I wonder when I wander home
If I’ll be fit to drink alone.
Sleep with my memories,
Pictures, apologies.
For every minute yesterday,
Regret reminds me anyway.
If I remember anything,
I’ll make mistakes again.
Last night on the Mass Pike,
Thought I was losing you.
Last night on the Mass Pike,
I fell in love with you.
I will declare a holiday,
the night that she turned me away
I’m drowning in my miseries
It solves everything.
Last night on the Mass Pike,
Thought I was losing you.
Last night on the Mass Pike,
I fell in love with you.
With you.
Last night on the Mass Pike,
Thought I was losing you.
Last night on the Mass Pike,
I fell in love with you.
Last night on the Mass Pike,
Thought I was losing you.
Last night on the Mass Pike,
I fell in love with you.

- the Get Up Kids

Massachusetts is two hours across. Almost exactly. If you push the car at 70 and don't account for traffic in Boston and if you don't spend too much time scrutinizing the pilgrim hats on the green exit signs. I've made the trek on the Pike more times than I can count and more of my stories than I'd like to admit were generated on the oft-excavated asphalt of its 135-mile length. Although I'm not going to let the backhoe loose on my life right now, I will dig up a few of the most resonant artifacts:

Between Westfield and Lee is a thirty-mile stretch of road. There are no exits, no rest stops. In the winter the Berkshires that surround this piece of highway get snowy, and you must be very careful pushing your car past swerving eighteen-wheelers whose slushy wake coats your windshield as soon as you creep near. This is where you lose NPR or any other station and rely on tapes or internal monologues to carry you through. I usually relied on both. This is where I shed my tears, lost my faith, and wrote my poems. Whichever direction I was headed, east or west, this is where I knew I was going home.

I once swerved off the road on a sleety night, making the journey from Plainville to Bard, when my windshield wipers decided to give out on me. Reduced to driving 30 miles an hour in a 65 mile per hour zone, I thrust my head out the window and tried to manually operate the wipers. No luck. After driving several miles in this ridiculous fashion, I finally reached an exit. In Palmer I found a small bed and breakfast, yellow, unassuming, the only inn between the conference center extravaganzas of Worcester and the hospitality centers for the parents of college students in the Amherst/Springfield area. The owner is a very nice man, but you might not catch him there. Even if you ring the bell. Even if you ring the bell several times in the pouring rain. Where you might catch him is where I caught him, fortunately, (inches away from grinning evil death in the form of a slick Massachusetts road) at the Cumberland Farms down the street, buying ice cream for his wife. He’ll give you a room, and promise you a wake-up call, even if it’s one in the morning, even if you are a drenched puppy with matted hair, even if you barely look old enough to drive.

Christina makes me a mix. We haven’t seen each other in two years but our friendship is nearing the fifteen-year mark. So two years apart is a drop in the bucket I tell myself. Christina puts this song on the mix for me. If there is anything Christina and I have in common, it is our common history; shaped by the suburbs of Massachusetts, we spent the greater part our teenage years battling mall culture and urban sprawl. Talking the other day, for the first time in months, Christina and I reminisce about the time after we’d finally left the cesspool of the suburbs, the time when we started taking the Mass Pike to our respective colleges. We remember how the 2 hours on the Pike represented a crossing of space, a traversing of the chronological distance between youth and burgeoning adulthood. We think about how relationships factored into that journey and she tells me about all the boys that marked those years for her, all of those relationships that came and went and pushed her farther into maturity. I tell her “that’s the memory, embedded in my head, of such a particular time. We were traveling back and forth between lives. Always a shedding of the skin to travel that road. Always someone under the rubber of the tires.” “Yeah,” she says, still understanding after all these years, “mileage in so many forms.”

The Massachusetts Turnpike, I-90, the fabled Mass Pike of story and song, was constructed in segments from 1955 to 2002, when its final eastern terminus off of MA 1A at Logan Airport was completed. The Mass Pike is quite a ride, from the idyllic western section between the duelling banjos of Becket and Otis, to the traffic-choked rat run of metro Worcester, to the frenetic road that burrows under the Prudential and a Star Market. It's not as beautiful as the Pacific Coast Highway, nor as ugly as the New Jersey Turnpike, nor as outright sleep-inducing as the New York State Thruway, but it's good nonetheless. A functional, easy-to-use highway that takes you from point A to point B, with a few enormous McDonalds signs and Pilgrim logos along the way.


Originally conceived in the late 1940s as the Western Expressway connecting Boston to the "west" (that is, Metro West, Worcester, Springfield, and points beyond) with several local interchanges (including a junction to the existing-only-on-paper I-695), the Mass Pike was retooled in 1952 by the director of MassDPW (the forerunner of MassHighway), William F. Callahan, as a toll road due to the commonwealth's economic shortfalls. A western highway out of Boston was desperately needed, as the capacity of east-west roads such as MA 9, Commonwealth Avenue/MA 30, and others were stretched to the breaking point by post-World War II subruban growth. Later that year, the Massachusetts State House created the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which had the formidable task of building, maintaining, and collecting tolls on a trans-state highway. Callahan was immediately offered the position of director, and subsequently retired as head of MassDPW.

