The Reimagination of the Lord Overpass Improves Mobility and Access to Community Assets

Lowell, MA

June 09, 2022

Arial of community in Lowell, MA.

The Lord Overpass in Lowell, MA, was constructed in 1959 as a grade-separated interchange with Middlesex Street and Appleton Street. As was typical of the times, the infrastructure bisected vulnerable communities, creating a barrier to downtown. In 2015, VHB was selected by the City to reimagine the overpass as an at-grade “complete street” to reconnect the city, improve safety for multi-modal transportation, and increase accessibility to jobs, services, and cultural/education resources. The design incorporated separated bicycle and pedestrian facilities, dedicated center bus lanes, landscaping, improved lighting, and adaptive traffic signal systems.

VHB worked closely with the City’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to re-evaluate the Lord Overpass design and develop several conceptual alternatives to better meet the goals of the City’s Complete Streets Policy and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) GreenDOT Policy. Most importantly, it needed to better serve the needs of the surrounding neighborhoods.

The Lord Overpass redesign project relied on an inclusive and robust public engagement process that focused on:

Transportation Equity—The original overpass structure physically and visually separated underserved communities from the more vibrant downtown. Equal and improved access was needed to promote economic and social opportunities for everyone.

Enhanced Safety—The corridor had a history of high crash rates, high speeds, difficult merging areas, and confusing traffic patterns.

Facilitated Economic Development—An improved modern entrance to the City was essential to help promote a resurgence of development.

Improved Mobility/Accessibility—The original overpass structure served as a barrier that limited connectivity for residents to walk or bike to downtown, or to the nearby Gallagher Transportation Terminal.

Overall, the project is comprised of improvements at six intersection locations. The proposed design will fill the Lord Overpass and eliminate the bridges over Thorndike Street to create an at-grade corridor.

“Reconstruction of the Thorndike Street corridor and Lord Overpass will help support the Hamilton Canal Innovation District and Lowell’s economic resurgence,” said Josh Trearchis, VHB Project Manager. “It also includes a fully functional multi-modal intersection crossing that balances vehicular traffic and all other modes of transportation, which will help to promote alternative healthy transportation options, including walking and biking.”

The project is currently under construction and is expected to be complete in 2022. To learn more, contact Josh.