Central Artery Article

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Central Artery
John F. Fitzgerald Expressway
Route information
Maintained by MassDOT
Length3.18 mi [1] (5.12 km)
I‑93 / US 1 / Route 3
Major junctions
South end I‑93 / US 1 / Route 3 in Boston
  I‑90 ( Mass Pike) in Boston
Route 3 / Route 28 in Boston
North end I‑93 / US 1 at the Zakim Bridge in Charlestown
Highway system

The Central Artery (officially the John F. Fitzgerald Expressway) is a section of freeway in downtown Boston, Massachusetts; it is designated as Interstate 93, US 1 and Route 3.

The original Artery, constructed in the 1950s, was named after John F. Fitzgerald; it was partly- elevated and partly- tunneled. Its reputation for congestion inspired the local nicknames "The Distressway," "the largest parking lot in the world", and "the other Green Monster" (the paint of the highway girders shared the same color as the left field wall at Fenway Park). [2] The Artery was majorly rerouted during a 10-year period from the mid-1990s through the early 2000s as part of the Central Artery/Tunnel Project (the " Big Dig"). The present-day Artery is almost entirely directed through the newly-constructed O'Neill Tunnel, while the original Artery was demolished and replaced with the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, named after the daughter of John F. Fitzgerald and the mother of John F. Kennedy.

According to Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation data, the Central Artery runs from the Massachusetts Avenue Connector just beyond Andrew Square in South Boston north to the split with U.S. Route 1 in Charlestown. [3] Along with the harbor tunnels and the Turnpike from Route 128 to East Boston, it is part of the Metropolitan Highway System.


A 1920 plan for Boston's Central Artery, based on the West Side Elevated Highway
Traffic on the former Central Artery at mid-day (Demolished in 2003)

The highway itself was planned as early as the 1920s. The above-ground Artery was built in two sections. First was the part north of High Street and Broad Street to the Tobin Bridge, built between 1951 and 1954. [4] Immediately, residents began to hate the new highway and the way it towered over and separated neighborhoods. Due to this opposition, the southern end of the Central Artery through the South Station area was built underground, through what became known as the Dewey Square Tunnel. Eventually, the entire highway was moved underground as part of the Big Dig Project. The Dewey Square Tunnel was the one part of the original Artery not torn down; it now serves southbound traffic. The idea of building the entire Artery underground was first floated in the 1970s emanating from the central artery depression concept developed by the Boston Transportation Planning Review. The final section through the Dewey Square Tunnel and on to the Southeast Expressway at Massachusetts Avenue opened in 1959.

The highway gradually became more and more congested as other highway projects meant to complement the Artery were canceled. These included the Inner Belt project, which would have taken through traffic off the Artery and the Massachusetts Turnpike Extension coming in from the west. The Southwest Expressway would have been the route of Interstate 95 from Canton into Boston, and would have tied into the Inner Belt of I-695.

Modifications of the above-ground Artery which was in service until its demolition in 2003 included an additional interchange for the Massachusetts Turnpike (Mass Pike) extension which was completed in 1965, the removal of several on and off-ramps and the reworking in the late 1980s of the Tobin Bridge interchange. The Central Artery North Area (CANA) project placed the above ground ramps from the Artery underground into the City Square Tunnel in Charlestown and resulted in a reworking of the interchange at the north end, placing the northbound offramp from the east side to the west side, and eliminating dangerous weaving across the lanes of the Charlestown High Bridge which required traffic coming from Storrow Drive and wanting to go to Charlestown to cross three lanes of traffic in only a tenth of a mile.

In September 2017, a new park was opened beneath the Central Artery adjacent to the Ink Block section of Boston's South End. The $8.5 million park has a dog park, new lighting, boardwalks, murals, and 175 parking spaces. The artwork in the public space was created by street artists from around the United States. [5]

Exit lists

Southbound Interstate 93 beneath the streets of Boston

The original Central Artery did not have any exit numbers. These were added after the roadway was designated as I-93 in 1974. Many of these exits either do not exist or no longer resemble their original forms. Exits 19, 21, and 25 were completely eliminated. 20 and 26 were separated northbound and southbound; 20 northbound uses the old exit 19 location in South Bay, while southbound begins at the portal to the renovated Dewey Square Tunnel (now completely enclosed by Big Dig construction; 26 northbound begins just shy of the tunnel exit onto the Zakim Bridge, while 26 southbound is located in Charlestown's Sullivan Square near northbound exit 28 at the portal to the double decked section of I-93 and feeds onto the Leverett Circle Connector bridge. 22 continued to exist as an offramp to Chinatown from the southbound (former northbound) Dewey Square tunnel until the ramp was closed off in 2004. 23 exists both northbound and southbound and leads to the Scollay Square area. 24 now exits to Haymarket Square and MA-1A (the Callahan Tunnel). Much of the reconfiguration of on and offramps (particularly the wide separations of the ramps for exits 20 and 26) was done to move exiting traffic off the mainline of the road, reducing stress on the mainline.

Pre-Big Dig

Central Artery exit towards Oliver Street, near One International Place, overlooking Custom House Tower, 2002

The entire route was in Boston, Suffolk County.

