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This 2017 photo shows the northbound Lowell Connector approaching its northern terminus in downtown Lowell. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)


2.9 miles (4.6 kilometers)

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.

Interchanges were built at the following locations:

  • Northwest Expressway (US 3)
  • Outer Circumferential Highway (I-495)
  • Industrial Avenue
  • Plain Street
  • Thorndike Street (MA 3A) and Lowell Center

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.

BUSINESS SPUR I-495 ON THE CONNECTOR: When it opened, the Lowell Connector did not officially carry the Business Spur I-495 designation. The designation did appear, however, on signs erected in the 1960s, as well as on official maps published by the state during that era. Many of the old "green 495" signs have been removed in the years since, although one remaining sign on Plain Street revealed the existence of the former designation until the mid-2000s.

THE LOWELL CONNECTOR TODAY: According to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), the six-lane Lowell Connector carries approximately 50,000 vehicles per day (AADT). MassDOT still maintains the I-495S designation on the connector, but only in internal planning documents.

Over the years, the Lowell Connector has gained notoriety of one of the most dangerous highways in the state. On average, the connector has a traffic fatality once a year over its 2.8 miles, which is about four times the average fatality rate of a typical freeway in Massachusetts. The connector's frequent entrance and exit ramps bear some of the blame, but much of the blame is placed on a lethal mix of high speeds and lower-than-average seat belt use.

In the early 2000s, the Lowell Connector was resurfaced in conjunction with the nearby reconstruction of the Northwest Expressway (US 3).

LEFT: 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 1960s and 1970s. (Photo by Massachusetts Department of Public Works.) RIGHT: This 2003 photo shows a remnant Business Spur I-495 shield directing motorists to the Lowell Connector. The shield has since been removed. (Photo by Paul Schlichtman.)

The Lowell Connector should be signed as MA 303, indicating its importance as a connector from US 3 to downtown Lowell.

SOURCES: "A Report of Progress," Massachusetts Department of Public Works (1962); "Lowell's Danger Zone" by Hillary Chabot, The Lowell Sun (11/03/2005); Massachusetts Department of Transportation; John F. Carr; Dan Moraseski; Mike Moroney; Alex Nitzman; Paul Schlichtman; Alexander Svirsky.

  • Business Spur I-495 shield by Alex Nitzman.
  • Lightpost by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.





  • Lowell Connector exit list by Steve Anderson.

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