South West Corridor Park

From Back Bay Station to Forest Hills

The Inner Belt was first proposed in 1948 in a Master Highway Plan, issues by the Massachusetts Department of Public Works. The plan was for the Southwest Expressway to continue I 95 from route 128 to downtown Boston. Starting in 1966 over 500 homes and businesses between Forest Hills and the South End were demolished to make way for the proposed highway.

Community residents and activists opposed the plan and lobbied in protest, beginning with a Beat the Belt rally at the State House in 1969. Opposition continued with protests and lobbying, with the slogan “ People Before Highways.” In 1970 Governor Sargent declared a temporary moratorium on highway construction (except for the completion of I93). In 1972 he made the moratorium permanent. “Nearly everyone was sure highways were the only answer to transportation problems for years to come,” said Sargent, “but we were wrong.” The funds that were set aside for highway construction were transferred to be used for public transportation, the first such transfer in the country.

The elevated orange line was torn down and relocated into the underground rail corridor. This relocation moved rapid transit transportation away from the heart of the African American community making it more difficult for Roxbury residents to quickly reach downtown Boston.

A 52 acre linear surface park was created on top of the depressed rail lines with walking and biking paths, playing fields and recreation facilities. Urban Arts developed art work specifically designed for each station and created the Literature Project with neighborhood based poetry, messages and letters. At Ruggles Station, Four Letters Home, offers letters from four immigrant families-Canadian, Irish, Jewish and African American- arriving in Roxbury between 1834 and 1960.

SW Expressway--timeline

1948: Inner Belt Proposed—a way of getting around Boston without going through it.

Circle Boston, going through Roxbury, the Fenway, Cambridge, Somerville and Charlestown.

1956: Eisenhower federal highway bill expanding interstate highways including I95 from Maine to Florida
Part of I 95 would be SW Expressway cutting through Hyde Park, Roslindale and Jamaica Plain

1960: Cambridge begins to protest Inner Belt , 2500 people voice opposition

1966: Urban Planning Aid founded and developed critique of planned highways

October 15, 1966: Beat the Belt rally in front of the state house

May, 1967: Harvard and MIT faculty express opposition to Inner Belt

October, 1967: Jamaica Plain residents join Cambridge opposition , form JP Expressway Committee

December 1968: Greater Boston Committee on the Transportation Crisis formed (JP, East Boston, South End, Charlestown, Brookline and Roxbury)

January, 1969: People before Highways day on the Boston Common

July 15, 1969: Chuck Turner holds a press conference with statement of 40 Black groups
“There will be no inner belt through our community.”

(479 structures had already been torn down and 326 families displaced)

February 11, 1970:

“Four years ago I was the Commissioner of the Department of Public Works—our road building agency.
Then nearly everyone was sure highways were the only answer to transportation problems for years to come.
We were wrong.” Governor Francis Sargent.

From : Lupo, Alan Colcord, Frank and Edmund P. Folwer. Rites of Way:The Politics of Transportation in Boston and the U.S. City. Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1971.