If you drive around downtown Allentown, you've seen the detour signs at the Eighth Street Bridge. The project is on schedule, according to PennDOT, but drivers can still expect more than two more years of detours, including when the city's new arena opens a few blocks away.
It's a 100-year-old bridge undergoing a 2-1/2-year makeover. Construction crews are hard at work, tearing down part of Allentown's historic Eighth Street Bridge so they can rebuild it.
"The contractor is currently demolishing the deck," said Ron Young, a PennDOT spokesman. "They're going to replace the deck."
One northbound lane into downtown will remain open until the project is finished at the end of 2016. According to Young, if the weather holds out like it has, the side of the bridge they are rehabbing now should be done by next spring. Then northbound traffic will be moved onto the new side of the bridge for the remainder of the project.
"They'll put a brand new deck on, also new ornamental lighting, make it look a little more fancy that it currently is," he said.
Also coming are new protective railings. The Eighth Street Bridge has been the scene of many suicides over the years.
As for questions about a traffic bottleneck when Allentown's new 10,000-seat arena opens just a few blocks away, Young said drivers should plan on taking other routes into downtown.
"If you're coming up from, say, Saucon Valley area or Bucks County area or Montgomery County area, or even Northampton County coming across [Interstate] 78, take [Pennsylvania Route] 309 to 22 maybe or 309 to 222, and come in, in a different direction."
Of course, both of those alternates take you about six or seven miles out of the way. You can also take the 15th Street Bridge into downtown, but a lot of people are wondering just how bad the project is going to make traffic once the arena gets up and running.