The ABCs of Lowell History: Z is for Zig Zag

The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. This week, museum staff is telling us about some of the strange street patterns in town. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.

Zig Zags in traffic patterns can make one ask “What were they thinking?!” New residents to Lowell may wonder why Lincoln Lake Avenue has so many stops and starts in town. While it is clear that it is not intended to be a through street, why the extreme measures to prevent it?

The 1950s – 1970s was a time of modernizing roads. The interstate freeway system was built, which caused new roads and modifications to be built. States, counties and cities juggled responsibilities to find the right fit.

Lowell experienced great change during this time also. The City Council made efforts to modernize and grow the town. The main traffic signal in town at Main Street and Hudson had its beginning in 1956. Another change was that the main north – south thoroughfare became Hudson St. Previously, those traveling north came into town from US-16 to Segwun to Hudson. Once Alden Nash was extended between 36th Street and Segwun, it became a straight drive from the interstate to Lowell.

In town the driver then had to ‘zig zag’ to get over a block to the west, as Hudson ended just north of Hunt Street. This road west of Hudson began its life with the name ‘Washington’ as shown on maps as early as 1884. Although this had to have been confusing, as the same maps also show the current ‘Washington’ on the east side of the river, it was not the only name duplicate in the city. By 1929 this road was called ‘Vergennes’ as it was the road you took to get to Vergennes. In 1959 it was changed to ‘Lincoln Lake Avenue’ as we call it today.

The answer to the traffic zig zag was an interceptor road designed to provide a steady north south traffic flow through the city. Since Hudson previously stopped at Hunt, this new interceptor would extend Hudson to the north and connect it with Lincoln Lake just north of the city limits.

The state relinquished ownership of M-91 at this time and the city allowed the county to take control of the road, and make the improvements necessary for a smooth flow of traffic

There was an outcry from the Hudson street residents, as many were afraid of what the increased traffic would do for noise levels and safety concerns. In the end, the interceptor road was completed in May of 1969, producing a straight, smooth traffic flow from north to south through the city. When Lincoln Lake was the primary north south route through town, St. Mary’s Church and the German Zion Methodist Episcopal Church were both on that road. Now it is residential north of Chatham, and the only zig zag needed is for those who mistakenly think they can avoid Hudson street traffic by traveling Lincoln Lake through the city.

The images above show the dedication of the new Alden Nash Road as The “Showboat Highway.” Pictured from left to right: Arnold Wittenbach, Joe Vezino, Donald Schofield, Jim Cook, Dave Clark, Jr. and Interlocutor Gordon Gould. The sign was put up on the road between Lowell and I-96 and dedicated it as The Showboat Highway.

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