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Americold expansion raises questions about increased traffic and noise for nearby residents

Lehigh Valley Planning Commission/Americold
Site plans for a 332,340 square feet in additions to the Americold facility in Upper Macungie. Lehigh Valley Planning Commission's comprehensive planning committee added some recommendations to the plan Tuesday, while citizens raised questions about the potential for increased noise and traffic.

  • Expansion plans for Americold Logistics facility will add about 332,340 to their footprint
  • The expansion is set to be attached to an existing cold storage warehouse
  • Citizens raised concerns about increased traffic and noise with the project

UPPER MACUNGIE TWP., Pa. — A cold storage facility is one step closer to more than doubling its current footprint following a Lehigh Valley Planning Commission's comprehensive planning meeting Tuesday — though questions about the impact upon nearby neighbors remain unanswered.

The proposed 332,340-square-foot additions to the Americold Logistics Allentown location at 7150 Ambassador Drive will include a 326,859 square-foot building expansion which is set to be attached to an existing 268,521 square-foot cold storage warehouse. The plans also include a detached 3,774-square-foot office/welfare building.

What is Americold?

Americold is the world’s largest publicly traded Real Estate Investment Trust “focused on the ownership, operation, acquisition, and development of temperature-controlled warehouses,” with 245 temperature-controlled facilities encompassing 1.5 billion refrigerated cubic feet of storage across the world.

“As you know, there are housing developments behind the warehouses and I would just be asking, are we going to be doing a noise and a traffic study, especially considering the amount of traffic and how difficult it is to turn left from the road on to Tilghman Street?”
Upper Macungie citizen Julie Hoffman

Chief Community and Regional Planner Steve Neratko said the project will generate an estimated 454 five-passenger vehicles and 249 commercial vehicles per day, according to estimates compiled using the Institute of Transportation Engineers Trip Generation Manual, 11th Edition.

Commissioner Bob Elbich questioned the traffic estimates with a comparison to a projection of 63 trips per day, which was “stated by the user” at a planning committee meeting in Upper Macungie Township.

“In our reviews, we use the estimate that makes the most sense for the development and in this case, this is a high-cube cold storage. That's the estimate that we would use based on that land use code. Could a potential site use more or fewer vehicles? I mean, obviously, I think that's the case. But this is the estimate that the trip generation manual that we utilize would estimate,” Neratko said.

Resident concerns

Resident Julie Hoffman also raised concerns about the impact of the increased traffic upon nearby housing, in addition to citing already present issues with the facility.

“As you know, there are housing developments behind the warehouses and I would just be asking, are we going to be doing a noise and a traffic study, especially considering the amount of traffic and how difficult it is to turn left from the road onto Tilghman Street?” Hoffman said.

“I also wanted to mention there are a number of tractor trailers that are sitting on adjacent streets on a regular basis, including overnight. And also if we could consider a noise barrier, and perhaps only directing exits south for the benefit of the population that lives there from a resident standpoint?”

Another citizen questioned the environmental impact of the expansion, to which Neratko explained increases in traffic and environmental changes are to be expected, though the exact extent of those issues is currently unknown.

“Obviously, with additional traffic, there is going to be sound concerns, there's going to be some environmental concerns in terms of this potential type of development. That's not something that we generally track. That would be something that the commission would have to ask us to review, because it's not something we generally do,” Neratko said.

Committee Chairman Stephen Melnick stated staff would attempt to contact Americold for an exact number of vehicles that will be present at the facility each day in order to placate the public’s concerns, adding those individuals should all raise these questions at Upper Macungie Township meetings.

The committee also offered recommendations for the developer and the municipality to engage with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation on strategies to improve potential congestion along the corridor at the intersection of Mill Road and Tilghman Street, in addition to adding charging spaces for electric vehicles, as “electric vehicles are commonplace and most large vehicle manufacturers plan to eliminate fossil fuel vehicles within the next five to 10 years.”

The proposed plan now moves on to the LVPC full commission meeting, set for 7 p.m. on Aug. 24.