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Lehigh Valley residents have questions about transportation plan. Here are some answers

A roadmap of improvements to the Lehigh Valley’s transportation system over the next 25 years likely will be approved by the region’s transportation board later this fall.

The $5.36 billion draft Long-Range Transportation Plan will feature investments in about 500 projects throughout the Valley. The LRTP is a federally required plan that is not a budget, but rather a guide to how the region will maintain and improve its transportation network, based primarily on the federal and state transportation funding that’s projected to flow into the Lehigh Valley through 2050.

During September and October, the Lehigh Valley Transportation Study received comments about the plan through meetings with all 62 municipalities and 24 public meetings with municipal, community and government officials, as well as residents from across the Valley.

During Wednesday’s LVTS Joint Technical and Coordinating Committee meeting, 70 questions from the public were presented to the board. Some of them were about the future of passenger rail and commuting from the Lehigh Valley to New York or Philadelphia. Others focused on increasing the trail network and making it easier for those who move around with a bicycle or on foot. And some were concerned about individual highway projects, such as the future of Route 22.

Here is a sampling of the questions along with answers from LVTS staff. They have been edited for length and clarity:

Q: I’m not seeing the Newburg Road/Route 191 and Route 946 intersection improvement project on this list. Is it combined with other projects or did it fall off the list?

The Route 191 and Route 946 Intersection is included in the SR 191 Lower Nazareth Intersection Improvements project on the Transportation Improvement Program, and is currently in preliminary engineering.

Q: I live in the Cedar Creek Farms development between 22 and 309. The noise from 309 and 22 has become increasingly louder over the years especially at the ramps. Would sound walls be included?

Sound abatement projects are considered a type of project that is under federal code and are not eligible for Long-Range Transportation Plan funding. However, we are pursuing a Route 22 improvements study. Sound barriers can be considered as part of a larger project and your comment will be retained as part of this study.

Q: I wanted to reach out on behalf of North Whitehall Township and our efforts for Route 873 and Bellview Drive. It looks like our project made the LRTP and is starting to receive long-range funding?

A: The Route 873 and Bellview Road Intersection improvements is listed as an unmet need in the current project list. Unmet needs are defined as plans and projects that could not be funded with anticipated funding resources. These plans and projects are priorities for the region and funding from local capital improvements, grant, loan programs, larger state and federal infrastructure investment sources or public-private partnerships can be pursued. In the case of projects that need tens of millions or more to complete, regional resources may not be enough and funding outside of or in addition to the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s allocation are typically needed.

Q: Spend money today on pedestrians and bikes rather than kicking the can down the road in favor of more car infrastructure. Build for human-scale today rather than giving humans the scraps left over from cars. It’s disgusting that you have slated “walkway studies” to start in 2037 rather than right now. This isn’t “betterment,” this is meeting the bare standards for humans. Let’s not have any collapsing bridges, but something tells me you have $30,000 floating around to save a life at a crosswalk which is bad enough to make the list. If you focus on moving humans and bikes rather than cars for short and medium distances, you can get cars off the road and not have to spend money expanding roads.

A: Pedestrian and bicycle safety are a major priority for the region. The plan does include money for both, but beyond this plan we have several programs, operating year round, to make sidewalks, intersections, roadways and trails more accessible. Included in those is the Walk/RollLV: Active Transportation Plan, the Transportation Alternative Set-Aside grant program and the current Walk Audit program done in partnership with the United Way of the Lehigh Valley and AARP.

Q: Walkability was a mode of transportation that I did not expect to be so popular, but is great news for expanded and improved walking paths around our cities. I know that especially between Trexler, Cedar Beach and Little Lehigh Parkway there needs to be trails connecting the parks. Otherwise, folks are forced to drive between parks (which feels like it defeats the purpose of going to the park). Good work!

A: We’re committed to enhancing walkability and connecting our parks to create a more enjoyable and sustainable urban experience.

Q: I have read the Plan with great interest. It has everything, but the most pending problems are not addressed at all. First, the Lehigh Valley is rapidly falling behind in its connectivity to New York City.  Second, Interstates 78 and 476 are getting crowded and the rather hapless effort to add lanes does not improve the situation.  Third, the plan virtually ignores the only viable long-term solution: the train.  Fourth, to provide a sustainable foundation for flourishing businesses we need to upgrade our electric grid. Nowhere in the developed world have I seen such an outdated system.

A: We understand your concerns about connectivity to major cities, congestion on highways, and the importance of modernizing our infrastructure. We are actively addressing these issues. Regarding public transportation to New York and Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley Passenger Rail Feasibility Analysis, conducted in partnership with PennDOT, is underway and expected to be completed by early next year. It will determine the feasibility of establishing passenger services into New Jersey, Reading, New York City and Philadelphia.

