The Lowell Connector Opens on October 24, 1962

Thanks to the Lowell National Historical Park’s Facebook post for reminding us a bit about the history of the Lowell Connector. This citation comes from

The Lowell Connector was opened officially on October 24, 1962. However, the ramps to I-495 did not open until one year later, when the Outer Circumferential Highway was completed through the area…

EXPRESSWAY SERVICE TO DOWNTOWN LOWELL: In 1959, the Massachusetts Department of Public Works (MassDPW) began work on the Lowell Connector, a 2.5-mile-long expressway connecting downtown Lowell with the Outer Circumferential Highway (I-495) and the Northwest Expressway (US 3). The $8 million expressway project was built as part of the I-495 contract through Chelmsford. It included the improvement of arterial streets leading to the Lowell Connector, relocation of River Meadow Brook, and the construction of an adjacent water purification plant.

This photo shows the October 24, 1962 dedication of the Lowell Connector at its northern terminus (EXITS 5A-5B-5C). Although records from its opening do not specify its designation, the Lowell Connector had the Business Spur I-495 (“green 495”) designation during the 1960’s and 1970’s. (Photo by Massachusetts Department of Public Works.)

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7 Responses to The Lowell Connector Opens on October 24, 1962

  1. Christopher says:

    I believe it was supposed to continue further into the city. Is there a map of the proposed route somewhere?

  2. Jane says:

    The Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust has recently completed research on the River Meadow Brook corridor. This brook drains 24 sq. miles and indeed was the easiest route into the city to create the Connector. A look at the 1959 design plans shows the meanderings of this tributary to the Concord River (confluence at the northern end of Centennial Island). You can still see how the nearby roadways were developed around the meanderings of this brook. The wildlife in this corridor is quite diverse (beaver, river otter, deer) and the industrial history is equally interesting. Mass Audubon did the eco-inventory for us, a local historian is in the midst of writing quite a history of the corridor, and we’re continuing to work with UML geochemistry students on studying the water quality. Students from our after-school program at the Daley School have had the opportunity to work side by side with field professionals to study the corridor. Both Motorola and Patagonia have worked with us on volunteer clean-ups. Portions of this corridor may also provide Greenway opportunities and connections to the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail. This is a really interesting corridor and thank you for bringing attention to this history!

  3. PaulM says:

    We are so fortunate to have an organization like the Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust and professionals like Jane Calvin in our community. All you have to do is read that one paragraph that she wrote to get an idea of the innovative, sophisticated, and essential work they are doing here. Take one natural area in a heavily urbanized district and do an inventory of wildlife, encourage a deep historical look at the place, bring in University students to test water quality and public school kids for field work—and get corporate volunteers to boot. We should not take these contributions for granted. This is an example of what the nonprofit organizations in Lowell do for us every day.

  4. Dean says:

    I remember the youths of Lowell and Chelmsford raced their cars on I-495 before it was completed as a Interstate. The most of the cars were 8 cylinders with some sixes. Some of them went over 100 MPH. The price of gas was about 29 cents per gallon. They use to call the interstate the road to no where.

  5. Joe S says:

    The interstate highway program of the 1950s evolved into plans to extend these routes into cities at great disregard for the residents. Pushed in the name of economic development, they ended being harmful in that regard for the cities as they provided avenues to suburban malls and office parks where land was plentiful and less expensive to develop.

    Whether it was by foresight or reaction to the complaints of residents, Lowell chose not to extend the Connecor further as illustrated in the link Corey provided. Good decision!

    Also in the 1960s there was an effort to extend route 3 through the western and northern parts of the city all the way to what is now route 213 in Methuen. One of the options in a 1966 study would have brought the route through the recently considered “Westview road” development, just to illustrate how the planners of that time did not adequately consider quality of life in their plans. By 1975 that option had been taken off the table, but the recommended route would have been disruptive to the residents of Middlesex Village and forced the relocation of Hadley Field (page 8 of following document).

    So now we are considering both of these routes in 2012. For the Connector the current thinking is to back down from the 1960 plan even further and bring the Connector to the surface earlier in the route to open access to the Tanner street area. For the route 3/Rourke bridge there is a current study to determine what would currently be the best approach. With option C (Mt. Pleasant golf club) from the 1966 study off the table, but with residential development still being considered, now may be the time to recognize a better use of that property as conservation land, both for the benefit of the nearby residents, protection of the historic Middlesex Canal and better management of the flood plain in that area. And for the bridge and path from route 3, recognition of the development that has taken place since 1975 should give pause to any plans for extensive highway development as intended in the 1975 plan (with a 350 foot wide right-of-way). A much more measured plan using existing streets with few extensions, better management of traffic flow and a non-bottleneck bridge would serve the city best.

  6. Sandy says:

    Any pictures available how the neighborhood near Robinson Court/Congress Street looked before demolition for the Lowell Connector?