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Carbon County adding kiosks, shuttles

Published May 03. 2019 12:25PM

People who visit Jim Thorpe will soon see big changes in the Carbon County owned parking lot.

On Thursday, the board announced two changes that are in the works — parking kiosks to help cut down on the backlog of traffic coming into the lot on busy weekends and a shuttle service for people who need to park at the far end of the lot.

Commissioners’ Chairman Wayne Nothstein said that the county has had conversations with the company that Jim Thorpe borough purchased their kiosks from.

“We are moving forward with it,” he said.

Officials are trying to hammer out all the details and address the issues with parking. They will decide where to place the kiosks and accommodating people who use the lot for board meetings and jury selection.

Nothstein said that the county is hoping to have the kiosks installed by the Fall Foliage festival in October, but that exact date has not been determined.

The commissioners said it looks like the county will need about 12 kiosks to cover the parking lot, as well as the spaces in front of the lot, the administration parking lot near the mansions and the lot near the Hooven building. The total cost of the project is anticipated to be over $120,000 and will be covered by the parking fee fund.

Commissioner William O’Gurek said Jim Thorpe police are also happy about the changeover because the department, over the years, has been charged with maintaining traffic flow at the entrance and has had issues with backups when people are waiting to pay at the entrance of the lot.

“We think the kiosks will eliminate that to some degree where vehicles can just flow into the lot and find a parking spot and then the driver go to the kiosk to pay the fee,” he said. “We had some really good discussions with police Chief Joseph Schatz.

“We think it’s an investment to the community and tourism,” O’Gurek added.

“Parking has been a major issue over the years,” Commissioner Thomas J. Gerhard said. The kiosks will provide a number of payment options, including coin, cash, credit card and through an app on a person’s smartphone.

In addition to the kiosk changeover, the commissioners announced that the county is keeping two buses that have been replaced in the Carbon County Community Transit system and were slated to be sold.

O’Gurek said that the county spoke with the state about using two of the buses as shuttles in the parking lot during busy seasons.

“When (drivers) are parking all the way at the end of the lot, past where the old bridge was, that’s a long way to walk to get into Jim Thorpe,” he said. “We’re going to shuttle them at the county’s expense.”

The county will hire a few of its parking attendants to also serve as shuttle drivers.

The Carbon County parking lot is heavily used and at many times throughout the year, at full capacity.

It currently can handle approximately 350 vehicles, but the exact number is not known due to the far end of the lot, closest to the rail yard, does not have parking lines and has been used as an overflow lot more often over the last few years as tourists flock to the town. That may change as well, officials said.

Gerhard said that the county may also blacktop the upper lot and improve the lighting to help improve safety for the visitors.

“It’s a big investment, but it’s something we think we need in Carbon County,” he said.

In a related matter, the commissioners also mentioned future plans to move the D&L Trail portion that travels through the county parking lot, out of the lot and next to the Lehigh River.

The county has a grant to help with the project, which is slated to begin around 2021.

The commissioners said that would also help to increase safety for the hikers and bikers who use the trail.

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