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Monday, July 25, 2016

The Lehigh Valley Inland Empirre

Blogger's Note: I accidentally deleted this three-part story, and am reloading it. Sorry, but all comments were wiped out.

I. Lehigh Valley Inland Empire, Freight to Double in Ten Years

If you think of the Lehigh Valley as a sleepy countryside, that's about to change. Freight transportation will double in the Lehigh Valley over the next decade. That's what Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC) Executive Director Becky Bradley told Northampton County Council at their July 21 meeting. It will occur on all levels - rail, roads and air. Accompanying this explosion, there will be more warehouses and traffic. "If they're coming, we have to plan for them," said Bradley.

Noting that manufacturing facilities like Crayola and Olympus now look very much like warehouses, Bradley pointed out that "there's been a change in the way we shop" as online warehouse businesses like Amazon take root in the Lehigh Valley. She said that will only increase once Fed Ex Ground, which started construction in Allen Township last week, is complete. "At full build out, in its third phase, it will be the largest ground facility in the world," she reported. "They are a transportation company. So we obviously need to work with them in order to plan for the transportation system that they need."

Bradley stated that the Fed Ex in Allen Township is already leading to an increasing demand for warehouse and logistics facilities along Route 248 that will "drastically change transportation patterns" in Northampton County.

In addition to Fed Ex, Bradley pointed to a proposed inland port that would expand the current Norfolk Southern rail yard in South Bethlehem, which could soon include a U.S. Customs station for international freight.

Bradley also stated that the "Chrinterchange," a new Route 33 interchange in Palmer Township, will increase freight traffic.

"The Lehigh Valley, all the way down to Harrisburg, actually has better access to markets than the port of Long Beach in California. We really are the new inland empire." The recent Panama Canal expansion is expected to have a major impact along the U.S. eastern seaboard, making inland ports a necessity.

With drastic increases expected on the Lehigh Valley's roads, Congress in December appropriated $458 million for infrastructure projects over the next four years. That's an "unheard of" increase in federal funds for transportation infrastructure, according to Bradley. For the first time, more money will be invested in bridges ($183M) than highways ($131 M). "You lose a bridge, you lose an entire road," reasoned Bradley. Another $144M will be spent for transit.

Mat Benol complained about all the warehouses. "There's gotta' be something that can be done about all these warehouses that keep popping up," he said, adding that many of them are now vacant. Benol commutes to East Brunswick every day, and "I know what the truck traffic is gonna' do. This Fed Ex facility is gonna' kill this area."

"Mat, you can move closer to where you work," noted Ken Kraft.

Bradley acknowledged that increased freight traffic is the biggest transportation issue facing the Lehigh Valley, but added that Pennsylvania is a "right-to-develop" state. She noted that many municipalities have local zoning that permits warehouses, even where it is inappropriate. She agreed that warehouses are often on very short term leases.

Bradley indicated that she is currently working on establishing to truck routes to keep freight off of back roads. She added that there is an agreement in place with Fed Ed under which there will be no truck traffic during peak commuter periods. "We'll see if that happens in implementation," she cautioned.

II. Lehigh Valley Inland Empire, Transportation Trends

The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC) prepares a Transportation Improvement Program funded by the federal government. It is updated every three years. LVPC Executive Director Becky Bradley notes the following trends:

* Most people commute alone in their own vehicle. Only about nine per cent carpool. Only four per cent work from home. Two per cent use their feet, while another two per cent ride LANTA.

* 89,000 of the people who work in the Lehigh Valley commute in from somewhere else. About 187,000 people both live and work here. About 104,000 people who live in the Lehigh Valley commute to work somewhere else.

* Ninety per cent of the freight is moved by tractor trailer.

* 912 bridges are over 50 years old. 169 are structurally deficient and 199 are functionally obsolete. Six bridges are closed and 98 are posted weight restricted. "We need to make sure we're investing in those bridges on defined schedules so we don't lose them," states Bradley

* The most productive warehouses are next to major arteries. "Keep warehouse and distribution facilities where we have good infrastructure, next to major highways," she recommends. "The worst thing that could happen is to have them on a tar and chip road and the local municipality in two years has to pay for a road that they can't afford."

* There are 4,100 miles of roads in the Lehigh Valley, over which 13.6 million miles are traveled daily, with the highest concentration on Airport Road, where the job density is the greatest.

* Over 3,000 of these roads are owned by local government, but federal law requires that improvements be made to federal and state roads first.

III. Lehigh Valley Inland Empire, Major Road Projects

Most of the road projects are along the spine of Routes 22 and 78. Among the major projects are the following:

* Over $17M will be spent to widen Route 22, between 15th Street (Allentown) and Airport Road, with construction slated for 2019 and 2020.

