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Route 128 shield
Route 128
Length: 57.58[1] mi (92.67 km)
Formed: by 1927
South end: I-93.svgI-95.svgUS 1.svg I-93/I-95/US 1 in Canton
Mass Pike I-90.svg I-90 in Weston
MA Route 2.svg Route 2 in Lexington
US 3.svg US 3 in Burlington
I-93.svg I-93 in Reading
US 1.svg US 1 in Lynnfield
I-95.svg I-95 in Peabody
North end: MA Route 127A.svg Route 127A in Gloucester
Massachusetts State Highway Routes
< Route 127A Route 129 >

Route 128, also known as the Yankee Division Highway (for the 26th Infantry Division), and originally the Circumferential Highway, is a partial beltway around Boston, Massachusetts, United States. The majority of the highway is built to freeway standards, and about 3/5 of it is part of the Interstate Highway System. With the rapid growth of high-technology industry in the suburban areas along Route 128 from the 1960s to the 1980s, Route 128 came to symbolize the Boston high-tech community itself. However, today the industry has expanded significantly onto Interstate 495 as well, the next beltway out.[2]

In local culture, Route 128 is seen as something of a dividing line between the inner municipalities of Greater Boston and the more far-flung suburbs. The road's roughly 10-mile (16 km) radius, for example, also delimits most of the area accessible by the MBTA rapid transit system. Much of the area within Route 128 was developed before World War II, while the area outside it was developed more recently.

The south end of Route 128 is in Canton, where Interstate 95 heads south toward Providence, Rhode Island, just east of the Northeast Corridor's Route 128 Station. Common usage, as well as signs until 1997, continues Route 128 east along the first 7 miles (11 km) of Interstate 93 to the Braintree Split in Braintree, where I-93 turns north with Route 3 toward downtown Boston. This section of former Route 128 serves as the north end of Route 24 to Fall River. (Until 1965, Route 128 continued further, southeast along Route 3 and roughly north on Route 228 to Hull.)

From Canton, Route 128 and Interstate 95 heads northwest, north, northeast and east around the Boston area to Peabody, where I-95 splits to head north toward Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Along this section, Route 128 has major interchanges with Interstate 90 (the Mass Pike), Route 2, U.S. Route 3, and Interstate 93. On roads approaching Route 128 here, guide signs only list I-95; Route 128 shields are in a separate sign assembly. U.S. Route 1 has also run along Route 128 near Dedham since 1989, forming a three-way wrong-way concurrency, with I-95 and Route 128 going one way and US 1 the other. (US 1 continues east on I-93 — former Route 128 — to Braintree, and turns north there with I-93 into Boston.)

After it splits from I-95 in Peabody, Route 128 continues east into Cape Ann. The freeway (termed a highway or expressway in Massachusetts) ends at a rotary with Route 127 in Gloucester, and the last bit of Route 128 is a surface road that bypasses downtown Gloucester to the northeast. After crossing Route 127 again (Route 127 runs in a loop through Gloucester and Rockport), Route 128 ends at Route 127A east of downtown Gloucester.


The road

The route 128 number dates from the origin of the Massachusetts highway system in the 1920s. By the 1950s, it ran from Nantasket Beach in Hull to Gloucester. The first, 27-mile (43 km), section of the current limited-access highway from Braintree to Gloucester was opened in 1951. It was the first limited-access circumferential highway in the United States.

Since 1997, the south end of Route 128 has been in Canton, where Interstate 95 south leaves the beltway and Interstate 93 north begins. U.S. Route 1 north continues straight.

Route 128 runs concurrently with Interstate 95 from Canton north to Peabody and, when I-95 continues north from Peabody toward New Hampshire, east from Peabody to Gloucester. Until the early 1990s, it also ran concurrently with the present Interstate 93 from Canton to Braintree. This stretch of Interstate 93, which is now also designated as part of U.S. Route 1, though no longer officially part of Route 128, is still often referred to as "Route 128" by locals. The I-95 and I-93 signage were added in the mid-1970s when plans to construct I-95 through Boston, directly connecting the two I-95/Route 128 interchanges, were cancelled. An unused cloverleaf in Canton, now removed, was the one leftover structure from this plan.

