The next transportation revolution to make its way through Sullivan Square was the streetcar. Horsecars connecting Somerville to Charlestown and Boston started running in 1858, just two years after the first horsecar in Massachusetts connected Cambridge and Boston. Horsecar travel continued to grow until the early 1890s, when electrically powered street railways became popular. Sullivan Square came to be the location of a large carhouse, and in 1901 a grand new station was built to serve both streetcars and the Main Line El, the new rapid transit line connecting Sullivan Square and Dudley Square by way of downtown Boston. As you continue to stand with your back to the current T station, the 1901 station stood on what is now an empty lot on the other side of the elevated roadway in front of you, near the opening used by the buses struggling to exit the current station parking area. The elevated trains were replaced by the current Orange Line in the 1970s; today’s Sullivan Station opened in 1975.
While the elevated trains have come down, overhead structures are very much part of today’s dominant transportation mode — automobile highways. If you look up while facing the T station, the structure you see above is I-93. This portion of the highway was built in the 1970s. Off to the left as you face the station, a new ramp is under construction. Turning around again, the crumbling elevated roadway in front of you is the Rutherford Avenue Viaduct, which carries traffic over Sullivan Square between Mystic Avenue/Broadway in Somerville and Rutherford Avenue in Charlestown. The Rutherford Avenue Viaduct may be taken down in the future, after the Central Artery/Tunnel project is completed. In the short term, the City of Boston plans to repair it and keep it open. The recently released report of the Rutherford Avenue Corridor Study calls for changes to the Sullivan Square traffic pattern that should improve vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle access and upgrade the physical quality of Sullivan Square in the future.
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