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Cross Street U-Turn

Tales of the Old Central Artery

An infamous spot on the old Central Artery was the Cross Street u-turn. At the downtown portal of the Sumner Tunnel, drivers could either bear left onto the northbound elevated on-ramp, or take a sharp right onto Cross Street.

Cross Street was about five-hundred feet long at this location, and about 90% of the traffic that went down Cross Street made a left u-turn under the Central Artery elevated structure to get to the southbound on ramp.

A single traffic light existed about half-way down Cross Street. There were three lanes of traffic before this u-turn, and Pole Position was an important aspect of making it to the southbound on-ramp. The light would change to green, and vehicles from all three lanes would race to the left to get to the u-turn. This u-turn was a mere one to two lanes wide depending on whether vehicles had actually parked under there.

After making the u-turn, the southbound elevated on-ramp was only two lanes wide at the bottom, and 1.5 lanes wide at the top (two small cars could fit at its apex). A blind merge onto the southbound artery was at the top, and many serious accidents occurred at this location.

Believe it or not, during morning rush hour between 7:00 and 9:00, a police officer would park his or her motor cycle in the rightmost lane of the artery, just upstream of this merge point. The officer would stop vehicles in the lane, and require them to merge into the center lane; thus allowing unhindered access to the artery from the on-ramp.

On days when a police officer was not in place, the traffic would back up for MILES. Vehicles would back up onto Cross Street, through the entire Sumner Tunnel, onto Bennington, Chelsea, & Bremen Streets in East Boston, into Logan Airport, up and down McClellan Highway, and then all the way back to Orient Heights in East Boston or to Belle Circle in Revere.

The Big Dig System, aka The Sponge, has paid for itself with increased productivity and reduced air pollution; all $14 billion dollars' worth.

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