The first segment, from the New York state line at West Stockbridge to the junction with MA 128 (later I-95/MA 128) in Weston, was constructed between 1955-1957. Callahan himself designed the famed "Pilgrim hat" logo complete with a Native American arrow. A certain urban legend has it that the arrow was Callahan's way of insinuating that the Irish were supplanting the Brahmins in the Massachusetts political hierarchy, though personally I fail to see the connection.

Unfortunately, the construction of the easternmost segment between Weston and Boston through Newton required greater political wrangling on Callahan's part. The new head of MassDPW, John Volpe, proposed that a connector between the then-under construction (well, the then-and-now-under-construction) I-93 in Boston and MA-128 would be constructed by MassDPW, and would be totally devoid of any tolls. Thus, the dream of the Western Expressway was reborn. In this contest, Callahan at least had a solidified Mass Pike-Boston Extension plan, in contrast to Volpe's pie-in-the-sky Western Expressway.

After much Machiavellian skullduggery on Callahan's part from 1955-1960, including behind-the-scenes dealing with Prudential, buying out rights-of-way from the declining railroad companies, blasting Volpe's spending estimates, bending Eisenhower's highway legislation to his advantage, and renewing the Turnpike Authority's charter, the way to extension was finally paved-no pun intended. Unfortunately, partisan bickering, the bane of all public works projects, reared its ugly head. Callahan's nemesis Volpe, who had left MassDPW to head up the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, decided to run for governor on the Republican ticket, hoping to stymie Callahan's toll-based doings. Callahan, a staunch Democrat, enlisted the aid of John F. Kennedy, who had just been elected president, and the VP of Prudential, Fred Smith, in support of his extension. Prudential proved to be a key player in the contest, as the extension would pass directly underneath its property in Copley Square, right in the heart of Boston.

At long last, in 1962, after trying to float the extension project with bonds, Callahan received the money and the go-ahead to build the Boston Extension, which was completed in 1965. Sadly, Callahan did not get a chance to see his dream realized, passing away in the spring of 1964. That following year, the Pike was extended to a set of tolls in the Allston Spur, and then finally to I-93 near South Station, which would serve as the highway's eastern terminus until the turn of the millenium.

From the 1960s to the 1990s, the Turnpike was widened as traffic flow increased. New exits were added with the construction of I-495, Boston's outer orbital highway. I-84 was routed into the Mass Pike at Sturbridge. I-84 was initially designed as a Hartford-Providence connector, with I-86 serving as the diagonal up into Massachusetts. I-84 was never extended to Providence, however, except for a short segment that later became I-384. Instead, traffic was funneled into the Mass Pike, providing Bostonians with an alternative to I-95 when driving to New York City and other places in the megalopolis. In the 1990s, an exit was built for MA 146, an important connector road between Worcester and Providence. MA 146/RI 146 is scheduled to be upgraded to full freeway status in a series of improvements to the Blackstone Valley corridor region.

Another important, yet less intrusive, project was also implemented in the late 1990s, namely FastLane. Funded in part by Fleet Bank, FastLane allows cars to pay by a remote signal as they pass through tolls. This allows traffic to pass through toll plazas without stopping. FastLane is compatable with the E-Z Pass system used in metropolitan New York City and Philadelphia, thus tying all the major toll systems of the eastern seaboard together. Well, with a few annoying exceptions.

The late 1990s and the early 2000s saw the most infamous and ambitious American highway project ever undertaken - the Central Artery Tunnel project, aka "the Big Dig". Plans dating back to the 1980s called for the extension of the Mass Pike past I-93, under South Boston and Inner Boston Harbor through the Ted Williams Tunnel, to its new eastern terminus at MA 1A in Logan Airport. This would allow travelers coming from the west and south to circumvent the choked tunnels of MA 1A, the Sumner Tunnel and the-you guessed it-Callahan Tunnel, when going to the airport. Construction was finally completed in 2002, when the Ted Williams Tunnel was unveiled for public use after years of scrutiny. The new shunting of I-90 also eased construction on I-93 and allowed for the laying of tunnels for the MBTA's new Silver Line.


The Mass Pike is 136.1 miles (218 km) long, cutting across the length of the state from West Stockbridge to Boston. Below is the exit list, going from west to east:


State Line: West Stockbridge, Massachusetts/Canaan, New York

(Mile 3): EXIT 1 (westbound only) - MA 41 TO MA 102 - West Stockbridge

(Mile 3): TOLL PLAZA

Entering Stockbridge

Entering Lee

(Mile 8): LEE PLAZA* This rest area is fully decked out with restaurants and gas.

(Mile 11): EXIT 2 - US 20 - Lee, Pittsfield


Entering Becket

Entering Otis

Entering Becket

Entering Otis

Entering Blandford***

(Mile 29): BLANDFORD PLAZA This rest area has gas. On a side note, employees have a little key that lets them onto a frontage road. This must be an invaluable asset to locals, as this is along the infamous "30 mile" stretch of I-90 between Lee and Westfield.