* $14M will be used to reconstruct State Route 100, between Schantz Road and Tilghman Streets, with the work starting in 2017 and going through 2020.

* 12.8M will be used to resurface SR 309 from Walbert Avenue to Shankweiler Drive, as well as improvements to the Orefield Road intersection to accommodate truck turns.

* $11.3M will fund signalization of the SR 222 and Schantz Rd intersection, as well as the SR 222 and Farmington Road intersections.

*$11M will pay for an upgrade to the SR309 and Tilghman Street interchange.

*$7.2M on the 15th St (Allentown) corridor for new signals between Hamilton and Tilghman Streets to improve pedestrian safety.

* $5M will fund highway improvements for Fed Ex, and include widening Airport Road and intersection improvements at Postal and City Line Roads.

* $4M will fund improvements to the Route 22 and 13th St (Easton) interchange. Bradley said at one point that there is more traffic along Easton's 13th Street than west-bound Route 22.

* $3M will be used for Center Street (Bethlehem) resurfacing, between Fahy and Monocacy Bridges.

* $1.5M will be spent for corridor improvements along Easton Avenue (Bethlehem), between Stefko Boulevard and Willow Park Road.

* $2M will be spent to convert one-way streets in Easton's central business district back into two-way streets in 2017 and 2018. Streets involved are Second, Spring Garden, Fourth and Ferry Streets.


Peter J.Cochran said...

Lack of planning has us standing in traffic all the time now.Impact fee should have be put on developers early and often. Becky, 13th street does not have more traffic than westbound 22 this must be a mis-quote. Developers in Forks have wrecked the East end of Valley with too many people already,and Grandma's taxes go up and she has to pay for this crap. Now 250 trucks a day in her way.

Anonymous said...

Whatever the overtaking of our roads by all these trucks, it is all too true, but I am here to say that the quality of deliveries of packages to our homes has plummeted. I just now went out on the front porch to find a severely mangled cardboard box, containing two small bottles of Bach Flower Remedies I had ordered from Amazon. the box was so mangled, it was not clear whether there had ever been more than two bottles in it, because there was a gaping opening in the bottom, that had had some clear tape slapped over it. AND there is no way to determine what had been in the box to begin with, as Amazon is too sorry an outfit anymore to include a packing slip. That ought to be forbidden under consumer protection. There ought to be a packing list/returns form inside the box with the merchandise. But, when the US Postal Service was delivering our boxes, they did not arrive mangled beyond recognition with the contents spilling out. What a crock.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Peter, you can see the video of the meeting. It is no misquote, but she may have mis-spoke. Like you, I have a hard time believing that 13th St gets more traffic than West Bound Route 22.

Anonymous said...

Becky B is always misquoting or misrepresenting the facts, where is the transparency of the LVPC? Time for the Express Times to do a expose' of salaries... After all the LVPC is tax payer funded by taxpayers in Lehigh and Northampton counties.

Rumor has it the LVPC has a high turn over rate, 6 employees have left since January... They only have a staff of 15 people

Bernie O'Hare said...

It appears to me to be far more transparent than most governments. Just about every report is online. I don't know her salary, but am sure it is public record. You don't have to wait for the newspaper to do a story. You could file a RTK yourself.

Anonymous said...

It's been my impression that Becky has rebuilt LVPC for the future, people tend to leave when they're held to new or higher standards. I doubt she misrepresented the facts, I'm sure Bernie could clarify the data.

Anonymous said...

According to the LV Planning Commission website, there are monthly public meetings with a board of 40 people representing all the municipalities, that seems to be alot more oversight than any other government entity in the Lehigh Valley.

P said...

Anon1.38 -40 people no wonder nothing gets a positive shot. A CAMEL is a HORSE designed by committee . A HORSE is a BIG DUMB DOG. That's it.4 times today I sat in a one lane traffic stop because everything is torn up at once. No planning .No co-ordination. 4 times contractor for UGI GREAT WEST has a the same road tied up fixing their already improper pavement returns.They are sloppy and have no regard for the public.That's my opinion. Why are they not paving at night on Hackett park hill for example. No planning.

Anonymous said...

FedEx is supposed to deliver in my area and I do pay extra for there service?! There has been many occasions were I as well as others had to drive to the center in the airport as well as there center off of 512?!
By now my calculation of my personal package logistics pick ups is FedEx owes me about $300.00 and always going up?!)$ Thanx butt I always ask for UPS overnights now?!)$
The carnival experienced have forked tongues on and all and they too like to lick the spoon from the bubbling boiling pressure cooker pot?!)$
RE:publican redd no party affiliation