$57 million Riverside Drive project from Allentown to Whitehall must be done in 6 years
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Local officials have just over a year to choose who will oversee a $57 million project to turn a former railroad bed into miles of road and trails between Allentown and Whitehall.
A contract for the Riverside Drive Multimodal Revitalization Corridor must be awarded by Aug. 8, 2024, project manager Christine Frey said Tuesday.
- Lehigh Valley and state officials are planning a $57 million road/trail project between Allentown and Whitehall Township
- Project representatives gave Allentown planning officials an overview of their plans Tuesday
- The project, which spans more than three miles, must be done by September 2029
Officials, designers and construction crews will then have about five years to complete the roadway and trail system, which is expected to stretch from Hamilton Street in Allentown to Race Street in Whitehall.
Frey said she expects the project will finish in the summer of 2029, just ahead of the deadline imposed as a condition of a $21.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“If we aren’t done by September 2029, we have bigger problems,” she told Allentown planners.
Planners hear about 'sketch plan'
Frey and project engineer Chris Stanford on Tuesday gave the Allentown City Planning Commission an overview of the eight-figure, multi-municipality project.
They presented a “sketch plan” of the project to get feedback from Allentown officials “before they get deeper into the design,” city Planning Director Jennifer Gomez said.
The Riverside Drive project is set to redevelop more than three miles of the former RJ Corman railroad bed in several phases.
The first phase includes the “Hamilton Gateway” where Hamilton and Union streets meet, with the second phase to go from Linden Street north to Furnace Street.
“If we aren’t done by September 2029, we have bigger problems."Project Manager Christine Frey
The final phase of the project will take the new road and trails north to Race Street in Whitehall Township. Less than half of the three-mile project is within Allentown’s borders.
LVPC officials have called the Riverside Drive project the “single most significant public-private partnership in the Lehigh Valley today.”
The new Riverside Drive corridor would make it easier to travel around the region and reduce traffic congestion by giving buses an alternative to Routes 22 and 145, planning officials have said.
The revitalization project also could generate opportunities for housing, retail and recreational development.
Potential safety measures
The Allentown portion of the new roadway would be 36 feet wide, with one lane going each direction and a turn lane in the middle, Stanford said. Plans show the road would taper down to two lanes as it moves north into Whitehall Township.
“We don't want to make this a race route."Project Manager Christine Frey
A 10-12-foot paved path for walking and biking would be located along the roadway, though representatives from the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor are hoping to widen that, Stanford said.
The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission hosted several meetings in May to hear what residents want to see in the project.
During a meeting at Bucky Boyle Park, several Allentown residents called for the project to include “traffic-calming” and safety measures for pedestrians and children who play in the area.
Project manager Christine Frey said officials are planning to set a 25-mph speed limit for the new Riverside Drive and could build raised “tabletop” intersections to slow traffic.
Those new intersections could also get stop signs, project engineer Chris Stanford said.
“We don't want to make this a race route,” Frey said, adding project designers “are still looking at what we can do” to deter tractor-trailers from using the new roadway.
But any new safety measures near Bucky Boyle Park would have to be completed by the city, she said.