I sometimes hesitated to visit Wannalancit Mills because the scarcity of parking in the vicinity but that problem seems to be solved as of this past week. Pursuant to a vote of the city council taken earlier in the summer, Fr. Morissette Blvd which runs alongside the Northern Canal from the University Ave Bridge down to Lowell High School has been reduced from two lanes to one and the saved space has been used for bicycle lanes and curbside parking. As the above photo shows, numbered spaces and parking-payment kiosks line both sides of the road.
This is a wise move for several reasons: Fr. Morissette Blvd, like the Sampson Connector (which is the official name of Dutton and Thorndike Streets from Merrimack to the Lowell Connector near the YMCA, are both throwbacks to an earlier era of city planning that envisioned everyone working in the downtown then jumping in their cars and racing to their suburban homes as fast as possible. Pedestrians and bicyclists were seen as anachronisms from another era. All present evidence suggests those planners were wrong and so it’s time to re-purpose these high speed avenues of approach into more foot and bike friendly parkways. Another reason is the one I refer to above: there’s a lot going on in the former Little Canada with Wannalancit and all the UMass Lowell activity so it will be nice to be able to park in the vicinity for an hour or two to transact business. Finally, if Lowell is going to be a university town (as I think it should strive to be), we have to make it easier for students to get from the campus to the downtown. The new incarnation of Fr. Morissette Blvd does that.
As with any change, in the beginning the complaints will outweigh the compliments, especially come Tuesday when the Lowell Public Schools begin the school year and morning and afternoon traffic spikes upward. To all my bicyclist friends, please let us know how you find the new lanes.