Boston’s Red Line is the most trafficked subway corridor in the city. It stitches together diverse, historic neighborhoods between Cambridge in the north and Dorchester to the south. Parts of it are tucked below ground, while some segments are exposed to the elements above grade, either in trenches or on elevated tracks.
In Dorchester, a 0.75-mile long segment of the Red Line may soon have a new linear park built on top of it. With $300,000 in funding from the MassTrails program, a state initiative, and an additional $368,000 from the city of Boston; officials, community leaders, and designers are gearing up to build a new pathway for walkers and bikers, dubbed The Dorchester Greenway.
Today, the stretch between Fields Corner Station and Ashmont Station is below grade, topped by a derelict asphalt carpet. For years, community activists have sought to build a park on the land currently owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Much of the tunnel cap is fenced off from public access, dividing neighborhoods. The Dorchester Reporter’s Seth Daniel called the park project a once “pie-in-the-sky dream for residents going back decades” that is now one step closer to becoming reality.
The Dorchester Greenway, architects and community leaders say, could have serious quality of life and community benefits if built, much like the beloved Southwest Corridor Park on top of the Orange Line designed by Roy Mann and Tony Pangaro, alongside Stull and Lee in Roxbury. Similarly in other cities across the U.S., capping infrastructure—whether train or a highway—is developing as a new trend: in Dallas work is underway to transform a cap over Interstate 35E into expansive park space, and last year Philadelphia broke ground on a project that spans over Interstate 95.
Together with local nonprofits like Greater Ashmont Main Streets and Livable Streets Emerald Network, drawings of the Dorchester Greenway by OJB and RODE Architects, a local firm, were first presented to the public in 2017. After years of stop-and-start, the coalition started gaining momentum in 2022 when city officials expressed interest in the park project. Now, with the new funding, the Dorchester Greenway may materialize in the next few years. Architects say that, if built, it could offer a new precedent for community leaders looking to build parks above subway tunnels around the city.
“I think everyone would love to see it happen, but we have to take all the initial steps,” said Charlotte Fleetwood, a senior transportation planner at the Boston Transportation Department. “Depending on what we find out from the structural analysis, it might be possible to do something bare bones sooner than later,” Fleetwood told local reporters. “We have to work through those options. We might be able to get something to use in a shorter time period—a two-year rather than five-year time frame.”