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Monday, November 18, 2013

Northampton Community College to Double Student Housing

Att'y Bill Murphy
When Northampton Community College starts its 2015 school year, it will have double the housing that's currently available. Bethlehem Township Commissioners, at their November 18 meeting, unanimously approved plans for an 87,000 sq ft, 2-story dorm building at the college campus along the northeast corner of Hecktown and Green Pond Roads. Nearly 800 students who currently commute have expressed a desire for student housing. Moreover, 1.4% of the student population are considered "international" students, and have no driver's licenses.

Easton Attorney Bill Murphy, representing the college, presented evidence that the amount of increased traffic from this expansion would be incidental. Engineer Michael Jeitner told Commissioners there would be 12-15 additional trips during peak hours. Commissioners were told that increased student housing would actually ease traffic to and from the campus by taking commuters off the road.

Northampton Community College is the only facility in the state that offers funeral service education, and one of few offering a dental hygiene program.

Stating he lives only a "stone's throw" from the college, Commissioner Tom Nolan stated there has never been an issue with residents at the college, and called the plan an asset, not just to the college, but to the Township as well.

Only resident Barry Roth expressed any concerns about the project, noting that the pedestrian crossings on Green Road Road, which will be used by students going from the dorm to the main campus, are inadequate. He noted students walk into the street without looking, and a nearby treeline makes it difficult for motorists to spot them. "Somebody's gonna' get hurt because they are not looking," he warned. He suggested a tunnel or an overhead walkway.

Jeitner responded that college officials are currently meeting with PennDOT to assess and address student and driver safety on Green Pond Road.

Construction on this project, estimated to cost between $17-18 million, is expected to start next March.

Att'y Blake Marles
In other business, Commissioners granted Attorney Blake Marles' request to waive a $475,000 traffic impact fee at St. Luke's Hospital Riverside medical Complex because of numerous improvements made by the hospital. They also agreed to a County request to consolidate two lots at Louise Moore park, one of which had been reserved as a life estate.

Commissioners also unanimously authorized Acting Township Manager Doug Bruce to inform Northampton County that they recommend a proposal to purchase the Leckonby Estate and Central Moravian Church parcels as a preserve, park and community garden. Those tracts are located next to Housenick Park, which is owned by the township. All of these parcels were once owned by Archibald Johnston, Bethlehem's first mayor. "It can only benefit our citizens," noted Commissioner Michael Hudak.

Finally, Commissioners considered a Red Cross proposal to use the community center as an emergency shelter during a natural catastrophe. Though all are in agreement, Hudak noted there is no back-up generator at the site. Solicitor Jim Broughal indicated he would discuss this problem with the Red Cross, and would also get feedback from officials at the community center.


Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Mr. Roth, the students has a false sense of security and just walk out into traffic without looking. I drive this area everyday and see this happen frequently.

Anonymous said...

I think we all remember that when we were that age we were invincible too. The challenge with a walkway or tunnel is the kid's willingness to use it.

I'd more come at it from the traffic control side, what can be done to slow traffic?

The Banker

Bernie O'Hare said...

mr. Roth is right, and it is a problem that has been recognized by other Comm'rs as well as college officials. A I indicate in my story, college officials are meeting with PennDOT to see how best to fix the problem. I don't see a tunnel or an overhead walkway as an answer. I like the idea of speed bumps and more warning lights.

Ron Beitler said...

LED crosswalk. Muhlenberg has them. I think it's Allen Township has a version. Main St. Macungie has one. Different variations. Macungie's are LED's embedded in the street. Muhl's are on poles. Same concept. Pedestrian hits button lights flash alerting motorists pedestrian in vicinity.

They work great. Also textured crossings. It's a myth they are prohibitively expensive. We have some stamped faux brick in the township. Yes they are more up front. But the one in particular I'm thinking of wasn't touched in almost 9 years. And likely won't for at least another 5 or longer. Over that time period painted would have to be re-done multiple times.

Not only is it aesthestically better, but also more functional. Calms traffic. Drivers see textured macadam as an extension of the walkway.... vs. an intrusion onto the roadway.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Hi Ron, I believe there may be one or more LEDs in place, but will check.

Anonymous said...

The college needs to eliminate the current driveways to the north campus and the Spartan Center. There is too much student (dorm) and vehicle traffic at the crosswalks on Green Pond. The problem only became worse when they added the Spartan Center entrance. Just too much going on at that intersection. They need to re-route and separate the vehicle cross traffic from the student crosswalks. Those driveways and crosswalk traffic patterns were never well thought out during planning. The problem is only going to become worse if they are adding more dorms. They can remedy he problem by realigning the north campus driveway with the south campus driveway and re-route the Spartan lot entrance so that it comes in from the Oakland road side of campus.

Anonymous said...

Who cares about what the college does? Now wait I will answer that, Busybodies. NCC is one of the best Community Colleges in the Country. Only Bethlehem Township could spoil that. If PennDOT wants something done about crossing students that is their business. Bethlehem Township leave it alone.

zoid said...

from what I read BT did not screw up anything, they approved the plans and the use. The reality is NCC is the stakeholder in this matter to make sure their students are safe crossing that road.

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