The Rise And Fall Of Highways And Prior Attempts to Create a Rail Link
After World War II, fueled by federal investment, highway expansion began in earnest. In the early 1950’s a transportation corridor between North and South Stations was indeed created, but for cars, not trains - and running through the city not in tunnel but rather on elevated viaducts.
Within just a few years of its completion the devastating urban impact of the elevated highway was apparent, and plans began to be formulated for its removal. By the late 1970’s during the administration of Gov. Michael Dukakis, the plan took concrete shape, with a pair of rail lines running down the middle.
In March 1987 President Reagan vetoed funding for the Central Artery Project, specifically citing the inclusion of a rail connection. In the battle to overturn this veto and secure funding for the project (by just one vote), the rail link was sacrificed.
In 1993 Gov. William Weld commissioned a Central Artery Rail Link Task Force to find a way to reintroduce the rail connection into the project. The CARL Task Force developed a plan to build a rail tunnel directly below the Artery highway tunnels, using the Artery slurry walls to simplify the construction. This was released in March 1993. A month later the US Senate approved funding for a more detailed engineering and environmental study, which took place from 1995 – 2003.
This study, undertaken by Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB), built a firm case for the project, but it was again undermined by the ballooning costs of the Artery. In early 2003, when the NSRL analysis was nearly complete, Gov. Mitt Romney suspended work on the project. The Federal Transit Administration ordered the work to be filed as a Major Investment Study for future use.
The removal of the elevated Central Artery, completed in 2006, has been a great boon to the City of Boston.
But without the originally-intended rail link, the entire region remains trapped in highway gridlock, with our regional rail networks operating at a fraction of their potential capacity.
In 2014, the Massachusetts Legislature wisely authorized funding for the updating and completion of the North South Rail Link DEIR. For a host of reasons, it is essential that this work be resumed and completed immediately.
Click on arrows on either side of the picture. Read along at the bottom of each picture.