Inner belt, I-95 extension could have helped

``Traffic barriers to swift and easy motor travel in Boston were removed today as the downtown section of the Southeast Expressway was opened to traffic shortly before noon,'' reported a June 25, 1959, article in The Christian Science Monitor. ``The new expressway is expected to accommodate up to 100,000 vehicles a day,'' the story added.

But only 16 months later, on Oct. 24, 1960, the Monitor reported: ``A Massachusetts Department of Public Works highway engineer has confirmed what nearly every South Shore commuter knows -- the Central Artery and Southeast Expressway have more traffic than they can handle.''

Twenty-four years later that statement still stands.

Two major highway projects in those intervening years that would have made a great deal of difference to the traffic situation to the south of Boston ran into a buzz-saw of environmental, institutional, and residential opposition.

Interstate 95 north from Providence suddenly comes to a halt at Route 128 in Canton, rather than extending into Boston to link up with an ``inner belt'' -- which never got off the drawing boards. Both projects were canceled in November 1972 by Gov. Francis W. Sargent.

The chief roadlack to I-95 was put up by residents of the thickly populated area served by US Route 1 through Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury, and Dedham.

The inner belt -- which would have arced through Greater Boston, starting at I-93 in Somerville to the north and going through parts of Cambridge, Brookline, and Boston to connect with the Central Artery -- was largely squelched by the objections of local institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

Thus, travelers approaching Boston from the south on I-95 suddenly face a decision when they reach Route 128: to go left on that route (which sports I-95 signs now) to the link-up with the Interstate north of Boston, or go right on 128 to Route 3 (Southeast Expressway), which eventually leads to I-93 north of the city.

Such is the stranger's introduction to the vicissitudes of Boston traffic.

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