Lowell Week in Review: April 19, 2015

Lord Overpass Discussion

It was a quiet city council meeting this week.  During the “motion response” phase, Councilor Belanger pressed the administration for details on (1) the public input process for the redesign of the Lord Overpass; and (2) just what will be done to make that area more walkable.  Craig Thomas of the Division of Planning and Development explained that the plan that has been publicly displayed is one that originated in 2009 which was at a time when the Massachusetts Highway Department was far less concerned about walkers and bicyclists than it is now.  Thomas also said that he was “reaching out” to various groups in the city about scheduling public input sessions.  If you’ve heard anything from anyone in the city (other than city councilors) about this, please let me know.

Councilor Rita Mercier also spoke on this issue, emphasizing the importance of placing a sidewalk on the down ramp of the Overpass heading towards downtown.  She said she encounters many people walking up the existing ramp, some even pushing baby carriages, and that it is extremely dangerous without sidewalks.

Pedestrian Safety

Councilor Mercier also raised the issue of pedestrian safety in Kearney Square, particularly for people crossing Bridge Street while cars approaching from East Merrimack turn right onto Bridge.  While I’m not as familiar with current conditions at that intersection as I used to be, I see this as a chronic problem at intersections throughout the city.  Drivers, especially those taking right turns on red lights or otherwise, are just oblivious to the presence of pedestrians.  The driver in those circumstances has his eyes glued to his left, looking for cars coming from his left while he’s making his turn to the right.  If you are trying to cross in front of that driver, or to cross the street he’s turning onto, you better jump out of the way because he has no clue that you are standing in his way.  I’m at the point where I would support the wholesale abolition of the “right on red” law because few drivers obey its requirement that you come to a full stop before safely proceeding.  It’s at best treated as the equivalent of a “yield” sign.  I know the police are stretched pretty thin dealing with other criminal activity, but putting more emphasis on traffic enforcement might be the best way to raise the collective consciousness of drivers with the added benefit of raising the amount of revenue coming into the city from traffic citations.

Cambodian Monument

On April 9, 2015, the KhmerPost USA newspaper held its quarterly Press Club event at Lowell Telecommunications Corporations.  The main topic was the proposed Cambodian monument for the grounds of City Hall, but there is also a second Cambodian monument planned, this one across from Clemente Field, and the discussion of the two unveiled some of the division within Lowell’s Cambodian community.

State Representative Rady Mom, who was appointed to the monument design selection committee by the Mayor Rodney Elliott, said “Lowell is our home, we have businesses here; we go to school here; we live here” and that a monument like this will “help tie us in to the rest of the city.”  It will show that the city of Lowell welcomes the Cambodian community, past, present and future.  Representative Mom also explained that the mayor’s committee will select three monument designs from all submitted and then the entire community will vote to select the final design.

Dr. Sengly Kong, who is the president of the Cambodia Town organization, was then asked to speak about another monument that is being considered for that neighborhood.  He explained that a triangle of land at the intersection of Branch Street and Middlesex Street has been donated for a location of this monument.  The design has already been selected: it is a four-faced Bayon Monument that will be eight feet tall.  It is being carved in Cambodia right now and will be shipped to Lowell when it is complete.  The funding for the statue has been donated by the Cambodian Ministry of Culture.

Adam Pril, the leader of the Cupples Square Merchants Association, said he “agreed to disagree” about the Cambodia Town monument.  He supports Cambodian unity but asked whether all the Cambodian people in Lowell supported this monument.  He also question whether it was appropriate to use money supplied by the current Cambodian government to build a monument in Lowell.

Sidney Liang, who is also a member of the Mayor’s Cambodian Monument Committee, said there is a lot of friction in Lowell because of politics in Cambodia today.  He suggested it would have been better for the Cambodian government to use the money to help the poor people of Cambodia rather than to pay for a monument in Lowell.  He thinks a monument would be more valued by the people of Lowell if they paid for it themselves.  Whatever monument is installed in Lowell, he wants it to be a unifying symbol.  He is glad that there will be a Cambodian monument at City Hall.  The most recent ethnic monument, the one erected by the Armenian community, cost $65,000.  He predicts the Cambodian monument will cost at least that much.

Kevin Coughlin, the Deputy Director of the city’s Planning and Development Office, said the government of the city of Lowell sees the Cambodian monument as an important symbol and a unifying force.  There are many people on the selection committee including artists and representatives of organizations in the Lowell Cambodian community.  He also hopes that the creation of the Cambodian monument will be part of a bigger effort by city government to create a “monument garden” on the grounds of City Hall.  This will be a peaceful, natural place where people will be able to relax and contemplate all of the monuments in the middle of the busy city of Lowell.

