Joining I-91 and Downtown with I-90 and the Mass Pike, Interstate 291 forms an urban loop through the city of Springfield. The freeway is six lanes wide east to Exit 4 / St. James Avenue and four lanes from there north into the city of Chicopee. The connection with the Massachusetts Turnpike is substandard with an at grade intersection joining the access road to I-90 from the freeway end at Burnett Road.
Initial plans for Interstate 291 got underway in 1953, with construction starting the following year. The freeway opened between Interstate 90 and U.S. 20 / Massachusetts Route 20A in 1957. Ensuing work on I-291 did not commence until 1967.1 The final section of I-291 built was a 2.1 mile long segment in Springfield at an estimated cost of $5 million in 1968.2 The last section was completed in 1970.1
The Massachusetts Department of Public Works suggested Route 91C for the proposed loop in Springfield to the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) on April 10, 1958:
This route is a connector between Interstate Routes 90 and 91 in Springfield and is an urban route. The letter “C” was chosen to indicate that this location is a connector between two Interstate routes.
Route 91C was changed to Interstate 291 as part of the proposed numerology for urban areas on the Interstate System for Massachusetts approved by the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) on August 29, 1958.