Salem Street Foot Passage

Tales of the Old Central Artery

A smelly, dirty, and dangerous foot-passage existed under the old Central Artery near Haymarket Square. This passage was a primary way to get to the North End from the downtown side of the structure.

You'd cross Blackstone Street, and then walk under the artery through a series of passages and fenced areas. The sound of tires smashing into expansion joints above was blissful music to the pedestrian commuter. A concrete portal filled with homeless people or street musicians greeted you half-way. The area wreaked in odor of a combination of car exhaust, motor oil, human excrement, garbage, and fine food being cooked in nearby North End restaurants.

At last one reached the Salem Street crosswalk at Cross Street, with only this final obstacle in making it to the North End. Cars leaving the Sumner Tunnel at 35 miles per hour would whip around a blind right turn onto Cross Street.

From a pedestrian's view, you'd look up toward the Sumner Tunnel curve and assess whether you could make it across all three lanes in one mad dash. You'd also have to take into account cars that may turn from Hanover Street, but they were crawling in speed compared to the tunnel traffic. During inclement weather, people would huddle together on the sidewalk on both sides, and not risk dashing across the street.

From a vehicle's perspective, the pedestrians on the artery side looked like wide receivers waiting for a football to be put in play, with their toes on the very edge of the sidewalk curb. The people on the Salem Street side looked like baseball players preparing to steal 2nd base, with a precious short lead taken from the curb.

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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