Lehigh Valley

Pedestrian-friendly crossing plan floated for Hamilton Boulevard

SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. - "Wow! I never thought it could look like this."

That's a remark designers envision pedestrians, motorists and business owners making upon seeing a plan to make the Hamilton Boulevard corridor between Cedar Crest Boulevard and Route 309 more pedestrian-crossing friendly in South Whitehall Township, Lehigh County.

On Wednesday night commissioners and the public received an in-depth presentation on the concept by planner Thomas Comitta, of West Chester, Pa.-based Thomas Comitta Associates, Inc.,that would see the section "transformed to become more attractive to both pedestrians and motorists," according to the report.

Commissioners were sufficiently impressed by the concept to have Howard Kutzler, the township's director of administration, engage the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and nearby property owners with the idea.

"It's a great concept," said Commissioner David Bond.

It's also no Johnny-Come-Lately idea.

"This is something that's long, long overdue," said President Christina Morgan.

And one that is also a matter of safety.

Any motorist who travels the corridor with regularity has seen those attempting to dart across the highway with the dexterity of water bugs and whippets trying to survive the wail and howl of banshee motorists speeding by with Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom occupying the north side and various businesses decorating the south side.

Comitta's plan would feature sidewalks, traffic signals, treeways, bus stops, benches, banners and a raised crosswalk about halfway between the Lincoln Avenue intersection on the west side of the corridor and Cedar Crest Boulevard on the east side.

Traffic signals would allow "a person of normal ambulatory skill" sufficient opportunity to make their way across the highway.

For those individuals from whom time has stolen their agility, or those who "just had a hip replacement" in the words of Comitta, there would be a middle refuge area to take a midway break.

Comitta could not say exactly how long that traffic signal would be timed during Wednesday night's meeting.

In fact, Committa's presentation was fodder for a discussion from residents in attendance, who offered suggestions and thoughts of their own.

One such inquiry posed the question of the viability of installing an overhead bridge where pedestrians could go up and over traffic.

Comitta responded that in the initial throw-it-against-the-wall phase the idea had been broached.

He cited a successful example of one across City Line Avenue outside the campus of Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia.

But Comitta added, such an undertaking would not exactly be a contestant on the $1.98 beauty show.

"It can be expensive," he said.

And the matter of who exactly would pay wasn't fleshed out with much preciseness Wednesday night, other than that "it would turn on grants," according to Comitta.

"The idea here is to enhance pedestrian management for the corridor, not just Dorney Park," noted Morgan.

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