BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Residents and other community stakeholders on Tuesday shared their thoughts and learned more about the proposed pedestrian bridge that could span the Lehigh River and connect Bethlehem's two downtown areas.
During the virtual town hall hosted by the City of Bethlehem, nearly 60 attendees heard and posed questions and ideas related to the pedestrian- and cycling-only bridge that would link the city's north and south sides.
The majority of the attendees expressed support for the bridge as a "safe passage for all walkers, bikers, runners … thereby making Bethlehem a more walkable city," as stated as the vision in a presentation by WRT Planning and Design, the firm hired by the city to conduct a feasibility study for the proposed bridge.
According to WRT principal Woo Kim and Bethlehem Planning Director Darlene Heller, the return on the investment of the new bridge is also an important factor in its consideration.
Heller said the dollars spent will be returned to the city in tourism and entertainment revenues. In addition to becoming a vital link for the city, the bridge's possible designation as a "floating park" and/or as a commuter alternative was also discussed.
Presenters and participants in the virtual meeting also mentioned several times how the project could include Musikfest and other local festivals and events in its location, design, and execution.
The design firm shared with participants slides showing existing pedestrian bridges from cities including Providence, Rhode Island; Dublin, Ohio; and Greenville, South Carolina. The examples depicted various styles and heights of winding bridges with dramatic lighting effects.
Tuesday afternoon's town hall was essentially the launch of WRT's feasibility study, which the project website states is intended "to conduct an engineering/planning study with a strong public involvement component to analyze the feasibility of a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge across the Lehigh River."
After the feasibility study is completed, a design and engineering study will commence to incorporate the initial study's findings and conclusions.
Heller said the vast portion of the bridge's funding will come from public opportunities for grant awards and contributions from the city and Northampton County.
The feasibility study is being funded through grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Northampton County Open Space program, as well as through the local municipal budget.
The next public participation events for the feasibility study is a scavenger hunt for gift cards to seven notable Bethlehem locations and two upcoming town halls — one this September and the other in January 2022.