AP NEWS

State Gathers Input on Plans to Reconfigure Highway’s End

May 9, 2019

LOWELL -- The state Department of Transportation gave city residents a first look at improvement plans for Gorham Street at the end of the Lowell Connector, which the agency has designated a high-crash intersection.

When construction starts in the next two or three years it is likely to overlap with other projects and will have an impact on traffic flow

The project is in early design stages.

Lowell Transportation Engineer Natasha Vance told the more than 40 people attending the presentation that it is at the “pre-25% design stage.” Input from residents at an early stage enables changes that would be too difficult to make later in development, she explained.

The preferred design as presented by massDOT is a roundabout. An alternative design which is also under consideration is a “T” intersection.

According to a presentation from the design firm CDR Maguire, the project will improve safety at the Gorham Street/Lowell Connector intersection, which is frequently in the news for traffic accidents. The project is also intended to relieve traffic congestion from the Connector north to Elm and Highland streets and to resolve capacity related issues.

The roundabout is the preferred solution because it should reduce fatalities by up to 90 percent, officials said. A roundabout is smaller than a rotary and the geometry keeps vehicles from speeding through. Normal speeds on a roundabout are 15 to 20 mph.

Residents of Gorham Street at the end of the Connector expressed concern about what either new configuration would do to their access to the street. One of those residents, John Curtis, came prepared with a list of questions for the city and massDOT. “The houses along this stretch of Gorham Street are right up against the present sidewalks and the sidewalks are very narrow,” he said.

Land takings a concern

Curtis said he is afraid that several of the buildings would have to be razed. Another resident also asked about land takings. Vance said that all the land involved belongs to the city or the state or the city has a right of way.

The presentation also drew Belvidere residents concerned about scheduling of this project and work on the Lord Overpass. “How will all of this fit?” asked Nancy Pitkin.

Vance said the Lord Overpass work is going out to bid this month and construction will start in the fall. It is expected to take a little more than three years to complete. The Gorham Street/Connector project was slated to being in 2020, but it has been delayed perhaps as much as two years.

“Lowell will be a construction site. I realize this will be a challenge, but people should think about what it will be like when it is all done,” she said. The city is looking at ways to manage the traffic, she added.

To get as much input as possible from the people attending, the organizers broke people into four groups in a workshop-style setting. City and massDOT representatives positioned themselves among the groups and made notes about concerns.