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“Maximum Capacity” in Lowell, Mass.

I’m not quite sure what that phrase means in this article, particularly if, as the article also states, people are doing 55 mph right through the heart of town (which would indicate plenty of road capacity), but is it me or does Lowell, Mass., based on this article, appear to be on the verge of getting things wrong in fixing their traffic problems?

Note this paragraph:

“For the next four years, MassHighway has slated $42 million in projects to improve Lowell intersections, including traffic signal improvements, bridge betterments and replacements, realigning the intersections, and the construction of a pedestrian bridge over the busy downtown thoroughfare, Thorndike Street .”

A pedestrian bridge? Why does this retrograde idea, imported from the anti-urban totalizing fantasies of modernist architects and itself a symbol of a decline of a place, still enchant traffic people? Well, actually it doesn’t much anymore, except in the developing world. How about a boulevard? A road diet? I dunno, a roundabout (if left turn crashes are as big as they say)? I don’t know Lowell or that street — anyone care to weigh in?

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This entry was posted on Friday, October 31st, 2008 at 7:48 am and is filed under Traffic Engineering. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to ““Maximum Capacity” in Lowell, Mass.”

  1. chris Says:

    Street view!

    http://maps.google.com/maps?q=VFW+Highway+and+Bridge+Street,+lowell,+ma&ie=UTF8&ll=42.652994,-71.304531&spn=0.008459,0.019312&z=16&g=VFW+Highway+and+Bridge+Street,+lowell,+ma&layer=c&cbll=42.648892,-71.304524&panoid=UsATMuZAqcOexEZT2_rd8g&cbp=1,219.06463305127772,,0,-1.3706639705660724

  2. James Says:

    I know Lowell very well and used to live there. That intersection is pretty nasty to walk through and was one that I always avoided at all costs while driving as well. It’s one where peds have to flat-out sprint while crossing the road in order to avoid getting run down. It would indeed be a prime candidate for a traffic circle.

    That said, overall, Lowell’s traffic isn’t that bad. Not even in the same universe as NYC or even Westchester. There’s a decent amount of traffic during peak commuting hours but after 7pm you can easily get anywhere you need to in the city by whatever mode you choose. Surface parking is plentiful as well outside of Merrimack Street, downtown’s main drag.

    The city has no mass transit except for a commuter rail line to Boston. It’s a city that is not dense enough for transit (with something like 4,000 people/square mile) but dense enough to have a fair amount of traffic, unfortunately. Since it’s totally flat, it’d be a great place for biking if the city were to make it a priority as Boston has begun to.

  3. Andys120 Says:

    I used to work near Thorndike street in one of the many converted textile mills. It’s an interesting area in a surprisingly diverse city where the Industrial Revolution was born in America. There’s a certain amount of tourist foot traffic that might be problematic during rush hours so that might be the justification for a pedestrian bridge.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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