Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Central Artery Endures

For decades, Fenway Park wasn't the only place in Boston you could find a Green Monster. There was also the green-painted elevated highway—the Central Artery—that snaked through Boston and cut off downtown Boston from the North End and the neighborhood. The Central Artery carried I-93 and tens of thousands of cars every day through the heart of the city.

Now that the Big Dig is over (Actually, is it over?), the North End and Waterfront have been reconnected to the city, the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway has replaced the ugly green monster with open parkland, and all remnants of the Central Artery have been demolished and removed, right?

Well, not exactly. If you go to Congress Street where it crosses the Greenway, between Purchase Street and Atlantic Avenue, you'll find a solitary green beam. Right behind the beam is one of the ventilation buildings for the Big Dig tunnels and an exit ramp from the underground highway that has allowed the Greenway to blossom above it. It's sort of a singular view of the old and the new. I believe there is another remnant of the Central Artery near Clinton Street along the Greenway. Love it or hate it, there's no doubt that the Central Artery was an important part of Boston history for about 50 years. On the plus side, it was a vital transportation link for the metropolitan area. On the other hand, it wasn't an achievement in urban planning by cutting off areas of the city from downtown. I like that these beams were kept as reminders of the Artery. The Boston Globe had an article a few weeks ago on Vincent F. Zarrilli, a Charlestown resident who wants to erect a plaque or monument to the Artery somewhere on the Greenway. It's an interesting idea. I wouldn't be in favor of anything very large or placed separately on the Greenway, but I think it would be a good idea to place a plaque or some sort of interpretive panel on or next to the beam on Congress Street to explain what it is and briefly tell the story of the Central Artery--good and bad.


adamg said...

There's another one right next to Quincy Market that isn't a monument to Curt Schilling even though it has "38" on it (photo and explanation).

Chris Klein said...

I had read there was another one near Clinton Street. I'll have to check that one out. Maybe they can put some red paint on it in honor of Curt.