Until 1965, while and shortly after the Route 3 freeway to Cape Cod was fully finished, the section of current Route 3 between exits 15 and 20 was also designated as Route 128. The route's southern end was then truncated to its intersection with Route 3 in Braintree. The non-freeway section of Route 128 from Route 3 through Hingham to Nantasket was redesignated Route 228. The Massachusetts Highway Department has tried twice, in 1997 and 2003, to truncate 128 even further, back to its intersection with I-95 in Peabody, but local opposition has convinced them to back down. A reflection of these attempts are along every interchange, where the main signage on the intersecting route indicates the highway as I-95, while smaller signage to the sides also identifies the road as Route 128.

The north end of Route 128 is at Route 127A in Gloucester. The sign pointing Route 127A south straight is incorrect; it is actually to the right, where the sign points "ALT 127".

The area along the western part of Route 128 is home to a number of high-technology firms and corporations. This part of Route 128 has been dubbed "America's Technology Highway", and through to the end of the 1980s, was second only to Silicon Valley.

Route 128 makes more than a 180-degree arc around Boston, and clockwise is "north" even when the road heads slightly south of east when approaching the Atlantic Ocean. Hackers in the area refer to this as going "logical north" on the route. Interstate 93, going north-and-south, intersects Route 128, which nominally goes north-and-south, at a right angle, about 15 miles (24 km) north of Boston. A traveller going "logical south" on 128 (compass west) from the I-93 interchange will soon find himself driving due west, travelling logically south on 128 and I-95, and north on US 3 in a wrong-way concurrency.

Like the I-95 signage mapping onto 128, the mapping of US 3 onto this stretch of 128 is due to US 3 as a separate limited access highway terminating in Burlington on 128 instead of further south at Route 2 in Lexington as originally envisioned. This abrupt termination requires the US 3 signage to continue along 128 for somewhat over a mile until it can interchange the old US 3 surface arterial. Moreover, when I-93 and Route 128 ran concurrently south of Boston, before the route was truncated to the I-95 interchange in Canton, they were signed in opposite directions, so it was possible to travel north on I-93 and south on Route 128 at the same time.

Much of Route 128 is now part of the Interstate system, being concurrent with I-95 (and formerly I-93). However, the vast majority of locals will refer to these stretches as 128; it is uncommon for a local to use the Interstate designation(s) in ordinary conversation or while giving directions.

Exit 10 is signed heading northbound as the at-grade intersection with Route 127.

The northernmost several exits along Route 128, past exit 12, are not grade-separated interchanges. Exit 10 is signed as the signalized intersection with Route 127, and there are two rotaries between that and exit 12 (the Crafts Road interchange).

In the 1990s, the exit system was changed from concurrency along 128 to a system using the I-95 exits. The exits, which had gone from Gloucester to Braintree, were renumbered along I-95, from the Rhode Island state line to the border with New Hampshire. Exit 37 had been the interchange with I-93, which also had its exit numbered 37 at that interchange. Coincidentally, with the renumbering, exit 37 remained exit 37.

Route 128 Station is located along the highway in Westwood, Massachusetts and is served by Amtrak's Northeast Corridor line and MBTA commuter rail.

The high-tech region

In 1955, Business Week ran an article titled "New England Highway Upsets Old Way of Life" and referred to Route 128 as "the Magic Semicircle". By 1958, it needed to be widened from six to eight lanes, and business growth continued. In 1957, there were 99 companies employing 17,000 workers along 128; in 1965, 574; in 1973, 1,212. In the 1980s, the positive effects of this growth on the Massachusetts economy were dubbed the "Massachusetts Miracle".

Major companies located in the broader Route 128 area included Digital Equipment Corporation, Data General, Thermo Electron Corporation, Analog Devices, Computervision, GTE, Polaroid, Sun Microsystems, BEA Systems and Raytheon.



