Funding For Project An Answered Prayer For Lowell's Lord Overpass
By Grant Welker, firstname.lastname@example.org
LOWELL -- The Lord Overpass, one of the city's busiest and most traffic-clogged interchanges, will be rebuilt to better link the downtown, Gallagher Terminal and the Hamilton Canal District thanks to $15 million in state funding announced Thursday.
The overpass, built in the 1950s, is regularly backed up during morning and afternoon rush hours, with the potential for gridlock to become worse if redevelopment of nearby mill buildings and new construction continues, particularly a proposed but long-delayed $175 million judicial building off Middlesex Street, officials said.
"The access made possible by this funding will play a significant role in helping to revitalize this area with new commercial and industrial development that will continue to enhance our community," said state Sen. Eileen Donoghue, a Lowell Democrat whose office announced the funding.
The overpass looks like a rotary, with traffic moving counterclockwise, but includes four traffic lights where Appleton, Chelmsford and Middlesex streets meet above Thorndike Street. The plan for the rebuilding of the overpass calls for extending Jackson Street, next to where the courthouse would be built, to a new intersection with Dutton, Fletcher and Thorndike streets next to the American Textile History Museum.
Thursday's announcement comes on the heels of an announcement last month from Gov. Deval Patrick that he has approved a minimum of $1 million to begin design work on the Lowell Judicial Center. That funding will allow for hiring an architect and project engineer.
Construction of the judicial center is expected to begin in the spring of 2015 and be completed in 2017. The building, slated for a barren expanse next to the Lord Overpass, is expected to be a major component of development of the Hamilton Canal District.
Design work for the overpass project is already about one-fourth complete, and the state funding allows that process to be completed as well as construction.
Rep. Thomas Golden, a Democrat who represents parts of Lowell and Chelmsford, compared the benefit from transportation investment downtown to the expansion of Route 3.
"It's a big, big win," he said of the funding. "We can have the prettiest buildings around, but if you can't get there, people aren't going to come."
Pedestrian improvements are also part of the overpass plan, which will better connect downtown with the Gallagher Terminal, where commuters can board trains to Boston and where the Lowell Regional Transit Authority's main bus terminal is based.