It seems only yesterday my dad and I watched as construction crews weaved a ribbon of interstate highway west to east through the center of our city of New Bedford.
It sounds so clichéd, especially when you think of all of the country music songs that speak to how the nation's highway system, mostly built after World War II, tore "small-town USA" to shreds.
"They tell us this is progress," Dad said as we walked on dirt pathways that soon would be paved with tar.
I don't remember the neighborhoods razed to make room for this paved highway, but I remember Weld Square before they bulldozed into the ground for Route 18.
I was born in 1958 when US 6-Grand Army Highway was the route to Cape Cod from points west. The interstate changed all that and made US 6 and Downtown New Bedford ghost towns as travelers bypassed the city, favoring the faster, more direct I-195.
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Construction of I-195 from Westport to the New Bedford-Fairhaven border lasted from 1963 to 1966. It wasn't until 1968 that work to extend the highway from Fairhaven to Wareham began.
The extension, which ends at I-495, was finished in 1974.
The first major overhaul of I-195 in the New Bedford area is set to begin this fall. The reconstruction of the I-195 superstructure will cost an estimated $111 million and will include the bridges and ramps over the Route 18 interchange.
The project will also widen the highway to accommodate the influx of motor vehicle traffic that was not foreseen when the high was built some 60 years ago. Anyone who travels on I-195 during morning and afternoon commutes will appreciate this.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has not indicated how long the construction might take.
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