In the 1940’s, planning began for a “Highway in the Skies” that would alleviate traffic congestion by elevating traffic above street level. Construction of the Central Artery began in 1951 and was completed in 1959, displacing more than 10,000 residents and demolishing some 1,000 buildings. The limitations of the Central Artery soon became painfully clear to all who lived and worked in Boston, however. In 1991, after almost a decade of planning, construction was begun on the Central Artery/Tunnel Project, which is recognized as the largest, most complex, and technologically challenging highway project in the history of the United States. It significantly reduced congestion and improved mobility in one of America's oldest and most congested major cities.
When these elevated highways were relocated underground, Boston found itself rich in prime urban land. Community and political leaders seized the opportunity to enhance Boston's city life by providing additional parks and gardens to connect some of its oldest, most diverse, and vibrant neighborhoods. The creation of the Greenway – a joint effort of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority (MTA), the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the City of Boston, and various civic groups – offered an opportunity to balance natural beauty and landscaped grace with the vitality and dynamism of a 21st Century city.
On October 4, 2008, tens of thousands of visitors came together, many for the first time, for the parks’ Inaugural Celebration with the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy. The following year, on February 23, 2009 the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy became the designated steward of the parks. Today, the Greenway encompasses gardens, plazas, and tree-lined promenades, offering beautiful places for relaxation within an urban environment. The Greenway is a key feature of the modern reinvention of Boston, Boston Harbor, the South Boston Waterfront, and the Harbor Islands.