Surface roads and south Circumferential Highway

Route 128 was assigned by 1927[3] along local roads, running from Route 138 in Milton around the west side of Boston to Route 107 (Essex Street or Bridge Street) in Salem. Its route was as follows:

Town Streets
Milton Milton Street
Boston (Hyde Park) Neponset Valley Parkway, Milton Street
Dedham Milton Street, High Street, Common Street, West Street
Needham Dedham Avenue, Highland Avenue
Newton Needham Street, Winchester Street, Centre Street, Walnut Street, Crafts Street, Waltham Street
Waltham High Street, Newton Street, Main Street (U.S. Route 20), Lexington Street
Lexington Waltham Street, Massachusetts Avenue (Route 2A, now Route 4/Route 225), Woburn Street
Woburn Lexington Street, Pleasant Street, Montvale Avenue
Stoneham Montvale Avenue, Main Street (Route 28), Elm Street
Wakefield Albion Street, North Avenue, Water Street, Vernon Street, New Salem Street, Salem Street
Lynnfield Salem Street
Peabody Lynnfield Street, Washington Street, Main Street
Salem Boston Street

By 1928, it had been extended east to Quincy from its south end along the following streets, ending at the intersection of Route 3 and Route 3A (now Route 3A and Route 53):[4]

Town Streets
Quincy Washington Street, Hancock Street, Adams Street
Milton Adams Street, Centre Street, Canton Avenue, Dollar Lane

The first section of the new Circumferential Highway, in no way the freeway that it is now, was the piece from Route 9 in Wellesley around the south side of Boston to Route 3 (now Route 53) in Hingham. Parts of this were built as new roads, but most of it was along existing roads that were improved to handle the traffic. In 1931, the Massachusetts Department of Public Works acquired a right-of-way from Route 138 in Canton through Westwood, Dedham and Needham to Route 9 in Wellesley. This was mostly 80 feet (24 m) wide, only shrinking to 70 feet (21 m) in Needham, in the area of Great Plain Avenue and the Needham Line. Much of this was along new alignment, but about half — mostly in Needham — was along existing roads:

  • Royall Street from west of Route 138 to east of Green Street (Canton)
  • Green Lodge Street from Royall Street (now cut by Route 128) to Route 128 Station (Canton and Westwood)
  • Greendale Avenue from Lyons Street and Common Street just south of the Charles River to Hunting Avenue (Dedham and Needham)
  • Fremont Street north from Highland Avenue (Needham)
  • Reservoir Street from Central Avenue to Route 9 (Needham and Wellesley)[5]

From Route 138 in Canton east through the Blue Hills Reservation in Canton, Milton, Quincy and Braintree, Norfolk County acquired a right-of-way in 1927[6] and built the Blue Hill River Road. This tied into West Street in northwest Braintree, which itself had been taken over by the county in 1923.[7]

West Street led to Route 37, which ran southeast to Braintree center. This part of Route 37 had been taken over by the state in 1919 (to Braintree center)[8] and 1917 (in Braintree center).[9]

The rest of the new highway, from Route 37 east to Route 3 (now Route 53), through Braintree, Weymouth and Hingham, was taken over by the state in 1929. This was all along existing roads, except possibly the part of Park Avenue west of Route 18 in Weymouth.[10]

By 1933,[11] the whole Circumferential Highway had been completed, and, except for the piece from Route 9 in Wellesley south to Highland Avenue in Needham, was designated as Route 128. Former Route 128 along Highland Avenue into Needham center was left unnumbered (as was the Circumferential Highway north of Highland Avenue), but the rest of former Route 128, from Needham center east to Quincy, became part of Route 135. Thus the full route of the Circumferential Highway, as it existed by 1933, is now the following roads:

Town Streets
Hingham Derby Street, Old Derby Street
Weymouth Ralph Talbot Street, Park Avenue, Columbian Street
Braintree Columbian Street, Grove Street, Washington Street (Route 37), Franklin Street (Route 37), West Street, closed road in the Blue Hills Reservation
Quincy closed road in the Blue Hills Reservation (partly upgraded on the spot to Route 128), Blue Hill River Road
Milton Blue Hill River Road, Hillside Street
Canton Blue Hill River Road, Royall Street, Green Lodge Street (cut by the Route 128/Interstate 95 interchange)
Westwood Blue Hill Drive (cut by Route 128 Station, and later upgraded on the spot as northbound Route 128)
Dedham and Westwood upgraded on the spot as northbound Route 128 (under U.S. Route 1) and then mostly in the median
Needham Greendale Avenue, Hunting Road, southbound Route 128 under Highland Avenue, Reservoir Street
Wellesley inside the present Route 9 interchange

