Bridge, Iron Works projects detailed at Chamber luncheon
Whitehall Area Chamber of Commerce and Northampton Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a Get the Facts luncheon at Northampton Banquet & Events Center May 30.
Richard Molchany, Lehigh County director of general services, and Elliot Nolter, project manager for Spillman Farmer Architects, were the featured speakers.
Molchany addressed the Coplay-Northampton Bridge project, giving a quick overview of the $2.5 billion in road improvements scheduled for the Lehigh Valley.
Molchany alluded to the expected three-year time frame for construction. The bridge closed May 31.
“We can’t be in the river between April and June. (It’s an) environmental issue. Fish are spawning,” he said. “And we want to do the transportation properly. It needs to last for a hundred years.”
By comparison, it took four years to build the Golden Gate Bridge.
One unique aspect during the construction is a pedestrian shuttle.
“From our data, there are 100 people who walk across the bridge every day. We set up a shuttle that will run from the Coplay side of the bridge to the Northampton side,” Molchany said. “It isn’t a taxi service, even though I’m sure people try to use it that way. We’ll try to set it up so there is a fixed route and it leaves about the same time.”
Traffic will be detoured across the Hokendauqua-North Catasauqua Bridge. There was not as much concern about the Hokendauqua detour as the expected congestion in Northampton. Of particular concern is added congestion at the Second Street light by the Lafarge plant in Cementon.
“I think people will figure a way around the congestion,” Molchany said.
According to Molchany, the Coplay-Northampton Bridge detour is 2.2 miles.
The Northampton-Cementon Bridge is the next span on the schedule.
“We are now becoming the intermodal hub for the Northeast,” Molchany said. “Most of the spending will be on expanding Route 22.
“We believed all the data we had saying that I-78 would relieve the congestion on Route 22, but we grew fast,” he said. “Traffic will grow; for every truck you see now, there will be two trucks. For every two cars, that will grow to three.”
Nolter’s presentation on Catasauqua’s Iron Works project was more upbeat. Nolter highlighted the dynamic history of the site and the progress made. According to Nolter, Iron Works is destined to change the character of Catasauqua. The new municipal building is expected to be open in July. The borough is reaching out to developers to take over the remaining part of the site.
Front Street is converted back to two-way traffic and becomes the primary downtown corridor. Nolter’s firm, Spillman Farmer, has a concept plan for the area.
“This is the only land that Catasauqua has to grow,” he said.
Trail connections are the key recreational element at the Iron Works site.
“A trailhead there is in the plan,” Nolter said.
Ironton Rail Trail (IRT) representatives were there in force. Molchany committed to keeping the trail open during bridge construction. The IRT wants to see a connection to the D&L in Cementon and a connection into Catasauqua.
“The IRT is a model that communities use. It’s the only trail run by volunteers,” IRT Commission member Ray Bieak said. “When municipalities take over trails, they deteriorate. When something needs repair on the IRT, we get it done.”