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From the Archives

The elevated Central Artery

Jan. 1, 1953: This mass of concrete arches was built to hold up the high level roadway that led to Somerville.

Gilbert E. Friedberg, Globe Staff

Jan. 1, 1953: This mass of concrete arches was built to hold up the high level roadway that led to Somerville.

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 actual volume exceeded the capacity the road was designed for.  The last cars rolled along the Central Artery in December 2003, before the completion of the Big Dig, the underground highway with the bright green ribbon of public parks above. -Lane Turner and Lisa Tuite

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