The interstates — built for speed on relatively uncongested land — bypassed downtowns throughout America. Many withered. Some died.
As a child, I wondered why construction zones existed along finished highways. Surely so imposing a structure in concrete, steel and macadam could not be moved by even the hyperborean blasts of New England!
Clearly the serpentine bulk of Interstate 290 that bisected Worcester had not always existed, but I assumed it had materialized in the 1950s, when post-World War II affluence and American confidence — less encumbered by environmental and human considerations than today — had given our nation a modern transportation network.
But I-290 was not as old as I imagined.
Its first mile, from Harrison Street to Belmont Street, opened on Sept. 30, 1960, just two days after Ted Williams’ last game for the Red Sox — in which he famously homered in the final at-bat of his Hall-of-Fame career.
That Friday evening, TV viewers could view the first episode of “The Flintstones,” set in a fanciful Stone Age where cars were made of stone and wood, powered by human feet, and had nothing so grand to run upon as the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.
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Not until the June 1970 opening of the Quinsigamond Bridge could motorists take I-290 to Marlborough. They might have gone farther. Plans called for I-290 to bend southeast through Northborough and Westborough centers to rejoin the Massachusetts Turnpike.
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