GREENFIELD: The first MHC funded work on what was to become US-5 began in response to a petition dated March 23, 1897 from Greenfield to the MHC. It was to improve a 3100-foot section of road from the Cheapside Bridge north. It was constructed in 1899.
LONGMEADOW: In 1897 the town petitioned the MHC to improve a section of highway from the state lone north. It was finally acted on 15 years later!
WHATELY: In 1899 a plan was submitted to the MHC to begin work on section of roadway from the Deerfield line south.
WHATELY: Between 1900 and 1906 the entire Whately section of highway was improved. However, two narrow NYNH&H RR overpasses were not touched.
DEERFIELD: Between 1900 and 1903 about 7500 feet of highway was improved south of the Greenfield line. This old highway ran through Old Deerfield Center. Starting in 1904 improvements were begun from the center of South Deerfield north.
HATFIELD: Between 1901 and 1911 the entire Hatfield section of roadway was improved.
NORTHAMPTON: Up until about 1901, travelers coming into town from the south would take today's Conz Street (Formally Maple Street) at today's Ally Oops bowling ally. They would then cross the Mill River into town at an old covered bridge on today's Crafts Avenue (Formally South Street). Travelers then had to take Main Street east to King Street... and proceed north.
About 1901 a bridge was built over the Mill River at Wright Avenue to Pleasant Street. Don't bother looking for it today. All traces of it are gone, as are any sign of the covered bridge at Crafts Avenue. However, there is an old section of riverbed beneath the nearby railroad bridge that crosses over today's Hockanum Road near Wright Avenue. Why is there just a riverbed and not a river? That story is nearly 40 years into the future.
GREENFIELD: Between 1903 and 1910 the entire section of today's US-5 from Silver Street to the Bernardston line was reconstructed.
AGAWAM: Between 1903 and 1911 the entire stretch of the old north/south route through Agawam was reconstructed. It ran on today's Main Street north to River Road, then to the old South End Bridge and on to Springfield. The Main Street section later became US-5A, then RT-75.
HOLYOKE: Up until 1905 the highway ran down an old county road to the river from today's Mt.Tom Ski Area entrance along what is now called Brookwood Road. It followed the river to a point just north of the Dinosaur Tracks Reservation. The steep grade on this road necessitated a new layout, as seen today.
DEERFIELD: Around 1910 a section of roadway was relocated in order to eliminate two NYNH&H RR crossings. The old section of roadway is now called Wapping Road.
HOLYOKE: Around 1910 a nearly mile long section of highway was relocated. Up until that time the highway ran along the road the Delaney House restaurant is located on. Originally it crossed today's highway at the northern end of that road then crossed the railroad tracks. The road then ran north near today's Mt.Tom generating station and then recrossed the railroad tracks near the Easthampton line. Relocating the highway to the west side of the tracks eliminated the two dangerous rail crossings.
LONGMEADOW: In 1912/13 reconstruction finally began on Longmeadow Street first petitioned for in 1897. In their 1912 Annual Report the MHC states that the Agawam portion of the north/south highway has been completed for several years, there was still a large gap in Longmeadow. Since the Longmeadow traffic was heavier than that in Agawam, and since much of was made up of heavy trucks, an experimental use of concrete was tried. The state paid for the middle 18' concrete section and the town paid for two 6-foot shoulders paved with bituminous macadam. As for the experimental concrete, it was found to be too uneven and paved over in 1915.
NORTHAMPTON: In 1912 the MHC finally reached an agreement with Northampton to begin work on improving the problematic one 1.5 mile stretch of highway at the Oxbow. In the process a section of old road was relocated. This project was completed in 1916 and finally completed the MHC's north/south highway.
Between 1912 and 1915 other highway improvements were made from the Hatfield line south to today's Damon Road (formally Water Street). During the 1915 work a section of highway was relocated to improve the approaches to a NYNH&H RR underpass. This section of road is now Pine Brook Curve. All signs of the railroad are gone.
EASTHAMPTON: In 1913 the southerly approach to the bridge at the Oxbow was straightened.
WHATELY: Around 1913 the roadway was widened from 12 to 15 and paved with bituminous macadam.
BERNARDSTON: In 1915 the MHC approved funding for the road north into Vermont. This section of road later became part of US-5. Up until that time the highway went east to Northfield. By 1918 work had been planned to the Greenfield line.
HOLYOKE: In 1924 a major improvement project began between the Mt.Tom Ski Area entrance and the Oxbow. The entire road was streamlined and two curves, including the road Delaney House is on, were bypassed. Evidence of the second section of older road was covered by I-91 construction.
BERNARDSTON: In 1926 three minor relocations were made to the earlier 1915 and 1918 layouts in order to straighten the highway.
DEERFIELD: Up until 1927 the old MHC highway, which had just become US-5, ran along Old Main Street in Old Deerfield center. The center was bypassed in 1927.
GREENFIELD: In 1929 two minor alterations were made to the 1903 and 1907 layouts.
EASTHAMPTON/NORTHAMPTON: In 1928 the Oxbow area section of US-5 was rebuilt. A new bridge was built in Easthampton to replace an old steel frame bridge. The grade of the highway was also raised slightly.
DEERFIELD/GREENFIELD: In 1931 a new Cheapside Bridge was constructed over the Deerfield River.
HOLYOKE: In 1934/35 a project widened, straightened, and leveled the grade of Ingleside Street from the "Y" junction of Main Street/Ingleside traffic lights going north. A prime goal of this project was the elimination of a dangerous rail crossing. To that end, an underpass was built and the formally sharp bends in the road were flattened into a smooth s-curve. This entailed extensive excavation and the construction of numerous retaining walls.
WEST SPRINGFIELD: Until 1938 US-5 crossed the Memorial Bridge from Springfield center, followed Memorial Avenue west for a few hundred feet then ran north along Main Street that once was a four-lane road. Near the town common US-5 ran west on Park Street then north onto today's Elm Street (once Riverdale Road from Witch Path north) all the way to the current highway just south of the Showcase Cinemas by Morgan Road. To alleviate congestion in town the first of a number of bypasses was built in 1938. It ran from the North End Bridge north to today's MacDonalds at East Elm Street. At that point it rejoined the older section of US-5. Up until the Riverdale Road Extension was built between the North End and Memorial Bridges, US-5 traffic still flowed on Main Street.
HOLYOKE: In 1936 a major project was undertaken to increase from two lanes to four the entire section of highway between Mt.Tom Ski Area and the Easthampton town line.
BERNARDSTON/GREENFIELD: In 1939 plans were made for a highway relocation of US-5 to eliminate a dangerous curve created by a railroad overpass. The location of this project was at Hales Crossing on the town line.
NORTHAMPTON: Until 1939 the Mill River ran through the center of Northampton necessitating both flood control measures and highway bridges such as the 1901 Wright Avenue bridge to Pleasant Street. After the disastrous floods of 1936 and 1938 massive flood control projects were undertaken in the Valley. One aspect of the projects was to protect vulnerable cities themselves. The other approach was to impound floodwaters upstream.
One 1939 project was the physical diversion of the Mill River into the Oxbow. The project consisted of a massive excavation ditch that runs beneath RT-10 near the old state hospital and a new barrier to block the river's flow down the old riverbed. The diversion itself began about 500' south of the RT-66 bridge over the Mill River. Once the river was diverted, the old riverbed was mostly filled in and the US-5 bridge at Wright Avenue was soon torn down.
"US-5: A Highway to History" © Robb Strycharz, 1996-2006
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