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Strolling the interstate that never was

Where I-95 was supposed to go in Revere

Undead I-95 remains in Revere.

The unfinished northern half of the cloverleaf in Canton where 95 was supposed to head into Boston from the south is perhaps better known, but there's also the undone right-of-way where the highway was supposed to come out of Boston and smash through some marshes in Revere at Copeland Circle - which our own Cybah walked today.

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about the Northern route. Was 95 to go through Lynn after this and meet up with current 95 North (non-128 95)?

Thanks so much for the photos and the walk.

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Yes.. was to continue thru the Lynn Woods to the current 95 interchange.

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Kinda like this:

IMAGE(https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2837/33099278254_e8bcf11e25_b.jpg)

Red Line is the former I-95 ROW. Blue Circle is Copeland Circle in Revere...

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I assume you do not park your car, or your bike, on that big rotary where your red line begins.

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I took the T there.. took the 119 to Northgate Mall and walked over.

There's a few paths. Google Maps says to walk along the rotary near the hotel, go under the un-used overpasses and bang a right after the 2nd one (just before you get to the on ramp to US 1 North) and walk up. There's a gate and fencing that says "Do not enter" but its wide open, and the state has this trail (Sea Plane Basin Trail) listed as a public trail sooooooooooo I think those signs are old.

I think you can enter from behind the hotel near the back end of the parking lot, but since we've had all the rain lately, it's kinda marshy/muddy :-)

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thx for the info on the trails.

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That entrance is actually shown on Google Maps. I've been there in 2010 or 2011 once

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Park at the hotel or Northgate Shopping Center in Revere. You can walk from there and safely enter the area. Trail bikes are not recommended. There is a trail called sea plane basin right next to it. Northgate shopping center was once revere airport, closed in the mid 1960s. Seaplanes once landed or floated on the basin.

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Thanks for the detailed reply. Can you expand on why you do not recommend riding a bike here?

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If he's talking about the adjacent Northern Strand trail, "Trail" (meaning mountain or cross) bikes with wide/nobby tires would be okay, but there is a lot of sand and they never compacted the trail - just dumped the gravel and ran, I guess.

Husband insisted on riding it once because "it will save time". I was ready to kill him, as I had my 23c tires and it just didn't work and I had to walk it. I rode it once with 26 x 1.75 and that worked fine. Son#1 rode that section on his 42 x 700s and did fine as well.

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I tried going into Rumney Marshes about 3 months ago in the back of the Four Points Sheraton by parking at Pizzeria Uno and walking over.....when I went over last time the Sheraton had erected a metal fence around the old entrance to the marshes and I was harassed by a little punk of a kid who talked like he owned the place. Also the marsh trails are really getting overgrown and the DCR are doing nothing about it either (like usual). The only way to get into that section of the marshes is to walk over across the shoreline from the Bike to the Sea trail.

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or did you have to ford or wade your way across it?

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I assume you mean the break in the ROW bluff is the Pines "river". (I dunno if you would call it a river, it's pretty marshy there)

No. I just went as far as land could take me. I'd love to see the other side coming from Lynn. Maybe another trip for another day.

But this "break" or channel clearly is man made... those rocks just don't appear like that. There was probably going to be a short bridge here.

IMAGE(https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2900/33940055935_d216f36bb9_z.jpg)

you can really see how wide the bluff is by looking at the Lynn side (which the bluff for the ROW has remained untouched)

IMAGE(https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2930/33809937091_543370e89e_z.jpg)

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That isnt in Lynn but in Saugus where you are looking. There is a new entrance to the other side of the marshes in Saugus off of Ballard Street with a nice new parking lot. You walk in through the gate and can walk all the way down to the RC airport where guys fly their model planes.

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Haha I saw one of those planes when I went down the trail once I never knew that there was an RC airport there.

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I'm glad it wasn't built, but I'm curious if there was any demolition, regrading, or other work done north of the area shown by your red line here.

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It was only that bluff thru the marsh that was ever built. But the other side, where the current 128/95 interchange is... its an office park of newer building. You could suggest that possibly this area was cleared for a bigger interchange, but when the highway was cancelled in the 70s, the land was sold off to create the office park.

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Yes. It was to go behind Northgate shopping center and run parallel to Lynn marsh road...heading north on rte 107, look to the left and you will see the sand dune foundations. It was to go over the saugus river thru the Lynn woods and meet up where 95 and 128 merge today in Lynnfield. When I was a kid I remember them building it when my parents took me to the Revere Drive in.

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I'll leave this here also.. helps figuring out where I am in the photos.

IMAGE(https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2947/33901989646_19f35cf998_b.jpg)

This is an overlay that BosUrbEx did of the area using a 1971 aerial from HistoricAerials.com that shows where the roads would go.

There's a few things going on.. ramps to connect to Copeland Circle. Ramps to connect to the overpasses (and built bridges) to the current US 1. Then there's that series of roads near the bottom (kinda circled by yellow) that are the series of ramps for the "Revere Beach Connector" which was a highway that was suppose to connect I-95/Copeland to Revere Beach/1A and bypass Squire Road

The yellow circle area is an area that was re-claimed as marshland by MassDOT in the late 1990s. Most of this area was the Revere Beach Connector and I-95 Northbound.