At the same time as Route 128 was extended along the new Circumferential Highway, it was extended further into Hull. This alignment, not part of the Circumferential Highway, ran southeast on Route 3 (now Route 53) (Whiting Street) to the border of Hingham and Norwell, where it turned north on present Route 228 (Main Street) through Hingham and into Hull. The exact route through Hingham was Main Street, Short Street, Leavitt Street, East Street, and Hull Street. The end of the numbered route was at the south end of Nantasket Beach, where Nantasket Avenue curves northwest to follow the shore of Massachusetts Bay.[12]

West and north Circumferential Highway and extension to Gloucester

Upgrading to freeway standards and designation as an Interstate


9 west approaching 128 north.jpgWashington south approaching elm in Dedham.jpg Signs installed before Interstate 95 was moved onto Route 128 in the 1970s prominently displayed the Route 128 designation. Even though it was built to freeway standards, Route 128 was never initially intended to be part of the Interstate system.

The left sign was an overhead on Route 9 westbound for the interchange with 128 in Wellesley. This sign was replaced in 2009 with one indicating only the I-95 designation.
The right sign was located on Washington Street approaching Elm Street in Dedham, and has since been removed.
I-90 east at I-95.jpg Signage on Interstate 90 - the Massachusetts Turnpike - clearly shows both routes.

Westbound Exit 15 signage also shows both routes, and the signs remain present.
Old US 1 south at I-95 in Dedham.jpgWalnut Street south at 95 north.jpg After I-95 was moved to Route 128, new signs instead featured only that designation, with Route 128 marked only on separate sign assemblies.

The left signage is present on US-1 northbound at its junction with I-95 (Exits 15A-B) in Dedham.
The right signage is present on Walnut Street in Lynnfield, at the Exit 43 ramps to/from I-95.
I-95 south exit 45.jpgI-95 south exit 44.jpg Other than on the Mass Pike, the only overhead signs to include both I-95 and Route 128 are near their northern split in Peabody.

All signage in both directions for the I-95/Route 128 split was replaced in 2009 with I-95 the sole designation south of the split (with ground signage for 128 present). The right signage (at Exit 44 southbound) is the only remaining overhead on I-95 showing the Route 128 designation.
US 1 north at I-95 128 old sign.jpg The overhead sign on U.S. Route 1 north at the exit to Route 128 in Lynnfield, near the split in Peabody, originally indicated both directions of Route 128. (I-95 is only marked south because a more direct ramp to I-95 north exists straight ahead.) A standard sign assembly for Route 128 south was also installed.
US 1 north at I-95 128.jpg When the above sign was replaced in 2003 or 2004, Route 128 south was removed.
US 1 north ramp to I-95 128.jpg Overhead signage on the ramp from US 1 north to Route 128 similarly only shows Route 128 north.
Independence south at 3 north.jpgRamp from independence to 3 north.jpg Until 1997, Route 128's south end was at the Braintree Split in Braintree. Several signs for Route 3 in that area still indicated that in 2001.

Exit list

This exit list covers all of Route 128 as it existed before 1997.

Its stretch north of I-95, as well as the rest of its length before I-95 exit numbering was applied, has decreasing exit numbers as you travel northbound (contrary to almost all highways in the U.S. with numbered exits). Additionally, the lowest exit number on the highway is Exit 10 (which is an at-grade intersection near the highway's northern end). Route 128 is also the only highway in the state to contain directional exit division (N/S or E/W after the number, as opposed to the traditional A/B/C in Massachusetts).

Route 128 currently has 18 numbered interchanges, starting at 29 (southbound) and continuing to 10 (Exit 27, an at-grade intersection, was removed, and there is no Exit 11).

