Canton to Gloucester
Expressway full length.
128 is shown on the 1930 maps from Quincy, possibly Weymouth. It heads out to Readville and Dedham, then almost due north to West Newton, Waltham and Lexington. It then heads north-east to Woburn, then makes a turn to the east and Stoneham. Northeast to Wakefield, then east to Lynnfield and Peabody.
The 1933 map shows much more detail amd clarity. 128 appears to start in Nantasket. It heads down to MA 3A and is co-signed briefly until it splits to go to Hingham Center. It then runs off the south edge of the detailed map, passes through Accord (along modern MA 228), South Weymouth (via Derby, Oak & Ralph Talbot?) and South Braintree (via Columbian, Grove and Plain Streets?) before heading out to pass south of Dedham on its way up to Highland Ave in Needham; quite possibly along the same route that the highway now occupies. From Needham, it took Highland Ave/Needham St into Newton Highlands. It crossed MA 9 and went up Walnut St to Waltham St. It stayed on Waltham to Newton St, where it crossed the Charles. It turned left onto Main St (US 20), then a right onto Lexington St. Lexington St becomes Waltham St as it crosses from Waltham to Lexington. 128 stays with it up to Mass Ave, which it hops onto to get to Woburn St and into Woburn. Once it crosses the town line, the street becomes Lexington St, and carries 128 up to Pleasant St. It takes Pleasant to Montvale Ave, and Montvale Ave into Stoneham. In Stoneham, it takes Main St north to Elm, and Elm into Wakefield, where it is called Albion St. In Wakefield, it takes New Salem out of town (the connection is not specified; it appears to be Main to Centre to Otis) to Salem St. Salem St bears the 128 number through Lynnfield to Peabody (where it is called Lynnfield St now). At this point, the map does not show if the 128 number carried south into Salem via Boston St.
Between 1939 and 1942, the beginnings of the 128 we know now were beginning to show. The section from MA 138 to MA 109 was 4 lanes and from Lynnfield to near Peabody was also 4-laned. The 128 designation had also been extended into Danvers to end at MA 62.
1946 brings another extension, this time fron Danvers to Gloucester. It appears to leave Danvers on Conant St and head for North Beverly. It them appears to have taken Dodge St to Brimbal Ave, then followed modern MA 22 up to Essex and MA 133 into Gloucester.
1950 brings more change. The 4-laning now continues past Danvers to modern 22. To the west, the 4-laning extends past Lynnfield towards Wakefield, probably to around modern exit 42. The highway is shown as proposed from there down to Rt 9. By 1953, this section was completed, as well as the 4-lane between 133 and MA 127 (western meeting). The section to connect it to the rest is proposed.This connection as well as the section connecting the Rt 9 area to the Dedhamsection, were both completed by 1956. Proposals showed the highway continuing to Braintree, then south to the Plymouth-Norfolk county line at then-128. The extendsion to the eastern junction with 127 (and the highway’s eventual terminus) is shown as under construction. The Gloucster section was completed by 1958.
The southern extension grew in pieces. It was complete to MA 24 by 1959, and then to the county line by 1960. By 1966, the southern tip was cosigned with MA 3; 128 exited at modern exit 15 to carry out to Nantasket and Hull. This did not last long, however. By 1968, 128 had been trimmed back to end at the interchange with 3 in Quincy. The former 128 through Hingham and Hull was renumbered to 228.
128 was trimmed again in 1997 to end at the interchange of I-93 and I-95 in Canton. According to MassHighway’s data, the highway was trimmed to the northern split with I-95 and the only “true” piece of 128 is from there to Gloucester. However, the section of I-95 from Canton to Peabody is co-signed with 128 shields, and the route is commonly referred to as 128.
Dan Moraseski reports that some sections of old 128 were given a temporary 128A number as the highway was put into commission; I haven’t found reference to it on any maps.
In February 2002, MassHighway announced they were considering changes to the 128 designation due to confusion from drivers. Among the possibilities being considered were dropping the 128 designation entirely from the road south of Peabody, or reducing the visibility of the 128 number by removing it from overhead signs. Based on the current state, neither appears to have happened.