If a Greater Metropolitan road can be the apple of a man’s eye—that’s what the new $18,000,000 Route 128 (once the old and mostly dilapidated circumferential highway around the Hub) is to admiring State Public Works Commissioner William F. Callahan.
You get his infectious enthusiasm for the nearly complete, double-barrel expressway on an inspection trip such as we have just taken with along its 22 miles from Wellesley to Lynnfield.
The trip was part of his constant energizing of builders, engineers and workmen to have 128 open to the public on Aug. 16, less than a month from now.
Throughout the tour the dynamic, quick-talking commissioner displayed as much glee as a child with a toy. He left no doubt 128 will be a Bay State showpiece. He was full of exclamations:
“At Least Massachusetts is going to have one really lovely road! I like such monuments for the public.
“There won’t be anything prettier anywhere—even out in the West!
“Billboards! The public is entitled to a little virgin territory, a little bit of real, unspoiled New England.”
A new 128, first real north-south traffic by-pass for traffic-congested Boston, has been Callahan’s dream for 15 long years.
Into it he has put every bit of his engineering skill and the top innovations—road-side beautification, limited access, road separations, etc.—he has helped pioneer in his record-long tenure as the state’s road-builder. . . .
The trip started at Route 9 in Wellesley. “See,” he said, smiling, “right away you get a view of the Charles River. We’ll put railing along there so no cars can go over and anyone can be injured. And look there. We’ve made all these bridges different for variety. That one’s Old Yankee facing.”
He explained that there are about 45 bridges and under- or over-passes in all.
“I don’t think there’s any other road in America with so many interesting places, even across main railroad lines, certainly not for the length of 128. . . .
We passed Norumbega Park, the reservoir. Time and again he commented. “What a view! Wait until the grass is growing. I’m a sight-seeing man. What views! See why I don’t want any signs. The Governor’s going to take a trip over it with me. He wanted the work pushed, too. He’s very interested.”
Further on: “We want to keep it natural looking, stay away from the artificial. We’re planning now for low-growing shrubs like we have down the Cape and place them along the separation and the sides. It will save mowing costs, too. See that farm over there. That’s New England. What a restful ride the public will have.”
Eventually, he said, he’s going to have turnout places for autoists to stop and enjoy the scenery—one like he’s placed on the mid-Cape road. One point he liked was where a bridge crosses Route 3 in Burlington. From there, across a saddle in the hills, you can see the Custom-house Tower and the big buildings of downtown Boston.
“This,” he exclaimed at the Reading-Wakefield line, “is the most picturesque part. Look at those ramps right through the solid ledge. It’s like up in the mountains.”
He’s anxious about the gravel scars, said it may take two or three years of completely growing to eradicate them completely. He expects 128 to bring a boom in house-building and business in its vicinity. But the state owns a 200-foot right-of-way (in some places 500-foot) and that should keep the road scenic. If towns along the route cooperate—and he said most have—it will also keep the road sign free. . . .
"Politics and Politicians: Of All of Callahan’s Highways, Route 128 Seems to Be 'It,'” by John Harris. Boston Globe, July 22, 1951.