Entering Russell

Entering Montgomery

(Mile 36): The infamous runaway truck ramp

Entering Westfield

(Mile 40): EXIT 3 - MA 10 US 20 - Westfield, Northampton

Entering West Springfield

(Mile 45): EXIT 4 - I-91 US 5 - Springfield, Holyoke

Entering Chicopee, crossing Connecticut River

(Mile 49): EXIT 5 - MA 33 - Chicopee

(Mile 51): EXIT 6 - I-291 - Springfield, Hartford

Entering Ludlow

(Mile 55): EXIT 7 - MA 21 - Ludlow Belchertown

(Mile 56): LUDLOW PLAZA Gas and restaurants.

Entering Wilbraham

Entering Palmer

(Mile 63): EXIT 8 - MA 32 TO US 20 - (westbound:) Palmer, Amherst (eastbound:) Palmer, Ware

Entering Brimfield

Entering Warren

Entering Brimfield

Entering Sturbridge

(Mile 78): EXIT 9 - I-84 US 20 - (westbound:) Hartford, New York City (eastbound:) Sturbridge, Hartford

Entering Charlton

(Mile 80):CHARLTON PLAZA The infamous Charlton Plaza. Fully outfitted for your traveling needs. By far the most-visited rest area in all of Massachusetts, possibly New England.

Entering Oxford

Entering Auburn

(Mile 90): EXIT 10 - I-290 MA 12 I-395 - Auburn, Worcester

Entering Millbury

(Mile 93): EXIT 10A - MA 146 US 20 - Worcester, Providence

(Mile 96): EXIT 11 - MA 122 - Millbury, Worcester

Entering Grafton

Entering Westborough

(Mile 104): WESTBOROUGH PLAZA (westbound only) Vending machines, gas, and a convenience store.

Entering Hopkinton

Entering Westborough

(Mile 106): EXIT 11A - I-495 - NH-Maine, Cape Cod

Entering Southborough

Entering Ashland

Entering Framingham

(Mile 111): EXIT 12 - MA 9 - (westbound:) Framingham, Marlborough (eastbound:) Framingham

(Mile 115): FRAMINGHAM PLAZA (westbound only) Vending machines, gas, and a convenience store.

(Mile 117): EXIT 13 - MA 30 - Natick, Framingham

Entering Natick

(Mile 118): NATICK PLAZA (eastbound only) Vending machines, gas, and a convenience store.

Entering Weston

(Mile 123): EXIT 14 (eastbound only) - I-95 MA 128 - NH-Maine, South Shore

(Mile 124): TOLL PLAZA If you're going eastbound, this is where you hand in your ticket. If you're going westbound, this is where you pick up your ticket.

The Boston Extension

At this point the highway becomes much more urban, from wide lanes and spaced onramps to tight corners and no breakdown lanes. Tons o' fun.

Entering Newton, crossing Charles River

(Mile 124): EXIT 15 (westbound only) - I-95 MA 128 MA 30 - Westwood, Waltham

(Mile 125): EXIT 16 (westbound only) - MA 16 - West Newton, Wellesley

(Mile 126): EXIT 17 - Newton, Watertown

Entering Boston

(Mile 131): EXIT 18 (eastbound only) - Brighton, Cambridge

(Mile 131): TOLL PLAZA

(Mile 131): EXIT 20 (westbound only) - Allston, Brighton, Cambridge

Entering Brookline

Entering Boston

(Mile 131): EXIT 22 (westbound only) - Prudential Center, Copley Square

(Mile 134): EXIT 24A (eastbound only) - South Station

(Mile 134): EXIT 24B (eastbound only) - I-93 NORTH - Concord, NH

(Mile 134): EXIT 24C - I-93 SOUTH - (westbound:) Cape Cod (eastbound:)Quincy

The Ted Williams Tunnel

After the new Big Dig-buit Exit 24 passes by, we descend into the murky depths of Boston.

(Mile 135): EXIT 25 (westbound:) - South Boston, TO I-93 NORTH (eastbound:) South Boston

Crossing Boston Harbor

(Mile 135): EXIT 26 (eastbound only) - Logan Airport

(Mile 136): EXIT (westbound only) - Hotel Drive, Car Rentals

(Mile 136): EXIT (eastbound only) - MA 1A SOUTH/Sumner Tunnel - Boston

)(Mile 136): EXIT (eastbound only) - MA 1A NORTH - Revere

*Rest areas in Massachusetts are called "plazas". This is similar to the "house" of Maryland or the "oasis" of Illinois

**This is announced by a gigantic sign. Having driven cross country using I-90 most of the way, I'm sad to report that Oacoma fails to return the favor. Bastards.

***This is the most aptly named town in all of Massachusetts.

Sources: www.bostonroads.com, http://neturnpikes.tripod.com/mass_pike.htm

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