Lehigh Valley Transportation

Highways and Bridges

It takes Lehigh Valley residents an average of 25 minutes to get to work.  There is little recurring congestion outside of the morning and afternoon rush hours in the Lehigh Valley.  Our regional transportation network is complete and functions reasonably well in terms of ease, safety and convenience.  The key question is: can it be sustained?  Without a significant increase in capital funding, the answer is no.  The lack of needed investment will result in a decline in the performance of our roads and bridges, meaning longer travel times due to congestion and detours.

The focus over the last four years in the Lehigh Valley (and across Pennsylvania) has been on maintenance, in particular bridge maintenance.  Even with the many bridges repaired over the last four years, the list of bridges across the region that still need to be rehabilitated or replaced is long.  Each year additional bridges come on the list.  Meanwhile, highway ride quality has deteriorated over that same time frame with the investment focus on bridges.  Numerous reports at both the Federal and State level document that transportation funding is very inadequate; prospects for increased investment in the near future are not good.  In fact, the lack of transportation funding has been the determining factor in many of the investment decisions made in the last five years.  Consider:

The Lehigh Valley Transportation Study (LVTS) long range plan estimates a $1.7 billion shortfall for funding needed through 2030.  The shortfall is 106% of the expected revenues over the same time frame.

The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC) completed a study on Route 22 in 2001.  The report recommended widening Route 22 to six or eight lanes, starting with the section from Airport Road to 15th Street.  Due to a lack of funds, this project was scaled back to interchange improvements at MacArthur Road and Fullerton Avenue and replacing the bridge over the Lehigh River.  While this may improve safety at the interchanges, the project will not address recurring congestion along this important employment corridor.

LVTS has identified the Route 22 corridor as its number one congestion priority.  However, according to LVTS’ long range transportation plan findings, widening of the most important section of Route 22 cannot be completed over the next 18 years due to lack of funding.  Meanwhile, the other 12 corridors identified in the plan as needing attention to relieve congestion will not be addressed over that time frame, again due to lack of funding.

From 2006 through 2010, the Lehigh Valley had an average of 61 fatalities a year and 166 major injuries on its roadways.  This average has been declining - 51 fatalities occurred in 2010 compared to 81 in 2005, a 37% reduction.  However, many safety issues remain.  Addressing these issues would surely result in fewer fatalities and injuries.  Funding for safety improvements needs to be increased.

Given the condition of the highway and bridge network, maintenance must continue to be the focus of investment.  Without an increase in financial resources, other important areas such as safety and congestion reduction will remain unaddressed.  Minor improvements can be made with funding that is available such as cutting back trees to improve sight distance and synchronizing traffic signals to improve traffic flow, but this approach will not be an adequate substitute to the improvements needed to keep the Lehigh Valley highway network running smoothly.

Public Transportation

A key component to the future the Valley will be the level of access to alternative modes of transportation like public transit, walking and biking. Currently, we face two major challenges in terms of access to public transportation. The first is the overall level of public transportation service available to residents of the Lehigh Valley. To increase the overall level of public transit available LANta studied the idea of “bus rapid transit” for the Lehigh Valley. The second challenge to increased transit is that many areas of the Valley have not been developed in a manner that facilitates the use of transit. 
For transit to be feasible, residents must be able to safely and conveniently access bus stops to board the bus as well as their final destination once leaving the bus.  This requires a comprehensive and safe network of sidewalks, marked crosswalks and pedestrian phases at traffic signals.  In addition, our neighborhoods, office parks and retail centers must be designed or retrofitted in a way to allow people to walk into, out of and throughout the developments in a safe and convenient manner.  These types of improvements and changes to development patterns will happen when local municipalities create policy that fosters “transit oriented development”.    

LANta has completed a Transit Oriented Development study, which further defines how land development in the Lehigh Valley can be done in a way as to promote and facilitate the use of transit. While development in the downtowns of the three cities, and other traditional urban centers is preferred from the standpoint of transit provision, it should be noted that the Comprehensive Plan calls for urban development in currently un-developed or sparsely developed areas. It is critical that development which takes place in these areas be done in a way as not to preclude or discourage the use of transit in these areas. Accordingly, this document does direct significant focus to the type of development which will occur in the more suburban areas outside of the traditional urban core but that are still consistent with the regional Comprehensive Plan.
LANta conducted an enhanced bus rapid transit (BRT) system study that looks at making certain bus routes more efficient given the land use surrounding the identified routes.  The Enhanced Bus/Bus Rapid Transit Plan, includes the preparation of a conceptual enhanced bus/bus rapid transit service plan, identification of regional goals and objectives for the service, analysis of demand and potential benefits within each corridor, identification of a “trunk” corridor or corridors, development of a conceptual design plan for the corridor(s), and a final implementation plan which together may be considered as an application to the FTA for the Very Small Starts program.
The following are the goals and objectives of enhanced bus service (EBS) in the Lehigh Valley, as determined by the study team with input from the LANta Board and the Study Advisory Committee. Input from the series of public meetings was also considered and incorporated. The broad program goals for the development of Enhanced Bus Service in the Lehigh Valley include:
  • Benefit current riders;
  • Expand the transit market – attract new and choice riders;
  • Promote revitalization of the Valley’s urban core;
  • Maximize productivity (riders per hour); and
  • Be financially feasible.

Lehigh Valley Transportation

The Lehigh Valley Transportation Study (LVTS) is the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Lehigh and Northampton counties and it housed at the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. The role of the MPO is to promote transportation projects, plans, programs, and policies that are consistent with the locally adopted Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and Lehigh Valley Transportation Plan (LVTP). LVTS was created in 1964 through a legal agreement between the Cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton; the Counties of Lehigh and Northampton; and the Department of Highways of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (now the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation).
The LVTS was founded in response to the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1962, which stated, in part, that any urban area with a population of more than 50,000 must maintain a continuing, comprehensive and cooperative transportation planning process in order to be eligible to receive Federal funds for transportation projects.
EnvisionLV 3-24-14 - LANta
EnvisionLV 3-24-2014 - Community Conversation Highlights
Chapter 1: LANtaBus, An Introduction
LVPC Regional Planning Dinner + Community Awards
10/23/2014 5:30:00 PM
Lehigh University, Iacocca Hall
Summit for Smart Growth and Sustainable Communities
12/5/2014 8:00:00 AM
Hotel Bethlehem
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