2) during the autumn season courtesy of MA Office of Travel and Tourism

Mohawk Trail (Route 2) during Autumn Courtesy of MA Office of Travel and Tourism

In the western half of the state, Route 2 is known as “Mohawk Trail.” This 63-mile long stretch follows the footpaths of an ancient Native American trade route that connected the Connecticut and Hudson River Valleys. It officially opened in 1914 as New England’s first scenic road, which allowed automobiles to travel through the winding Berkshire Mountains for the first time (many areas were inaccessible until the opening of Mohawk Trail). The road’s heyday lasted through the 1940s and 1950s, until air travel replaced automobiles as the latest form of long distance travel. Mohawk Trail is still considered one of the country’s most scenic drives by many, attracting thousands of “leaf peepers” during the height of the fall foliage season.

Travelers and commuters from all over will soon be able to drive across a new bridge span to reach the Mohawk Trail section of Route 2. The project reached a milestone in November 2015 when one of the two new Route 2 bridge spans opened for eastbound traffic. The contractor has completed demolition of the old eastbound span and will begin erecting steel beams for the new bridge this month. The project will be substantially complete in fall 2016. To stay up to date on the progress of this important project, sign up for the project email list.

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