The Massachusetts Turnpike, commonly known as the Mass Pike and signed as Interstate 90, is a tolled expressway that stretches across the state of Massachusetts, employing a length of 138 miles between the Berkshire Mountains in the west and Boston-Logan Airport in the east. The Mass Pike is the longest Interstate Highway in the state of Massachusetts, and Interstate 90, of which the Mass Pike is signed as, is the longest Interstate highway in the United States, stretching over 3,000 miles from Seattle to Boston.
The Mass Pike begins at the New York/Massachusetts State Line, in the town of West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. West of the state line, the Mass Pike continues into New York State as the Berkshire Parkway, which is a part of the New York State Thruway (also a toll road). East of the state line, the turnpike passes through the town of West Stockbridge and shortly after encounters the West Stockbridge Toll Plaza, the first mainline toll plaza along the turnpike. East of the West Stockbridge Toll Plaza, the Mass Pike curves through the Berkshire Mountains, ascending and descending in elevation multiple times in the process. Within the Berkshire Mountains lies the largest gap between exits on the entire Interstate highway system nationwide, with a 30-mile gap between exits 2 and 3. After passing through the towns of Lee and Pittsfield, which lie on the outskirts of the mountains, the Mass Pike enters the Springfield metropolitan area. Springfield is the third-largest city in Massachusetts, behind only Worcester and Boston. Within the metro area, the turnpike crosses the Connecticut River via the Connecticut River Toll Bridge, as well as interchanges with Interstate 91, Interstate 291, and Interstate 391. Continuing east, the turnpike then passes through the towns of Ludlow and Sturbridge, interchanging with Interstate 84 in the latter town.
East of Sturbridge, the turnpike passes through Charlton and Auburn. In Auburn, which is the southern edge of the Worcester metropolitan area, the turnpike interchanges with Interstate 290, a spur route that connects the turnpike to downtown Worcester. In downtown Worcester, Interstate 290 splits to the east, paralleling the turnpike to the north, while Interstate 190, another spur of the turnpike, connects Worcester to points north via Massachusetts Route 2. East of Worcester, the turnpike passes along the northern end of the city of Framingham, interchanging with both of Boston’s beltways - Interstate 495 (Blue Star Memorial Highway) and Interstate 95 (Yankee Division Highway). At the interchange with Interstate 95 in Weston, the second mainline toll plaza, the Weston Toll Plaza, is encountered. The Weston Toll Plaza was the original eastern terminus of the Mass Pike, due to funding and zoning delays with extending the turnpike to Boston.
Once inside the Interstate 95 beltway, the turnpike officially enters the Greater Boston area, passing through Newton, Watertown, and Allston. The third mainline toll plaza, the Allston-Brighton Toll Plaza, is located in Allston, at the interchange between the Pike and Storrow Drive. East of the Allston-Brighton Toll Plaza, the turnpike enters downtown Boston, passing underneath the Prudential Center via the Prudential Tunnel. The Pike then interchanges with Interstate 93 and the Central Artery Tunnel via the Back Bay Interchange, which is the largest interchange in the state and one of the largest in New England. East of the interchange, the Pike passes underneath the Fort Point Channel via the Fort Point Channel Tunnel, and then passes underneath Boston Harbor via the Ted Williams Tunnel. The Ted Williams Tunnel currently marks the eastern terminus of the Mass Pike, as well as the national eastern terminus of Interstate 90.
Proposed East Boston Extension
Currently, the turnpike terminates at the Ted Williams Tunnel and the interchange of Massachusetts Route 1A (East Boston Expressway) at Boston-Logan International Airport. Beyond the airport, the turnpike merges with a continuation of MA-1A, which is officially designed the William F. McClellan Highway and the Lee Burbank Highway. However, there have been various proposals made to upgrade the McClellan and Burbank Highways to Interstate standards, and extend the Mass Pike northeast of the airport through the city of Revere to at least MA-107, and possibly to US-1. These proposals have been met with fierce backlash from residents and commercial owners in Revere, who fear that extending the Pike through the city would disrupt residential life and increase noise and air pollution. Some residents have indicated that they might be willing to support a tunnel underneath the city, similar to what was done with the Thomas P. O’Neil Jr. Tunnel on Interstate 93 that moved the elevated Central Artery underground. However, constructing a tunnel underneath Revere would bring massive traffic disruptions, possibly the loss of several structures, and a huge price tag of over $1 Billion. Therefore, this proposal has not come into fruition, either.
The Massachusetts Turnpike has two spur routes, Interstate 290 and Interstate 190, that connect the turnpike to downtown Worcester and points east and north. However, these routes do not have official memorial designations, and are toll-free except for the actual interchanges with the Pike.