Professor Bob Forrant Honored

Congratulations to UMass Lowell history Professor Bob Forrant who will be awarded the Massachusetts History Commendation for his work on the Bread and Roses Strike in Lawrence at this year’s Massachusetts History Conference on June 1, 2015 at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester.

Here’s some information about the award from Mass Humanities:

The History Commendation recognizes an organization or individual who has done outstanding work to make Massachusetts history more accessible and relevant to the people of the Commonwealth. Bob Forrant has been a principal scholar in numerous Mass Humanities-funded public humanities programs over the course of his career. He is being recognized in particular for his role in the Lawrence History Center’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Bread and Roses Strike of 1912.

Upcoming Events in Lowell

Lowell Cemetery Tours – This spring’s tours of historic Lowell Cemetery will be held at the following times:

  • Friday, May 15, 2015 at 1 pm
  • Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 10 am
  • Friday, May 22, 2015 at 1 pm
  • Saturday, May 23, 2015 at 10 am

All tours will begin at the Lawrence Street gate, will last 90 minutes, are free and require no advance registration, and are held rain or shine.  The Lowell Cemetery office is located at 77 Knapp Avenue in Lowell.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015 at 4pm at UMass Lowell’s O’Leary Learning Commons mezzanine, 61 Wilder Street, Lowell, there will be an event commemorating the 20th anniversary celebration of Days without Violence.  The event will a talk by Prof. Robert Gamache & Rev. Imogene Stulken who are the founders and directors of the UMass Lowell Peace and Conflicts Studies Institute.  That talk will be moderated by Prof. John Wooding.  The event will also feature special guest speaker Michael Patrick MacDonald, author of “All Souls: A Family Story from Southie.”  MacDonald spoke at last fall’s UMass Lowell Irish History Conference.  He is an insightful and moving speaker who should not be missed.

Friday, April 24 at 7pm and Saturday, April 25 at 1pm and 7pm, there will be performances of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma” at Lowell High’s Cyrus Irish Auditorium.  Tickets start at $30 and may be purchased at www.actorsincorporated.com .  The performance is presented in conjunction with the Kiwanis Club of Greater Lowell which will derive some benefit from ticket sales if you mention the Kiwanis Club when you are making your purchase.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 from 5:30 pm to 7:30pm, there will be a community meeting to discuss the possible future usage of the Smith Baker Center.  This meeting will be held at the Lowell Senior Center, 276 Broadway in Lowell and will be sponsored by the Coalition for a Better Acre which is seeking public input on possible future uses of the site.

Thursday, April 30, 2015 at 4 pm at UMass Lowell O’Leary Library, Room 222, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, two Civil Rights Activists will speak about their experiences in the struggle for civil and political rights in the 1960s.  Charles Cobb and Judy Richardson were members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee which played an active role in many of the major events in the civil rights movement in the 1960s.  This event, sponsored and hosted by UMass Lowell, is free and open to the public.

Friday, May 8, 2015 at 6:30pm at Pailin City, 6 Branch Street, Lowell, the KhmerPost USA will hold its 5th annual Media & Community Gala.  Tickets are $35 and are available in advance from the KhmerPost USA.  I was one of more than 350 people who attended this event last year.  It will once again celebrate Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.

2 Responses to Lowell Week in Review: April 19, 2015

  1. Paul Early says:

    Dick, thanks for this update. I have seen or heard about no public input other than what Craig Thomas mentioned in the city council meeting. As I recall, Mr Thomas mentioned meeting with the owners of Mill 5 and the Western Avenue Studios. I don’t know whether he met with them together or in separate meetings. It is good that he met with them, but the public should be much more inclusive and the meeting needs to be published so that all have a fair chance to learn of the meeting before hand so that be allowed to attend.

    I encourage everyone to contact the city about this either city councilors, the City Manager or people in the Department of Planning and Development. I am sure that I sound like Cato urging the Roman Senate that Carthage must be destroyed, but if we do not let them know our opinions (perhaps over and over), we will probably end up with a very nice auto-centric Lord Overpass.

  2. hhammermill says:


    Excellent point about “right turn on red” being interpreted by drivers as “yield” (creating a dangerous situation for pedestrians). I have two thoughts short of banning right turn on red (for traffic engineers to consider):

    * Can “turn on red” signs be made clear that it is a “stop sign” and not a “yield” sign? Most turns are not labeled at all.

    * Blinking red arrow for turns (force people to stop). I saw something similar in Arizona where they have a variable-speed blinking red light on highway on-ramps to meter traffic onto the highway and reduce traffic jams. It was very effective and clear.

    Lastly, congratulations on drawing attention to the Lord Overpass walkability. The attention we see today is due to your effort.

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