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Region's future transportation needs assessed

Published November 20. 2010 09:00AM

Improving mobility for motorists along busy Route 443 corridor was a major topic of discussion Thursday night when members of the Central Carbon County Comprehensive Planning Committee met at the office of attorney William Schwab.

Representing their communities at the meeting were Schwab, East Penn Township; Darryl Arner, Lehighton; Rod Mann and Paul Kocher, Franklin Township; Frank Ruch, Mahoning Township; Judy Borger, Carbon County Planning Commission; and Dennis DeMara, Department of Community and Natural Resources. Allen Heist, consultant; and Nicole Kline, of McMahon Associates, facilitated the meeting.

After Heist led a discussion on revisions on previously submitted materials, Kline laid out the area transportation projects that are scheduled, issues that presently affect driving on major arteries and urban and rural streets in the central Carbon County area, solutions for the problem areas and what traffic issues need to be addressed immediately and into the future to keep traffic flowing.

Previously, the committee identified 19 key intersections in the area that were studied for traffic flow. Kline identified the count of peak traffic flow in weekday mornings and weekday afternoons. Using that information, Kline noted that several of the intersections were not meeting current transportation needs.

Identified as not meeting the transportation needs in the afternoons were three intersections, Route 209 and Bridge Street, Route 209 and Pa. Turnpike ramps, and at the same location, Route 209 and Harrity Road. Identified as not meeting the transportation needs in both the morning and afternoon are Bridge Street and Bankway Street and the routes 209/248/Canal Street area. She also identified other areas which would benefit from four-way stop signs.

Kline noted that a traffic light is planned for the Route 209 area at Harrity and Pa. Turnpike with the Harrity Bridge replacement. She also suggested that a traffic light would help the congestion at the Main Road/Canal Street intersection.

Kline also noted that Route 443 present traffic situation could be helped by incorporating a center turn lane all along the busy corridor similar to the improvements that were done by the Wall-mart road project.

She estimated that with the present rate of development, that roads will be more than 17 percent congested in 20 years than they are now.

According to the 12-year Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plan for the area, she noted that upgrades will be done to the Packerton Yards to the tune of $1,400,000, which should begin in 2011; and the McCall Bridge is scheduled for restoration at a cost of $21 million. Kline added that the bridge should be replaced with a wider bridge, but that cost of $60 million does not have funding. According to her projections of increased development, by the year 2030, the bridge should have five to six lanes to meet traffic needs in 20 years.

Kline also noted that the Harrity Bridge replacement project will replace the existing 28-foot wide bridge over the Pohopoco Creek with a 43-foot wide bridge with three lanes and traffic light will cost approximately $750.000. That project is projected to start in the very near future.

Kline suggested that applying access management to development areas along Route 443, would help the traffic flow now, without adding a lot of expense. Kline explained that the area along Route 443 has several businesses without a controlled access, which is causing more traffic congestion than it should.

She said that a new road should be planned to provide an alternate route for Sunset Road in East Penn Township, plus the flooding should be addressed along Germans Road and Lauchnor Road, also in East Penn Township, which were closed three times in the past year because of the flooding.

Attorney Schwab said that the roadway should be built up by eight feet to eliminate the flooding.

"Buses could not get through to pick up children during the flooding," said Schwab.

Also discussed was providing a pedestrian connection between Bowmans Road on the north side of Route 895 to the recreation use area of south Route 895 along the Lehigh River, also in East Penn Township.

Kline also mentioned Packerton Yards Industrial Development should be developed to make use of existing railroad lines for movement of freight, plus the Jake Arner Memorial Airport access should be improved, plus all communities with dirt roads should develop plans to construct and maintain these unpaved roadways.

These draft plans will be included in the Central Carbon County Comprehensive Plan.

Heist said the plan should be completed by next summer.

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