City of Worcester, MA in the winter

Impact - Route 146/MassPike Connector

The Issue

The construction of the Route 146 Connector between the Massachusetts Turnpike interchange in Millbury and I-290 in Worcester began in 1995, and was scheduled for completion in 1999. The Connector is expected to result in significant improvements to the regional traffic network and to become a major asset to the entire region. In fact, the new MassPike interchange has already contributed to an increase in local housing values. By providing improved access to Worcester and the Blackstone Valley Region, the connector will enhance their attractiveness for both residential and commercial investment. Once the connector is finished, a number of remnant land parcels will become accessible for development. The project will also result in a re-routing of regional traffic, including heavy truck traffic, away from local streets, making Worcester's neighborhoods more attractive. Given the importance of this project to the economic development of this region, the Research Bureau has been regularly monitoring its progress. In 2003, the Research Bureau realized that the project, which was already four years late in completion, would be delayed an additional four years or more. The reason for these new delays was that the Massachusetts Highway Department did not want to work on the I-290 re-decking project scheduled to take three to four years at the same time as the last phases of the Route 146 Connector because of significant traffic congestion that would occur in Worcester. Instead, the Department planned to complete the I-290 project before working on the last leg of the Connector, delaying further the beneficial effects of the latter project for the City and the region. In light of these revelations, the Research Bureau urged Greater Worcester area public officials as well as business and community leaders to monitor the project to ensure its completion at the earliest possible date.

The Results

A month after the release of the Research Bureau's report warning of untimely delays, area lawmakers convened a transportation summit in Worcester to discuss the project with state officials. The local legislative delegation argued for working on the Route 146 Connector and the I-290 re-decking simultaneously. Through the summer of 2003, State highway officials continued to argue for delaying the final and most complicated part of the project, the reconstruction of Brosnihan Square, in order to avoid massive traffic problems through the south end of the City. Finally, in October 2003, the then-Commonwealth Secretary of Transportation Daniel Grabauskas, speaking at a Research Bureau luncheon, announced that both road projects would move forward simultaneously, and the Route 146 Connector would be completed by 2007. As a Telegram & Gazette editorial opined, "Mr. Grabauskas, a Central Massachusetts native, well understands the importance of creating a true gateway that will link the up-and-coming Blackstone Valley with I-290, the vital artery serving the Heart of the Commonwealth" (October 20, 2003).

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