A hillside street that disappeared in Tamaqua 40 years ago is making a comeback and when it's finished it'll have no speed limit.
That's because Carriage Street is strictly for pedestrians. It's a stairway connecting two streets
This summer, the steep avenue will return to Tamaqua's South Ward after an absence of 40 years, and its reappearance will be permanent because Carriage Street will no longer be made of wood.
"There will be steel steps," said Dan Schroeder, community development officer.
Carriage Street is considered a paper street and rarely shows on maps. The wooden staircase once served as a heavily used passage connecting West Spruce and South Nescopec streets in a heavily populated section of the South Ward.
But, after deteriorating over the years, the steps were removed about 1970 and nature quickly reclaimed the steep mountainside.
As a result, younger citizens today wouldn't have a clue about the "stairway that once was." But later this summer, Tamaqua's newest "street" will reappear and is expected to see substantial foot traffic.
The project is a major infrastructure improvement at a cost of $221,000, and progress is being made quickly now that good weather has arrived.
"The foundation walls are formed at the top of the steps, and they're planning on pouring concrete this afternoon," said Schroeder on Thursday.
Project funding was secured through a PennDOT Safe Streets to School Grant as well as Elm Street funding from the Department of Community and Economic Development.
The Carriage Street steps will connect a low-lying, residential section of the South Ward with a hilltop area of the South Ward which hosts Lehigh Carbon Community College campus and additional residential neighborhoods. The staircase also will facilitate pedestrian access to the business district and the Tamaqua National Historic District.
In addition, the stairway will see use by students of Tamaqua Area High School and the Tamaqua Area Middle School Campus.
The event is seen as not only the re-emergence a steel staircase, but rather, a tangible indication of rebirth in Tamaqua's sprawling South Ward community.
"We're really excited to have this project actually under construction," said Kathy Kunkel, Elm Street manager. "This is the first of three major projects developed by the South Ward Neighborhood Committee as part of our five-year Elm Street Program."
Various committees associated with the Elm Street Program have put in countless hours toward revitalization efforts in the South Ward section. Much of that hard work has been low-key and not highly publicized despite the countless volunteer hours put into improvements.
The Carriage Street project, however, is different in that it is very noticeable and will provide an enhancement to the community that is hard not to miss.
"All of the hard work done by our volunteers has mostly been behind the scenes," said Kunkel. "So it's nice to have something so visible to show our determination to revitalize our neighborhood. We couldn't do it without the help of DCED and PennDOT."
If the weather continues to cooperate, Carriage Street will reappear in Tamaqua in the coming weeks, providing two lanes of pedestrian traffic and handrails for safety.
Plus, it will be Tamaqua's only "street" without a speed limit.