Harman Patil

Lowell Connector

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Existed:  1962 – present
Length  4.63 km
South end:  US 3 in Chelmsford
Constructed  1962
Lowell Connector
North end:  Gorham Street in Lowell

The Lowell Connector, officially the American Legion Connector Highway, is a short freeway connector in the Massachusetts state highway system that links nearby U.S. Highway 3 and Interstate 495 to downtown Lowell, Massachusetts. The freeway has its southern terminus at US 3 and its northern terminus in downtown Lowell, where it feeds into city streets shortly after an interchange with Route 3A. This alignment, nearly parallel to Massachusetts Route 110, provides much of Lowell with a direct expressway route to the Boston area to the South, and convenient (but slightly roundabout) expressway access to Lowell's eastern and western suburbs by way of Route 3 and 495.

Contents

Map of Lowell Connector, Massachusetts, USA

History

Built in the early 1960s and opened on October 24, 1962, the Lowell Connector is located along the re-channelled River Meadow (or Hales) Brook. This alignment minimally affected existing neighborhoods, unlike many urban expressways in the region. Plans to extend the Connector through the city's Back Central neighborhood, up to and along the Concord River, then onward to Lowell's main street, Merrimack Street, were drawn out, but abandoned after they were decided to be too disruptive to one of the oldest parts of the city. This left the highway terminating abruptly at a residential section of Gorham Street.

Another plan circa 1968 had the connector connecting to the planned route of Massachusetts Route 213 in Dracut.

The Connector was officially named for the American Legion on May 20, 1963, a few months after opening; however, signs reflecting this were not posted until November 16, 2010.

Business Spur

In the mid 1960s, the Connector was designated as Interstate 495 Business Spur. However, there are no records indicating that this designation was ever approved by either the Bureau of Public Roads (now FHWA) or the American Association of State Highway Officials (now AASHTO). Further, the "Business I-495" designation was never posted on any signs for the Lowell Connector exit on I-495, US 3, or on any signs on the Connector mainline itself (verified by a comprehensive review of MassDPW signing plans for I-495, US 3, and the Lowell Connector from the late 1950s to the present), although such signs were posted at one time on local streets intersecting the Connector. The signs on Plain Street (Exit 4) lasted into the 2000s, but have since been removed.

Accidents

The Lowell Connector was recently ranked the most dangerous highway in Massachusetts. Particularly, the measurement is accidents per three miles (5 km) of road—the Connector is three miles (5 km) long. The Connector has many serious design flaws. Until a man drag-racing in November 2005 took the life of a pregnant woman, there were few median strip guard rails. As in this particular accident, a car driving at excessive speed (the posted speed limit is 55) could easily lose control going over one of the poorly paved and steeply-graded underpass bridges. The car would cross into the narrow median, and due to the purposely uneven height difference between the north and southbound lanes, become airborne, landing in (or in this case on) oncoming traffic. Additionally, the Connector has an extremely large number of on and off ramps, and many are very short, sharp, and steep. The weaving situation that exists when the Connector merges or splits Route 3 and 495, within a short distance of the Industrial Avenue exit (exit 3), is particularly notorious, as drivers must weave through three lanes of traffic within just a few car lengths. The Lowell Connector is probably best known for the abrupt and downhill termination onto Gorham Street (exit 5C). A large number of cars have overshot the end of the freeway and crashed into the brick wall of a residential property across the street. Recently, in addition to multiple flashing warning signs giving the exact distance to the end of the road, the terminus now features two flashing (strobe) stoplights, and a metal railing across the intersection protecting the property immediate opposite to the termination. Incidentally, Lowell has one of the lowest incidences of seatbelt use in the Commonwealth.

Exit list

All interchanges were to be renumbered to milepost-based numbers under a project scheduled to start in 2016, however this project has been indefinitely postponed by MassDOT. The entire route is in Middlesex County.

References

Lowell Connector Wikipedia


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