The Revere Beach Connector (as described by a drawing that BosUrbEx found):

IMAGE(https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2845/33942865875_a3ede12cc3_z.jpg)

And two other old photos I found while looking online for info about this interchange (also courtesy of BosUrbEx and his digging at the state transportation library):

"Looking north on the southbound bridge for the proposed I-95 on the southerly side of Copeland Circle. The sign on the right was over the northbound split and says "RTE C-1, So. Lynnfield, N.H. - Maine". Another sign to the right would announce I-95 and the Revere Beach Connector."

IMAGE(https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2863/33942865585_cf4c8da278_z.jpg)

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IMAGE(https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2882/33785454162_88fc306855_z.jpg)

Looking north in the northbound lanes of the expressway. The signs ahead direct drivers left for "Rte. C-1, So. Lynnfield, N.H. - Maine" or right for "Lynn, Revere Beach". C-1 is the present day US-1 which is in use. The split to the right was for the planned I-95 and Revere Beach connector.

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And a few faves incase folks are too lazy to click the link:

IMAGE(https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2845/33126946533_e6782e96e1_z.jpg)

I-95 roadbed toward the Revere Beach connector (right) and I-95 northbound (left), looking east

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IMAGE(https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2824/33554914980_74d38947c4_z.jpg)

Looking Northeast. Off ramp from I-95 Southbound to Copeland Circle. Otherwise known today as "Sea Plane Basin Trail"

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IMAGE(https://c1.staticflickr.com/4/3736/33554996850_a37828c1a7_z.jpg)

Looking South, roughly at where I-95 would continue straight to the Copeland circle split. Road would be run over marsh on left hand side (fill was removed in the 1990s). To the far left would be the Revere Beach Connector.

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IMAGE(https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2923/33096812024_bca96c11c4_z.jpg)

Looking Southwest at the I-95 northbound bridge at Copeland circle.

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IMAGE(https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2823/33810045511_cfe94f22db_z.jpg)

The southbound side bridge date stamp

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IMAGE(https://c1.staticflickr.com/3/2831/33899368966_8632d8dfc3_z.jpg)

50s-era guard rails! (very 50s!)

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And a ton more in the pictures --> http://bos.tn/jQ1Bl

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Rolled up and disheveled on the ground....

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They must not know that litterin will get you sent over to the Group W bench, with _all kinds_ of criminals.

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Great shots!

I remember back in the late 90's when I was in high school I had a sit down conversation with the City Solicitor of Lynn for school and we discussed all sorts things. We had a few hours so when we ran out of legal things and he realized I was interested in development, transportation and the such we discussed these plans and the relative inaccessibility of Lynn and Salem due to the project falling out of favor. He pointed to the success of Route 1 in Saugus versus that of Downtown Lynn at the time.

We did also discuss how that is when people started talking about expanding the Blue Line into Lynn and I began seeing how that would be beneficial to the entire region. I am not sure if the interstate would have done what he thought it would... but it is true that Lynn is tucked off to the side away from easy quick transit. There is no chance it will get an interstate spur but it could possibly get a mass transit expansion.

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The Blue Line was supposed to extend all the way to Salem when it was extended to Revere in the 1950s. Cost was not the deterrent. Infrastructure was already in place, tracks and a bridge from the old Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad were already in place since service ended in 1940. It's sad to say. Racism was the main reason people, not in Lynn, but Swampscott, Marblehead and Salem simply did not want city blacks coming into their communities simply, easily and cheaply. Ask an older resident.

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all the photos AND the maps. I kind of knew about this, and something is noticeably missing when driving by, but your album makes it all very clear.

Do you know why they built all of this and then stopped?

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In the early 70s, then Governor Sargent put a stop to all highway projects within 128. This was one of them, along with I-695, and a few others.

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I recall the first time I discovered the section in Canton - riding my bike down that big, long, straight trail in Neponset reservation and suddenly coming out onto pavement. It was very strange. I'll have to check this out as well.

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This is fascinating and a great job. I am new to this particular area and was wondering if you wandered into the Wheelabrator reserve? They set up an area for birds and birders and I wonder if you were in that area. I'm trying to figure our where your pictures were taken..although you seem to have kept in the Revere area and hadn't gotten as far up as Saugus.

I'd love to check out where you were.

Thanks again for sharing.

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As best as I can tell, what we see today was built around 1956-1958. The plan view shows four possible expressways :

(1) Route 1 in Saugus, built in 1946 or earlier, with tight exit ramps

(2) Route 1 between the Tobin Bridge and Copeland Circle, built 1956-1958.

(3) The Revere Beach Connector, planned back in the 1950s when Revere Beach was booming and became a major visitor attraction. The connector was never built.

(4) The faint remains of the fill placed across the marsh for the (unbuilt) I-95 expressway -- planned to be 8 lanes wide.

