A Brief History of the Orange Line

In the Sixties they were building lots of single-family homes
The suburbs were the place to have your child, dog and cat
Businessmen and housewives each had a swimming pool
Prescription drugs, a big car and a generic welcome mat
All the suburbs needed highways and they were being built
In every state, from the east coast to the west
But when in Boston, Massachusetts they came to build a highway
At GM and DOT’s behest
In front of their bulldozers there in Jamaica Plain
From all around, people came and stood

They asked should we have commuters or community
A highway or a neighborhood

The governor said we hear you but you just don’t understand
It’s the way things are, the order of the day
Is that progress must go on, the economy must grow
And this state needs another highway
A whole bunch of people protested, a whole bunch were arrested
The cops figured that was that
But folks kept coming back, where the backhoes were supposed to dig
That’s just where people sat
They asked would you have a fast lane here, with big trucks spewing diesel
Or keep your homes of wood


It was the Anti-Highway Movement, who said the national is local
And the people of JP
Against all of those in power, the biggest business interests
Federal as well as state authority
But perseverance won and the highway was abandoned
The neighborhood remains
Instead they built a subway line, a long, thin park
Playgrounds and bicycle lanes
The people had spoken, the question had been answered
As one would think it should


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“A Brief History of the Orange Line” originally appeared on the 2014 online album, Into A Prism. It’s a story of a great success on behalf of the Anti-Highway Movement, a struggle that spanned decades, from the 1960’s to the 1980’s. With all the highways that were built over those decades, there were many that weren’t built, because of the efforts of this pro-environment, pro-neighborhood movement, which involved lots of civil disobedience. There is now a plaque thanking the efforts of the Anti-Highway Movement in the Jackson Square MBTA station.

Rather than building a new span of highway cutting the Boston, Massachusetts neighborhood of Jamaica Plain in half, what eventually happened was a long, thin park with foot and bike paths, playgrounds and trees, with an extension of the Orange Line train beneath it. This happened despite the fact that construction on the highway had actually already begun, initially. This construction/destruction was halted, and then ultimately turned back, and turned into something entirely different.