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Lehighton hopes to mimic JT’s success

The growth of Jim Thorpe over the last 40 years fascinates state Sen. Dave Argall so much that he’s written graduate school papers on the topic.

Now representing Carbon County in the state Senate, Argall is hopeful he can help other communities tap into the ever-increasing regional tourism boom.

Argall spent Monday afternoon in Lehighton Borough learning more about a pedestrian safety and traffic calming project along the Lehigh River waterfront and Sgt. Stanley Hoffman Boulevard for which he and state Rep. Doyle Heffley recently helped land the municipality a $226,955 grant.

“These grant dollars are very competitive,” Argall said of the Multimodal Transportation Fund money. “There are so many applications and not so many dollars. We want this piece for Lehighton because we believe there is considerable potential for new jobs and revitalization through tourism. This is one piece of the puzzle down by the waterfront.”

Lehighton plans to use the funds to help create safe pedestrian connections and calm motorist traffic along the waterfront, which has seen considerable economic growth in recent years.

Borough Manager Stephen Travers said the bypass is currently not very pedestrian friendly, making it challenging for people to walk from the D&L Trail or businesses such as the Lehighton Outdoor Center to downtown Lehighton.

“We want them to be able to walk across and visit our shops or get a slice of pizza, but we don’t want it to be like Frogger trying to go across there,” Travers said. “This project will feature some traffic calming bump outs and turning lanes for people wanting to come into the downtown. This piece is really super important because of the pedestrian improvements.”

The pedestrian walkway will be located along the west side of Lehigh Drive, which is the road that provides access to the Lehighton Outdoor Center, which draws more than 20,000 people per year seeking kayaking, biking and rafting. Also within walking distance is the trailhead to the Lehighton spur of the D&L Trail.

A full length left-turning lane will be eliminated along the 0.6-mile stretch of the Sgt. Stanley Hoffman Boulevard bypass, which officials said has contributed to several accidents because motorists improperly use it as a passing lane.

Three pedestrian crossing areas will be installed and outfitted with push-button activated rapid flashing signals. All three crosswalks, as well as the gateway onto the bypass, will be enhanced with curb extensions to slow traffic and improve pedestrian safety.

“We’re very thankful for the help Senator Argall has given us not just with this grant but the support he’s provided to us with other applications,” Travers said. “Tourism is going to take us through the next 20 or so years here in Lehighton and a lot of it centers around the river.”

One of those other grants is through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program, which Lehighton hopes will help it bring electric vehicle charging stations downtown.

“The world is going toward electric cars and if you have to charge your car, you’re going to need to shop somewhere or find something to do while that is happening,” Travers said. “We can provide that here.”

Argall also spent time Monday afternoon visiting businesses such as the Lehighton Outdoor Center, Blended Bakery and Joker’s Are Wild Game Café.

“Without businesses there are no jobs so I’m very impressed with what I’m seeing here in Lehighton,” Argall said. “I’ve seen the growth in Jim Thorpe over the last 40 years and a lot of communities feel they could see some steps in that direction. Lehighton is certainly one of those.”

State Sen. Dave Argall, left, talks about a pedestrian safety and waterfront improvement project Monday with Lehighton Borough Manager Stephen Travers. Argall, along with state Rep. Doyle Heffley, recently helped the borough get a $266,955 grant for the project, which will include a walking path along Lehigh Drive, decorative crosswalks, road improvements and more. JARRAD HEDES/TIMES NEWS
State Sen. Dave Argall, left, discusses revitalization efforts in downtown Lehighton with Jokers Are Wild Game Cafe owner Bob Schaeffer on Monday. JARRAD HEDES/TIMES NEWS