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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Lowell National Historical Park Trolley Condition Assessment

A trolley travels through Lowell National Historical Park.

Visitors usually access national parks with personal automobiles, which can make traffic congestion part of the park experience. To reduce congestion, parks use multimodal transportation systems that integrate automobiles with other modes, including transit and bicycle and pedestrian linkages. 

Lowell National Historical Park (NHP) includes 19 buildings and other historical sites across a 141-acre urban campus in downtown Lowell, Massachusetts. The park preserves and celebrates the early years of the American Industrial Revolution and each year welcomes more than 560,000 visitors. Visitors travel between sites on trolleys that run on 1.5 miles of rail through several rights-of-way shared by local streets. Some of the trolleys are 30-year-old reproductions, while others are nearly 100-year-old refurbished cars. NPS maintains the trolleys and is responsible for system reliability.

NPS asked the Volpe Center to perform a comprehensive condition assessment of the park’s historic trolley system and rolling stock—including track, overhead line, poles, power substation, station platforms, garage, and supporting facilities. The Volpe team used its multimodal expertise to assess Lowell NHP’s mixed-use, shared
transportation infrastructure, including:

  • Trolley tracks
  • Trolley power supply system
  • Passenger station platforms
  • Roadways and traffic control devices for public transit vehicles, private and commercial automobiles, bicyclists, and pedestrians

The Volpe team performed on-site physical inspections of the trolley infrastructure, wrote interim and final inspection reports, developed schematic design alternatives drawings, and wrote draft and final technical specifications and work statements. Based on its findings, the Volpe team completed an on-site final condition assessment of the trolley system.

As Lowell NHP looks toward long-term requirements, Volpe Center infrastructure team members are helping identify innovative technologies and operational best practices that ensure the trolley system continues to be reliable and safe. Volpe’s in-depth assessment provides NPS with a 10-year prioritized maintenance plan for the Lowell NHP trolley so park managers can prioritize system needs and strategically target future investments.

Last updated: Tuesday, November 5, 2019