The Inner Belt

Fifty Year Commemoration: Cambridge Inner Belt Highway Defeated 

Title slide from Video presentation on the Inner Belt
View full video here. (2:26:51)

Individual Video Segments of Conference Panelists:

Introduction by Steve Kaiser (1:34)

Michael Dukakis, Former Governor (8:20)
A Transportation Plan for the Next Governor

Bob Simha, MIT Planning Officer (12:01)
Inner Belt Planning and Opposition in the 1950s, MIT Concerns and Actions, Professional Support to Help Stop Highway Plans

Alan Altshuler, Advisor to Governor Sargent (14:19)
Secretary of Transportation Volpe / Governor Sargent Positions & Relationship, the Restudies, Protests, DC Lobbying, Boston Transportation Planning Review (BTPR)

Jack Wofford, BTPR Project Manager & Mediator (13:02)
Organizing a Task Force and the BTPR, the Public Process, All Open Options and Impacts

David Lee, Architect (8:57)
Role of Architects and Planners on Highway Projects, from Planning for to Planning with the Community

Tom Corrigan, Priest & Head of Greater Boston Committee (8:07)
Importance of Religious Leaders in Community Activism

Anstis Benfield, Cambridgeport Resident Activist Leader (9:33)
The Residents’ Actions, Protests and Marches, Lobbying MIT, Washington DC, Protest Photos, Original News Articles, PBS “Divided Highways” Video Clip

Rebecca Hall, Cambridgeport Resident Activist Leader (7:31)
The Residents’ Actions, Protests and Marches, Lobbying MIT, Washington DC, Slideshow of Cambridgeport Today

Gordon Fellman, Sociologist (5:17)
Advocacy Planning and Professional Advocacy, Urban Planning Aid, Opposition to Relocation, Support for Halting All Highway Building

Fred Salvucci, Former Secretary of Transportation (11:37)
Inner Belt as a Successful Protest, Importance of Media, BTPR

Jack Thomas, Globe Editorial Writer (10:15)
Researching and Publishing a Powerful Boston Globe Editorial

Charles Sullivan, Executive Director, Cambridge Historical Commission (11:12)
Role of Mary Newman, an Activist and Politician, Slide Show of Cambridgeport in the 1950s

Ken Geiser, Historian and Planner (13:23)
Comparing Boston Area Community Organizing and Revolt to Other Cities, Professional Support and Urban Planning Aid, Comprehensive Vision of Transportation

Steve Kaiser, Conference Planner, Inner Belt Historian and Engineer (9:56)
Closing Comments, Leadership of Tip O’Neill, Mark Fortune; Panel Discussion

Slide Show Cambridgeport Today (1:16)
Music by Evergreen Byway: Po Saetia, Aimon Benfield-Chand, Dario Rojas


Fifty years ago, Massachusetts highway officials proposed the Cambridge Inner Belt. It began as a plan for an eight-lane express highway entering Cambridge from Boston near the Boston University Bridge. Its path continued through Cambridge following Brookline Street to Mass Avenue and then went as far as the Somerville line along Elm Street. In 1962, construction of the road would have demolished 2,200 housing units in Cambridgeport alone. Local urban renewal would have taken another 2,200 dwelling units. Altogether more than 13,000 people would have been displaced from their homes. Fortunately, the urban renewal threat collapsed in 1962.

During the 1960s citizen activism reached a peak to generate effective protest against the Inner Belt highway in Cambridge but it took 7 years to defeat the plan. In 1965, Cambridge found itself facing imminent highway construction, and there was another scare in 1967. Citizen protest was reinforced by volunteers offering planning help and the assistance of key politicians. Finally in December 1971, Governor Francis Sargent decided to reject the Inner Belt and Route 2 Extension through Cambridge. The Citizens had won the battle and the city of Cambridge was preserved. The city never lost a single home to highway bulldozers.

On June 4, 2022, thirteen veterans of the battle to defeat the Inner Belt met to reflect on what it took to save Cambridge and its residents from the threat of government action to demolish their homes and split their neighborhood with an 8-lane "Chinese wall." Watch the video of this historic conference 50 years after Cambridge was saved. For a brief history of the Inner Belt, see "Cambridge Inner Belt - a Short History."

Quick Links:

  • Anstis Benfield nailing Inner Belt protest petition to Cambridge City Hall door
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    Clipping: "Nail Belt Protest at City Hall"

    black and white photograph of Anstis Benfield nailing petition to Cambridge City Hall door published in the Boston Sunday Advertiser

  • Cambridge citizens marching in protest of the construction of the Inner Belt highway
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    Inner belt protest march in Cambridge

    black and white photo showing a group of people marching with signs in Central Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts

  • Black and white news photograph of protestors marching against the Inner Belt highway in Cambridge, 1966, published in the Record American newspaper
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    Clipping: "Large March" Inner Belt Protest March

    Black and white news photograph of protestors marching against the Inner Belt highway in Cambridge, 1966, published in the Record American newspaper

  • Composite image of Inner Belt meeting participants
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    Zoom symposium panelists

    Color composite photograph of the Inner Belt Zoom symposium participants