Boston's Cancelled Highways

by Scott Moore

In the late 1960s, the residents of the cities of Boston and Cambridge were bitterly embroiled in a fight between themselves and the government. It was at this time that the Interstate Highway System design was being implemented in the area, and a series of new superhighways were being built in an effort to improve access to the Boston area.

While the new highways would have provided newer roads for suburbanites to gain access into the Boston area, local residents were concerned about the affects that the new highways would have on their neighborhoods. The negative effects of the highways destroying the existing neighborhoods, and displacing thousands of families, were argued to be the greatest reasons for their cancellation.

In the wake of the public outcry, Governor Sargent declared a moratorium on highway construction within the Route 128 belt. The various highway projects, that were in varying states of completion, were cancelled, and the remaining funds were transferred to mass transit projects.

One notable exception to the moratorium was the construction of Interstate 93. A multi-level overhead expressway segment (commonly referred to as the Upper and Lower decks of I-93) was nearing completion at that time. When I-93 was completed in 1972, that marked the end of new highway construction within Route 128.

Today, the "Big Dig" has seen the construction of a third "Harbor" tunnel, the Ted Williams tunnel, and will see the replacement of the elevated Central Artery with a new underground Central Artery. For more information on the Big Dig, please see: Ken Truesdale's CA/T Web Site, or the state's Boston Central Artery/Third Harbor Tunnel Project.

The following images are maps that were created in the 1960s to show the proposed highway system at the time. While one may argue whether or not the area 's transportation woes would have been solved by these highways, the destruction caused by them is indisputable.

The Images

The recommended highway system circa 1962
One note on this map is that an alternate plan existed (not shown) that would have made the Mystic Valley Parkway into a multi-lane highway - creating a second belt. This second belt would have eliminated the need for US 3 to merge with MA 2, as it would have continued southeast to the Mystic Valley Parkway (expressway?).

Inner Beltway (proposed I-695) at the B.U. Bridge heading into Cambridgeport
This map clearly shows the destruction of Cambridgeport that the Inner Beltway would have caused. This particular plan shows the Charles River crossing through a tunnel. The tunnel alignment would have been virtually identical to the bridge option.

Overview of B.U. Bridge Crossing
This is an artist's concept of the Inner Beltway and the interchange with the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Replacement for the B.U. Bridge
This is an artist's concept of the replacement for the B.U. Bridge. The highway was on the upper level, and local traffic was below it. Note the Boston and Albany Railroad Bridge would have remained.

Map of the Mass Turnpike Interchange
This map shows the entire connection between the Inner Beltway and the Mass Turnpike. Note the changes to Memorial Drive, a very scenic road along the Charles River.

More maps and images may be added here at some future date.

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