Allentown is competing to win state grants for traffic improvements, pedestrian lighting around the heart of the city and a new section of paved trail along Little Lehigh Creek.

On Wednesday night, City Council unanimously approved plans by the administration to apply for a total of more than $3.9 million in grants

The city hopes to get:

• $700,000 for the design and construction of a paved, multi-use
trail, complete with “continental crosswalks” and hand-activated light signals.

• $1 million for traffic signal improvements at 20 intersections in
downtown Allentown.

• $140,000 to improve pedestrian safety and “calm” traffic on South
Jefferson Street between Wyoming and Lehigh streets in south Allentown.

• $1,070,000 to improve the intersections of Union and Lehigh streets
and Union and S. 6th Street.

• $1 million for center-city pedestrian lighting.

Each of the grant applications is being submitted independently, with no priority ranking of preference by the city.

“We’re hoping they’re all approved,” Lauren Giguere, the city’s grants manager, told City Council Wednesday night.

But she acknowledged the competition will be tough.

Emmaus, Bethlehem and many other municipalities across the state also are applying for a total of $60 million in grants, available from a Multimodal Transportation Fund.

Giguere said it’s a new funding source through the state.

Council member Jeanette Eichenwald asked about prioritizing the projects. She said some of the city’s proposals “seem so much more necessary than others. Notice I didn’t say which ones.” But she then indicated pedestrian lighting seems the most important.

“We had a much larger list when we started,” said Giguere. “We narrowed it down to this group. The team has put a lot of work into these projects and into the applications.”

Giguere explained there are two identical ways to apply for the
grants: through the Department of Community and Economic Development’s Commonwealth Finance Agency or through the Department of Transportation.

She explained DCED has $40 million in grant money to distribute and PennDOT has $20 million.

Council had to act immediately, because applications for the DCED grants are due Friday and those for the PennDOT grants are due June 20.

Giguere said the city was encouraged to apply to both departments for the grants, which it is doing for three of the five proposed projects.

If it wins one grant, it will not also get the other grant for the same project.

She said if projects are approved, the city will have to appropriate the funds in the budget and then seek bids to get the work done.

Giguere also explained matching funds are required to win any of the grants.

Coordinated downtown traffic signals

Craig Messinger, the city’s public works director, explained the 20 proposed improvements for 20 downtown intersections will create “a responsive system, as traffic patterns change throughout the day.”

He said the computerized traffic signals “actually work as a team” to improve traffic flow. “They coordinate with each other.”