One of the two spur routes of the Mass Pike, Interstate 290 connects the Mass Pike in Auburn with Interstate 395 into Connecticut to the south, and with downtown Worcester to the north. The turnpike itself bypasses downtown Worcester to the south, and therefore Interstate 290 is the most direct freeway connection into the city. Because of the fact that the highway runs directly through downtown, a series of sharp curves is present, and, among other things, widely contributes to the fact that the highway often gets extensively congested during rush hour and other peak travel times. On the north side of Worcester, I-290 encounters a three-level stack interchange, at which Interstate 190, a second spur of the Mass Pike, continues due north, where I-290 branches east and parallels the turnpike to the north. I-290 crosses Lake Qinsigamond in Shrewsbury, which is one of the tallest bridges in the state. I-290 then interchanges with Interstate 495, Boston’s Outer Beltway in the outskirts of Marlborough. Until 2017, this was the eastern terminus of I-290, however the highway has since been extended further east to the southern side of Hudson, Massachusetts, running concurrently with Massachusetts State Route 85.
The second spur route of the Mass Pike, Interstate 190, connects I-290 at the three-level stack interchange in Worcester with Massachusetts Route 2 (George W. Stanton Memorial Highway/Mohawk Memorial Trail) in Leominster. I-190 provides direct freeway access to the towns of West Boylston and Sterling, as well as Wachusett Reservoir. The highway parallels Interstate 495 to the west and therefore is designated as the emergency alternate route should an accident or other circumstance make I-495 impassible.
Interstate 190 is highly underutilized, seeing the lowest level of traffic volume of any Interstate highway in the state of Massachusetts, and as of 2018, is one of the lightest traveled highways in all of New England. The highway essentially only serves the local residents of West Boylston, Sterling, and the surrounding communities, since most long-distance traffic chooses to utilize I-495 since it is a more direct and complete bypass of Worcester. As I-190 is toll-free, funding for maintenance of the road comes almost exclusively from gasoline tax payed by motorists who travel the road. Due to the extreme low volume of traffic, there has been talk of closing the highway on and off for several years, as some feel that the convenience of the highway does not adequately supplement the cost of maintaining it, especially because funds for maintenance tend to be low. However, due to its designation as an alternate emergency route for I-495, MassDOT cannot legally close the road unless a new alternate emergency route is designated, and since there are no other highways that run parallel to I-495 in the area, I-190 will remain in service for the near future.
From when it originally opened until 2018, the Massachusetts Turnpike uses a closed “ticket” toll system. Under this system, all vehicles without an EZ-PASS transponder collect a ticket upon entering the turnpike from any given interchange, and then pay a toll when the exit the turnpike based on the distance traveled. This means that the toll rates at each interchange vary depending on the entrance/exit point.
However, as of 2018, the Mass Pike has converted to “open-road tolling”. Under this system, toll booths are no longer present at the interchanges nor mainlines. Instead, electronic toll collection gantries are located along the highway between each interchange, with a few exceptions. Vehicles without EZ-PASS will have their license plates photographed and a bill sent in the mail to the location where the vehicle is registered. This is known as “Pay-by-Plate” tolling and is intended to reduce traffic congestion on highways by eliminating the need to slow down or stop at mainline toll plazas.
The following table contains the minimum and maximum toll rates that are assessed for use of the Mass Pike. In most cases, the lowest toll rate is for a 2-axle passenger car or motorcycle with EZ-PASS, and the highest toll rate is for a big rig tractor trailer without EZ-PASS. Pay-by-Plate rates are slightly more expensive due to the administrative costs of mailing bills. Otherwise, toll rates are calculated by the number of axles.
|Toll Gantry||Location||Minimum Toll||Maximum Toll|
|West Stockbridge Toll Gantry (western terminus)||Mile marker 2.9||$3.00 flat-rate||$3.00 flat-rate|
|Lee-Pittsfield Toll Gantry (between exits 1 & 2)||Mile marker 10.1||$0.25||$2.05|
|Blandford Toll Gantry (between exits 2 & 3)||Mile marker 26.25||$1.00||$7.10|
|Westfield Toll Gantry (between exits 3 & 4)||Mile marker 40.86||$0.30||$2.35|
|No toll gantries between exits 4 & 7||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Ludlow Toll Gantry (between exits 7 & 8)||Mile marker 57.68||$0.45||$3.35|
|Warren Toll Gantry (between exits 8 & 9)||Mile marker 69.78||$0.55||$3.90|
|Charlton Toll Gantry (between exits 9 & 10)||Mile marker 89.10||$0.50||$3.75|
|No toll gantries between exits 10 & 11||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Hopkinton Toll Gantry (between exits 11 & 11A)||Mile marker 104.86||$0.45||$3.20|
|Southborough Toll Gantry (between exits 11A & 12)||Mile marker 109.7||$0.25||$1.50|
|Framingham Toll Gantry (between exits 12 & 13)||Mile marker 113.92||$0.25||$1.55|
|Weston Toll Gantry (I-95/MA-128 JCT)||Mile marker 123.0||$1.50 flat-rate||$1.50 flat-rate|
|Allston-Brighton Toll Gantry (Storrow Drive JCT)||Mile marker 131.15||$1.50 flat-rate||$1.50 flat-rate|
|Ted Williams Tunnel Toll Gantry (eastern terminus)||Mile marker 137.24||$3.00 flat-rate||$3.00 flat-rate|