18 Massachusetts AvenueRoxbury / Andrew Square / South Bay CenterSouthbound exit and northbound left entrance
19East Berkeley Street / Broadway
Albany Street
E. Berkeley St. is formerly Dover Street; Broadway signed northbound only, Albany St. signed southbound only
20 I‑90 west – Downtown Crossing, WorcesterNorthbound and southbound entrances; before I-90 was built, the northbound exit was for Kneeland Street only, and southbound was for Albany Street/Broadway
21Kneeland Street – ChinatownSouthbound exit and northbound entrance; former northbound exit for Lincoln Street/ South Station
22 South StationNo northbound exit
23 Atlantic Avenue / Northern Avenue / High Street / State StreetSouthbound signed for High and Congress streets only
Dock Square / Clinton StreetSouthbound exit and northbound entrance
24 Callahan Tunnel ( Route 1A north) – Logan Airport, Government Center
25Causeway Street – North Station
Haymarket Square / Government Center
No northbound entrance; signed for Causeway Street northbound and Haymarket Square southbound
26 Route 3 north ( Storrow Drive) – Cambridge
Storrow Drive / North Station
Northbound left entrance; signed southbound for Storrow Drive only
Charlestown High Bridge over the Charles River (demolished 2004)
27 US 1 north ( Tobin Bridge)Northbound left exit, formerly a right exit until around 1990; southbound entrance was on the left until around 1990
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

Post-Big Dig

The entire route is in Boston, Suffolk County.

mikmOld exitNew exitDestinationsNotes
15.34024.68720 I‑90 / Mass Pike – Logan Airport, Worcester, South StationNorthbound exit and southbound entrance; Exits 24A/C on I-90
Express to South Station
Airport (Toll)
Northbound exit and southbound entrance for HOV only
South end of the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Tunnel
17.25327.7662220A South StationSouthbound exit and northbound left entrance; Exit 24C on I-90
20B I‑90 / Mass Pike west / Albany Street [6]Southbound exit and northbound entrance; Exit 24B on I-90
16.69426.86622Surface Road – ChinatownSouthbound entrance only
17.34027.90623 Government CenterNorthbound exit and southbound entrance
17.48728.143Purchase StreetSouthbound exit and entrance only
17.87428.76524A Government CenterSouthbound exit only
24B Route 1A north – Logan AirportSouthbound exit and northbound entrance
North end of the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Tunnel
Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge over the Charles River
26 Route 3 north / Route 28 ( Storrow Drive) – Leverett Circle, Cambridge, North Station [7] Leverett Connector; signed as Storrow Drive northbound; northern terminus of concurrency with Route 3
18.60329.93927 US 1 north ( Tobin Bridge) – RevereNorthbound left exit and southbound entrance; northern terminus of concurrency with US 1
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi


The elevated Central Artery around 1999, on the right.

Currently, the Artery is numbered I-93 and US 1 on the whole route, and Route 3 on all but the northernmost section–it leaves at Exit 26.

The Artery has had many different route numbers through its history. When first built, the section between the Sumner Tunnel and Storrow Drive received the numbers C1 and C9 (city routes of US 1 and Route 9), which were rerouted off local streets. The rest of the highway was unnumbered, despite being closely paralleled by C37 south from the Sumner Tunnel.

By 1969, I-95 was assigned to the whole Artery as part of its never-built route through Boston. The "C-prefixed" routes were removed in 1971, with Route C1 becoming part of a realigned US 1, using the Artery between Storrow Drive and the Sumner Tunnel. Additionally in 1971, Route 3 was moved from a bypass around downtown to use the Artery south of Storrow Drive and the Southeast Expressway.

In 1974, I-95 was canceled through Boston (cancelling its approach from Providence, Rhode Island through the Southwest Corridor) and was instead rerouted around the city using part of Route 128. US 1 was realigned to use the Tobin Bridge and Northeast Expressway, which had been signed as part of I-95; thus US 1 used the Artery north of Storrow Drive. The former alignment of US 1 from Storrow Drive south along the Artery to the Sumner Tunnel became an extended 1A, and I-93 was extended south from Charlestown along the Artery, Southeast Expressway and Route 128 from Braintree to Canton. In 1989, US 1 was moved off the MDC Parkways onto its current alignment along the full Artery. Route 1A was then truncated to the Sumner Tunnel interchange.

Signs put up for the new underground Artery only mention I-93, since it is the best-known designation. Older signs may mention only I-93 and US 1 or I-93 and Route 3. A winter 2008/2009 project to update this signage helped to clear up this potentially confusing situation.

See also


  1. ^ Office of Transportation Planning Roads (June 2008). "MassGIS". Executive Office of Transportation.
  2. ^ "Boston's Big Dig finally opens to public". MSNBC. Associated Press. December 20, 2003. Retrieved November 13, 2008.
  3. ^ Office of Transportation Planning (2007). "Road Inventory". Executive Office of Transportation. Archived from the original on September 27, 2006.
  4. ^ "John F. Fitgerald Expressway". The Roads of Metro Boston. Self-published.[ unreliable source]
  5. ^ Logan, Tim (2017-09-07). "Boston gets an artsy new public space in a former no-man's land". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2017-09-08.
  6. ^ Google Maps (October 2013). "Street View". Google. Retrieved August 23, 2014.
  7. ^ Google Maps (September 2013). "Street View". Google. Retrieved August 23, 2014.


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