It looks like four major roads converging on ... a rotary!!

In the 1950s, the Copeland Circle area was planned and built for just the first three of these roads. Having Route 1 to the north and south plus the Revere Beach Connector made some sense locally in terms of handling traffic, except for the short weaves that exist on the circle to this day.

The original plan was absolutely ruined in the late 1950s when the Interstate Highway system was introduced, with 90% of the costs paid for by the Federal Government. The incentive was to build many lanes at great expense, and that is what Route I-95 north became -- eight lanes coming down from Lynn and .... trying to connect into the stub ramps planned for the Revere Beach Connector.

Physically, the design was possible but it made no sense. It was not a smart thing to do : take a 1950s interchange with an awkward rotary, and plug in an eight-lane expressway. The traffic would never work. It would be the traffic bottleneck to end all bottlenecks. Too many ramps getting tangled up. Too many short weaves on Copeland Circle.

In short, the highway designers had a humongous traffic mess on their hands. The Revere Beach Connector was delayed and not built. The traffic mess delayed I-95 construction, but the publicity was mainly about the Lynn Woods and the marshes. At the time, I remember no controversy over the traffic failures at Copeland Circle .... if I-95 were plugged into it.

Along came the Inner Belt controversy in Cambridge and Boston. Cambridge offricials made a decision in 1967 to defeat the Belt plan no matter what. With no Inner Belt -- there was no logic for the Route 2 extension or Southwest Expressway. A well-organized opposition worked to get all the new highways stopped completely. That issue was on Governor Frank Sargent's desk when he took office in January 1969. Sargent put a hold order on the road plan in 1970, and by 1972 the restudy plan said no to highways and yes to transit. Except for completing I-93 into Boston, all of the proposed expressways were killed. That included I-95 north.

I don't know what killed off the Revere Beach Connector, but I suspect that with the strong concern in the 1970s for conservation and the environment, building in the Saugus Marshes was not seen as a great idea.

Sargent's decision on I-95 north was probably an easy one. Any enginer with 25 cents of smarts would say you don't take a rotary interchange designed for three roads .... and try to jam a fourth road into it.

This does not mean that the Copeland Circle bottleneck was the design flaw that brought down the entire Boston area highway plan. Copeland Circle was only the second worst bottleneck in the system. The worst bottleneck was on the old Green Monster, the six-lane elevated Central Artery in Boston. In 1957, a Wall Street firm was hired to look at traffic on the artery and figure out if investing public funds in the road made sense. They took a look at the whole system, including I-95 north and the Inner Belt, and concluded the road system WOULD NOT WORK. In order to handle all the traffic in Boston, the six-lane section of the Central Artery would need to be eighteen lanes wider --- for a total of twenty-four lanes!! All of the numbers from the Wall Street firm said the highway plan was a traffic disaster. The traffic analysts stuck by their conclusions and refused to back down. So when the Master Plan for state highways was issued in 1962, here was a plan arguing for the construction of all these roads, and it included the traffic analysis that said the plan would not work.

At Copeland Circle, how many more lanes would be needed on Route 1 to make it work with an eight-lane I-95 connecting into it? Maybe another eight lanes on Route 1need to be added on to make the traffic numbers work out. But that idea would mean a possible 32 lanes on the downtown Central Artery.

Yes, the state highway plan was an absolute mess. The traffic engineers were the heroes because they stuck to their guns and said it wouldn't work. The Governor put a halt to the whole scheme. What we see today is the remains of a mid-1950s monument. On all the connecting roads heading towards Revere Beach none of them saw a single vehicle from the driving public use the pavement. Unused pavement and remains of 1950s cable guardrail are the monuments that are left. Copeland Circle remains intact, one of the last rotaries built by the state highway department before they adopted a policy not to build any more rotaries.

Indeed, Copeland Circle is an historic monument to the kind of planning that went on the the 1950s and 1960s ... and was wrong simply because no one could get it to work right. It is shame that in the 21st century very few people know the story behind the plan.

Stephen H. Kaiser, PhD.
Cambridge

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Excellent post, Stephen Kaiser!
I have a photo of what Copeland Circle was supposed to originally look like; it had the Revere Beach Connector but did not have anything about I-95. I've been trying to find some info about when 95 was added to this project.
Back before the Connector road was officially killed off, most families had one car. As a kid in the early 70's, even then there was a bottleneck of traffic getting onto Route 1 North. Three lanes merging into two, as well as the hill just after it...needless to say, it's far worse these days with one car per family member.
I understand the argument and reasoning against I-95, but the Connector would have made a huge improvement in alleviating the traffic that clogs the streets coming from the beach. However, I'm sure by now, had it been built, the two-lane Connector coming from the beach would be just as jammed as Revere Street and Winthrop Parkway now are at 4PM, and we'd be complaining about the need for a new road...
I'm waiting to see if the recent talks about widening Route 1 from Copeland Circle to Rt. 99 in Saugus actually happens.Getting onto Route 1 North between 4-7PM sucks.

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