Milepost Municipality # Destinations Notes
Braintree 69 I-93.svgUS 1.svgMA Route 3.svg Interstate 93 north; U.S. Route 1 north; Route 3 north - Boston southbound exit and northbound entrance
69 7 MA Route 3.svg Route 3 south - Cape Cod southbound exit and northbound entrance
68 6 MA Route 37.svg Route 37 - Braintree; Holbrook
Randolph 67 5 MA Route 28.svg Route 28 - Randolph; Milton split into 5A and 5B
66 4 MA Route 24.svg Route 24 south - Brockton; Fall River
2.978 Milton 65 3 Ponkapoag Trail - Houghton's Pond
1.781 Canton 61
64 2 MA Route 138.svg Route 138 - Stoughton; Milton split into 2A and 2B
63 1 I-95.svg Interstate 95 south - Providence, RI I-95 joins northbound and leaves southbound; I-93 ends southbound and begins northbound. This interchange has unused ramps and an unused bridge that would have been part of the Southwest Corridor project.
Dedham 59 62 13 University Avenue - MBTA/Amtrak station
Westwood 58 61 14 East Street; Canton Street
29.32 Dedham 57
60 15 US 1.svg to Route 1A; U.S. Route 1 south - Dedham; Norwood split into 15A and 15B
30.82 55B
59 16 MA Route 109.svg Route 109 - Dedham; Westwood split into 16A and 16B
32.3 55 58 17 MA Route 135.svg Route 135 - Needham; Natick Norfolk County Correctional Center is in the median of Route 128 located on Route 135.
32.77 Needham 54A 57 18 Great Plain Avenue - Dedham; West Roxbury
35.55 54
56 19 Highland Avenue - Newton Highlands; Needham split into 19A and 19B
36.6 Wellesley 52
55 20 MA Route 9.svg Route 9 - Brookline; Boston; Framingham; Worcester split into 20A and 20B
Newton 50
54 21 MA Route 16.svg Route 16 - Newton; Waban; West Newton; Wellesley split into 21A and 21B southbound
53 22 Grove Street - MBTA station; Auburndale
Weston 52 23 Recreation Road northbound exit and entrance
39.218 51 24 MA Route 30.svg Route 30 - Newton; Wayland
50 25 Mass Pike I-90.svg Interstate 90 - Mass Pike; Worcester
Waltham 44
49 26 US 20.svg U.S. Route 20 - Waltham; Weston
43.09 42A 48 27 Totten Pond Road; Wyman Street; Winter Street - Waltham split into 27A and 27B
44.35 42 47 28 Trapelo Road - Belmont; Lincoln split into 28A and 28B northbound
45.22 Lexington 41
46 29 MA Route 2.svg Route 2 - Arlington; Cambridge; Acton; Fitchburg split into 29A and 29B
46.3 39
45 30 MA Route 2A.svg Route 2A - East Lexington; Hanscom Field; Concord split into 30A and 30B
48.5 37
44 31 MA Route 4.svgMA Route 225.svg - Lexington; Bedford split into 31A and 31B
49.87 Burlington 35A 43 32A US 3.svg U.S. Route 3 north - Lowell; Nashua, NH US 3 joins northbound and leaves southbound
35 42 32B Middlesex Turnpike - Arlington; Burlington
51.565 34
41 33 US 3.svgMA Route 3A.svg U.S. Route 3 south; Route 3A north - Winchester; Burlington; Billerica split into 33A and 33B; US 3 joins southbound and leaves northbound
52.44 32 40 34 Winn Street - Burlington; Woburn; Billerica
Woburn 31
39 35 MA Route 38.svg Route 38 - Woburn; Wilmington
38 36 Washington Street - Woburn; Winchester
55.151 Reading 37 37 I-93.svg Interstate 93 - Boston; Concord, NH split into 37A and 37B
36 38 MA Route 28.svg Route 28 - Stoneham; Reading split into 38A and 38B
57.590 Wakefield 35 39 North Avenue - Reading; Wakefield
34 40 MA Route 129.svg Route 129 - Wakefield Center; Wilmington
59.11 Lynnfield 33 41 Main Street - Lynnfield Center; Wakefield
60.669 Wakefield 32 42 Salem Street - Wakefield
61.319 Lynnfield 31 43 Walnut Street - Saugus; Lynn; Lynnfield
Peabody 30 44 US 1.svgMA Route 129.svg U.S. Route 1; Route 129 - Boston; Danvers split into 44A and 44B northbound
2.365 29 I-95.svg Interstate 95 north - Portsmouth, NH I-95 joins southbound and leaves northbound
28 Forest Street; Centennial Drive Summit Street, an at-grade intersection, was "exit 27"
18 26 Lowell Street - Peabody; Salem
3.71 17
25 MA Route 114.svg Route 114 - Salem; Marblehead; Middleton split into 25A and 25B
4.42 Danvers 15A 24 Endicott Street
5.13 23 MA Route 35.svg Route 35 - Salem; Danvers split into 23N and 23S
5.73 22 MA Route 62.svg Route 62 - Beverly; Danvers; Middleton split into 22W and 22E northbound
21 Trask Lane - Folly Hill northbound exit and entrance
21 Conant Street - Industrial Park southbound exit and entrance
7.45 Beverly 20 MA Route 1A.svg Route 1A - Beverly; Hamilton split into 20A and 20B
8.100 19 Sohier Road; Brimbal Avenue - Beverly; Montserrat
9.329 18 MA Route 22.svg Route 22 - Essex; Wenham; Beverly
11.406 Wenham 17 Grapevine Road - Beverly Farms; Prides Crossing; Wenham
13.03 Manchester 16 Pine Street - Manchester; Magnolia
14.391 15 School Street - Manchester; Magnolia
17.469 Gloucester 14 MA Route 133.svg Route 133 - West Gloucester; Gloucester Harbor; Essex; Ipswich
18.193 13 Concord Street - Wingaersheek Beach
18.942 12 Crafts Road - Rust Island
11 MA Route 127.svg Route 127 north - Annisquam; Pigeon Cove Grant Circle
Blackburn Industrial Park Boulevard Blackburn Circle
21.6 10 MA Route 127.svg Route 127 - Gloucester; Manchester; Rockport at-grade intersection
21.769 9 MA Route 127A.svg Route 127A - State Pier; Bass Rocks; Rockport; Eastern Point at-grade intersection


