LV's traffic a hot topic at South Whitehall Commissioners

Published: Oct 16 2013 11:37:58 PM EDT
Route 22 traffic
SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. -

The phrase "those who fail to plan, plan to fail" is something the South Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners take seriously.

Wednesday night's meeting was dominated by three topics that in the immediate are not issues, but one day will impact the township's residents greatly.

First up was a presentation by civil engineer Bill McNair who is working on infrastructure studies regarding prioritizing future road projects in the township. McNair cited a recent on-air report by WFMZ-TV concerning traffic congestion in the Lehigh Valley, which is costing motorists $736 per year and an additional 40 hours per year. The study was conducting by a national non-profit transportation research organization named TRIP. Two of the "problem commutes" in the studies' top ten include South Whitehall Township's Cedar Crest Boulevard and Mauch Chunk Road.

McNair presented a list of what is considered key Pennsylvania Department of Transportation roads in the township, with Tilghman Street at Route 309 topping the list, followed by Mauch Chunk Road from Route 22 to Schadt Avenue, and Route 309 from Ridgeview to Orefield roads, among others.

The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission said there "really is no easy way to expand Cedar Crest Boulevard," according to McNair.

During his presentation, McNair emphasized to commissioners that it was important for the township to decide which road projects warranted the most attention so they could be worked into the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission Transportation Improvement Plan.

McNair said the township would be prudent to invest between $10,000 and $15,000 to cover engineering studies on which projects they want to make a priority. And he noted commissioners had better get started sooner than later.

"The process could take several years," he said negotiating through the bureaucracy.

President Christina Morgan noted McNair's timing was impeccable, since commissioners are entering budget season, noting they will "digest" the information McNair noted during that process.

The next presentation from the Greenawalds Fire Company gave the five-member legislative body even more to digest. Fire company officials made it clear that while they weren't asking commissioners for money on Wednesday night, that a day or reckoning is just around the corner as their 1988 Pierce Engine truck has most definitely seen its better days. Commissioners heard a presentation from KME, a Nesquehoning, Pa.-based fire truck manufacturer, who told commissioners that a custom reserve pumper truck equipped with a 109-foot aerial-device ladder would run the township $760,752.

Commissioners again offered no insights into their positions.

"We do recognize that you are all volunteers and you do this on your own time," Morgan said to a half-dozen firefighters from the company in attendance.

The last topic centered around designing an ordinance that would protect the township's historic resources. This proposed ordinance is a direct result of the firestorm surrounding the King George Inn's precarious future.

On Wednesday night Thomas Comitta, of Thomas Comitta Associates, presented his response to a RFP issued by the township, noting that the historic resource protection is designated in three categories, with the first class resting with properties or buildings that have a national historic value, the second having a historic value to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the third category designated to local significance.

The price tag for this process, totaling $41,500, was pricy enough for Commissioner Glenn Block to request that the township, and not Thomas Comitta Associates, undertake the reviewing the township's inventory of potential properties, to save some cash.

Commissioners asked Comitta to come back to them with a price subtracting the research component, and Comitta agreed, indicating he would have that figure to commissioners by October 22nd.

And in other business, township Manager Jon Hammer noted that the township will hold a budget workshop session at 6 p.m. on October 23rd at the township building.