One part engineering triumph and at least one part open urban wound, the old Central Artery began carrying
passenger traffic on June 30, 1959. Rising high over the Charles River, running elevated over the North End, and dipping below Dewey Square, the dull green ribbon of steel and concrete displaced residents, bisected neighborhoods, and gashed a dirty barrier through the heart of downtown Boston. When it opened, the Dewey Square Tunnel was the widest vehicle tunnel in the world. Designed to ease traffic, the Central Artery, like many roadways, soon had the opposite
effect. Just a year after completion, traffic jams were the norm, and volume exceeded the capacity for which the road was designed. The last cars rolled along the Central Artery in December 2003, before the completion of the Big Dig, the underground highway with the green ribbon of public parks above.
This undated photo presents an aerial view, looking north, of Boston before construction of the Central Artery. The present-day Pine Street Inn building can be seen in the lower middle. That building was Fire Department headquarters until 1951 and featured a tall drill tower that was used for training recruits.
Lane Turner and Lisa Tuite