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Environment & Science

Lehigh Valley planners review strategies to cut transportation emissions

Traffic in Lehigh Valley
Donna S. Fisher
For LehighValleyNews.com
Traffic at right moves north on Route 378 over the Hill to Hill Bridge, in Bethlehem, Pa. on February 9, 2023.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — As officials work to create a climate action plan for the Lehigh Valley, they’ve found “everything is sort of related to everything else,” Susan Myerov said Wednesday.

“A lot of this is about growth and where growth should be and how we don't want to impact our greenfields,” said Myerov, Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s new director of environmental planning.

“We want to keep our green spaces green and keep our infrastructure in the area where it's more appropriate to help minimize those vehicle miles traveled and minimize emissions.”

Myerov, as well as other members of the LVPC’s Environmental Committee, on Wednesday reviewed several preliminary transportation policy strategies for the region’s priority climate action plan.

Funded through a grant and due in March, the plan’s focus is to reduce carbon emissions from transportation, a significant driver of greenhouse gas emissions across the Valley.

So far, commission staff have pulled transportation-related strategies from plans already adopted by the commission, including FutureLV and Walk/RollLV, as well as Livable Landscapes programs in Lehigh and Northampton counties.

“It's going to be pretty comprehensive and this is just for the one sector. This will then allow us to, once we submit [the priority climate action plan], to prepare a larger study, which looks at all the sectors that have been contributing to emissions in the Lehigh Valley.”
Susan Myerov, the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s new director of Environmental Planning

“It's going to be pretty comprehensive and this is just for the one sector,” Myerov said.

“This will then allow us to, once we submit [the priority climate action plan], to prepare a larger study, which looks at all the sectors that have been contributing to emissions in the Lehigh Valley.”

Strategies included developing a mixed transportation network “to support a more compact development pattern, optimize roadway capacity and encourage alternative travel options,” and “provide a safe, well-maintained transportation network to move people and goods efficiently, while capitalizing on existing structure,” according to slides presented during the meeting.

Committee members could see a draft of the plan in January, Myerov said.

Reducing transportation emissions

LVPC announced this year it had gotten a $1 million infusion of federal funds after officials opted into the Climate Pollution Reduction Grant program, as part of the federal Inflation Reduction Act.

With the funding, LVPC must create a Priority Climate Action Plan, focused on transportation decarbonization, as well as a Comprehensive Climate Action Plan.

The former is due March 1, while the latter is expected to be adopted in August 2025.

Decarbonization is the process of reducing or eliminating carbon dioxide emissions.

As a way to engage residents and community stakeholders in the creation of the plan, LVPC launched “WorkshopLV: Environment + Transportation,” a series of in-person meetings to brainstorm and prioritize ways to decarbonize transportation across the region.

More than two dozen people participated in an October workshop, during which participants were asked to choose which policies were most important to them.

During a workshop that preceded the committee’s Wednesday meeting, officials heard from residents about electric bicycles, as well as connecting food equity to the plan.

“How do you reduce the miles traveled between getting something from a farm to the market?” Myerov said. “We had comments about how we are looking at getting folks out to our natural areas.”

Susan L. Rockwell, a senior environmental planner, said there were comments and questions about including a range of socioeconomic groups in the plan, as well as how officials plan to further educate and engage the community.

“That's certainly something that will be a big part of the plan — looking at those groups and making sure that there's accessibility and inclusion related to transportation in the plan,” Rockwell said.

‘A wish list’

While LVPC member Michael Drabenstott said it’s a “useful exercise” to plot out the strategies already adopted, he asked to what extent the plan will influence how officials prioritize budgets in the region’s long-range transportation plan.

“I look at the long-range transportation plan that was just adopted — it's overwhelmingly directed toward roads, and it's toward improving the highways and roads and everything like that,” Drabenstott said.

“There wasn't a lot in there for trails, or for mass transit or things like that. So, if we’re going through this useful exercise, I want to make sure that the priorities that we come up with here are reflected in how we budget for transportation and what we prioritize there.

“Otherwise, it's just a wish list.”

Lehigh Valley Transportation Study in mid-November adopted a $4.8 billion long-range transportation plan, providing an official road map to funding the next 25 years of projects throughout the region.

“We'll definitely be looking at that in terms of the funding section that will be part of this plan, for sure,” Myerov said.

Upcoming “WorkshopLV: Environment + Transportation” sessions are scheduled for 11 a.m. Jan. 17 at the commission’s city office, 961 Marcon Blvd., Suite 310, and a virtual session at 11 a.m. Feb. 21.