Additional entrance point to I-93 South

A major meeting of the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) board recently culminated in a concrete step toward alleviating local traffic around the I-93/I-95 interchange.

WOBURN – A major meeting of the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) board recently culminated in a concrete step toward alleviating local traffic around the I-93/I-95 interchange.

A key aspect of the plan will provide Washington Street traffic with an additional entrance point to I-93 South. Rather than first traveling onto I-95, commuters will access I-93 South via a short new on-ramp at the end of Woburn’s Cedar Street, beyond BJ’s Wholesale Club and Kelly Nissan.

This proposed roadway enhancement is not expected to require any land takings from local businesses or residents. The project will, however, benefit from two small land donations. Kelly Nissan and Woburn-based Cummings Properties are offering the land at no cost to the City or Commonwealth.

“This is a project with great potential to reduce traffic congestion not only for our residents and area businesses but also for our neighboring communities,” Mayor Scott Galvin said.

The concept of a Cedar Street on-ramp was initially conceived by Cummings Properties, which then advanced it successfully with Galvin in collaboration with Ward 5 Councilor Darlene Mercer-Bruen and the Woburn City Council.

“We are pleased to continue our active advocacy of a project whose far-reaching impact will benefit our clients, their visitors, and the greater Woburn community,” said Cummings Properties chairman and CEO Dennis Clarke.

The MPO has engaged its Central Transportation Planning Staff to assess the project’s potential benefits. Its formal study will complement the ongoing fact-finding efforts of the project advisory committee named by Galvin last year to help advance the project.

Brian Murrihy, executive project leader at Cummings, has been appointed to chair the mayor’s project advisory committee. The advisory committee also includes Mercer-Bruen and local business owner of Locks and Keys and Accurate Glass, John Casey.

“The core benefits of the Cedar Street on-ramp proposal are its potential to alleviate both interchange and local road congestion, at a very low estimated project cost,” said Murrihy. “The creation of a supplementary on-ramp to I-93 is readily constructible, and will yield a dramatic improvement to traffic in Woburn and surrounding communities, and create additional capacity on the vital I-93 and I-95 regional corridors.”

Ward 5 Councilor Darlene Mercer Bruen said, “Woburn’s unique partnership with its business community and residents has already helped to expedite this project and bring us one step closer to relieving traffic up and down Washington Street. I look forward to extending that partnership to our friends in Reading, Stoneham, and Winchester, who also feel the burden of this congested corridor.”

A detailed overview and video presentation of the proposed improvements to the I-93/I-95 interchange are available at improve93s.com.

Local officials began exploring the idea of using the Cedar Street slip-ramp to alleviate area traffic congestion back in 2018, when City Engineer Jay Corey, Mercer-Bruen, and Cummings officials dusted off a nearly identical, but decades-old proposal from MassHighway.

According to an initial cost estimate presented by Corey to the City Council in 2019, roughly $8.5 million would be needed to create the new highway link. The new connection onto I-93 southbound would sit between the highway’s I-93/95 interchange ramps and the Montvale Avenue exit.

Cedar Street is a dead-end roadway off of Washington Street by Salem Street that is bordered by BJ’s Wholesale and a mix of other commercial entities.

With the dead-end just a short-distance away from I-93 southbound, proponents of the slip-ramp say the cheap traffic solution will pull hundreds if not thousands of cars off the busy Washington Street corridor. That immediate relief to vehicular congestion would then presumably create a ripple effect on other surrounding commuter thoroughfares, including high-traffic residential streets in neighboring Reading and Stoneham.

Back in the winter of 2020, Galvin agreed to further advance the transportation initiative by allocating $45,000 in city funding to hire an engineering firm to create a so-called 25 percent design plan for the concept. Completion of those draft design documents was viewed as an essential element of convincing state and federal officials to back the new highway connection.

The idea of erecting a slip-ramp onto I-93 from Cedar Street was first floated nearly two decades ago as part of MassHighway's doomed 2001 version of an I-93/95 interchange replacement project.

Under that larger ill-fated design, state transportation planners proposed the construction of a sprawling flyover ramp system that would have required widespread takings of private homes in Woburn, Reading, and Stoneham.

The slip-ramp was pitched as a temporary measure that would be implemented during the eventual construction of that cloverleaf replacement. However, in the face of a public uproar, MassHighway (now MassDOT) created a special task force in 2002 to reconsider the project.

Ultimately, that 2001 design was shelved in favor of two potential alternatives, one of which was advanced by MassDOT in 2007. State transportation officials have since indefinitely shelved the cloverleaf improvement plans.

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