By now, the story of why I-95 doesn't go straight through Boston is well known: Bands of determined residents helped convinced Gov. Francis Sargent we really didn't need a couple of superhighways rammed through Boston, Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville - I-95 and the I-695 "inner belt."
But before Sargent cancelled plans for the Southwest Expressway for good in 1972, the state had already taken hundreds of acres of land, demolished hundreds of houses and businesses - and actually begun work on the road.
Today, 50 years later, you can still evidence of the roads that never were, from the stub ramp off I-93 in Somerville to empty lots along Columbus Avenue. And you can, if you're out for a hike, even walk on parts of the road.
The other day, I set out for the northern half of the cloverleaf where Rte. 128 and I-95 were going to meet in Canton.
I took what might be the longest way to walk there: Drove over the Neponset at the Hyde Park/Milton line, veered right and pulled into the parking lot for the canoe launch. I followed the path sign to Fowl Meadow and then started walking. And kept walking. And walking. Until I could hear and then see the traffic on 128 (note: There's currently a fallen tree across the path near the end - you'll either need to carefully make through the large bramble or have thought to bring hip waders so you can walk through the swamp on either side of the path).
The path ends in a short paved section; follow that up, and you're at the exit ramp where traffic from 95 south would've gotten onto 128 north:
Turn to your left and you'll see the MassDOT storage shed that sits a bit further north on that ramp:
There's a path around the right of the shed that gets you back onto the ramp, which ends a few hundred feet into the woods with some dumped asphalt and logs:
At the dumped asphalt, you can get onto the main interstate, or what's left of it, heading south. It ends just past a collection of Jersey barriers - and just before 128:
If you look at a satellite view of the cloverleaf (see below), it looks like it'd be easy to get from the southbound to the northbound side - just walk through a bit of woods. What the view doesn't show, though, is the 15 or 20 foot drop in between. The cloverleaf was built in a large marshland - and had to be raised well above it. In fact, one of the objections to the highway was that it would have destroyed Fowl Meadow, which today is largely a wildlife preserve (on the way back, I saw a couple of deer). But the northbound lanes seemed equally quiet:
The ramp from 128 north to I-95 south:
Oh, look, a sign the state had to take down when it decided Rte. 1 no longer went up along the VFW Parkway (today, the exit towards that road is marked "To 1A"):
If you go, make sure the GPS on your phone is turned on - it's fun to see where you are and figure out which direction you'd be heading if the cloverleaf were actually in operation:
If you want to complete the undone I-95 circuit, head up to Revere for the northern part of the highway that never was.