  1. ^ Executive Office of Transportation, Office of Transportation Planning - 2005 Road Inventory
  2. ^ Mass High Tech: The Journal of New England Technology
  3. ^ 1927 Rand McNally Boston and vicinity map
  4. ^ 1928 map of numbered routes in Boston and vicinity, prepared by the Massachusetts Department of Public Works for the New England Affairs Bureau, Boston Chamber of Commerce
  5. ^ MassHighway state highway layout plans:
    • Canton: 2807 (July 14, 1931)
    • Westwood: 2808 (July 14, 1931); 2831 (October 13, 1931)
    • Dedham: 2806 (July 14, 1931); 2833 (October 13, 1931)
    • Needham: 1832 (October 13, 1931); 2858 (December 22, 1931)
    • Wellesley: 2857 (December 22, 1931)
  6. ^ MassHighway state highway layout plan 3960
  7. ^ MassHighway state highway layout plan 6741
  8. ^ MassHighway state highway layout plan 1823 (June 24, 1919)
  9. ^ MassHighway state highway layout plan 1765 (September 4, 1917)
  10. ^ MassHighway state highway layout plans:
    • Hingham: 2604 (September 3, 1929)
    • Weymouth: plan 2603 is missing
    • Braintree: 2602 (September 3, 1929)
  11. ^ 1933 General Drafting Boston and vicinity map
  12. ^ 1937 Massachusetts Department of Public Works map of Hull


  • Susan Rosegrant, David R. Lampe, Route 128: Lessons from Boston's High-Tech Community, Basic Books, 1992, ISBN 0-465-04639-8. The story of the Boston high-tech industry, starting from its 19th-century roots.

External links


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