Addressing the congestion on I-78 and I-476 is a priority, and we are evaluating various solutions, including transit and road enhancements. The plan includes nearly $700 million in upgrades and expansion to Interstate 78.

Modernizing our electric grid is crucial, and private industry partners are working hard on that, but it is not an eligible expense of the Long-Range Transportation Plan.

Q: As a commuter down Route 33 each day, I think it is imperative that you widen Route 33 to three lanes from the Route 22 exits north to the Tatamy exit. If you commute, you know that there is a swell of traffic every day, multiple times per day when drivers hit Tatamy exit, the Route 248 exit, and then the Route 22 exits. It is becoming such a nuisance and I think this needs to be considered as we keep adding warehouses in that area!

A: While there are no plans to widen Route 33, the Plan does include more than $70 million to be invested in Route 33 to improve its efficiency in handling its growing amount of traffic.

Q: Please include light rail and alternative transportation options such as bike lanes and bus only lanes. This could widely improve congestion in the area.

A: Your priorities align with the policies and goals of the plan. Goal 2 of FutureLV: The Regional plan is a “Connected Mixed-Transportation Region.” The plan includes more than $30 million to expand multimodal options, and $26 million to expand the Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority’s (LANTA) Bus Rapid Transit network. This Bus Rapid Transit System is intended to operate like light rail. Please look for the “EBS” or express bus service logo that LANTA has posted along the bus rapid transit route. In addition, the Lehigh Valley Passenger Rail Feasibility Analysis, conducted in partnership with PennDOT, is underway and expected to be completed by early next year. It will determine the feasibility of establishing passenger services into New Jersey, Reading, New York City and Philadelphia. These efforts align with our goals for a more sustainable and interconnected transportation system.

Q: The increased focus on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the long-term is hopeful, but seeing almost all of the major multimodal projects and bike lane projects in the long-term window (likely more than 15 years away) is distressing. Additionally, the Lehigh Valley is already dominated by cars, and more car-centric focuses such as widening Route 22 are short-sighted. Adding an extra lane is just likely to induce more demand and not actually solve the traffic issues we’re facing, as well as increasing the chance for accidents and forcing even more land to be given over to the highway.

A: Promoting bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the near term is essential for creating a more sustainable and livable community. We are committed to considering these improvements as a priority to encourage active transportation, reduce emissions, and enhance economic activity. Your input is valuable in shaping our transportation planning efforts for a more balanced and environmentally friendly future.

Q: Route 22 needs to be widened along the entire route. Turnarounds are also needed in the center for first responders as exits can be too far apart from one another, resulting in delayed response times for an emergency incident. By widening Route 22, and putting in a larger center divider like Interstate 78, many crashes can be avoided. By widening Route 22 you are effectively reducing traffic which results in less collision. License plate readers and better cameras on Route 22 (like the turnpike) can also benefit law enforcement and other first responders.

A: The Long-Range Transportation plan includes more than $600 million to enhance and maintain Route 22. The Plan also includes $1 million to conduct an analysis to determine a strategic plan improving and maintaining Route 22 over the next 25 years. In addition, the Plan includes funding for technology upgrades along our highways, roads and intersections. These plans reflect the commitment to addressing these concerns and improving the road infrastructure in the Lehigh Valley.

Q: How does a roundabout at Hamilton and Lower Macungie Road cost nearly a quarter of a billion dollars?

A: The cost of a roundabout at Hamilton and Lower Macungie Road is likely to depend on various factors including the scope of the project, land acquisition, construction materials, environmental considerations, utility relocation, engineering and design, labor, and potential modifications to accommodate local traffic and safety requirements. That particular location is a complex intersection with high daily vehicle volumes

Q: We’re focused on providing charging stations to folks. Is there a plan for providing publicly available charging stations?

A: The policies in FutureLV supports this, including a Key Initiative to develop an Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Plan. The Plan also includes $100 million to reduce congestion and improve air pollution, as well as $46 million to reduce carbon emissions. Additionally, funding through the Infrastructure Investment and Job Act is now being distributed for projects that would create charging stations available to the public. The LVPC was recently awarded $1 million from the Environmental Protection Agency to develop a plan to reduce carbon pollution. We recommend you monitor LVPC.org to see a schedule of upcoming WorkshopLV meetings that will be part of that process. You can also call the office at 610-264-4544.

https://www.mcall.com/2023/10/19/a-quarter-billion-for-a-roundabout-answering-your-questions-about-the-lehigh-valleys-long-range-transportation-plan/ Lehigh Valley residents have questions about transportation plan. Here are some answers

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