The new industrial development going up on hundreds of acres of land near Lehigh Valley International Airport will also bring changes in transportation as developers plan more warehouses and distribution centers in the area.
These changes, coupled with the increases in population, traffic and global growth in freight and transportation-based businesses prompted the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission to develop a study that would examine the impact of all these changes to the communities near LVIA.
The LVPC selected Michael Baker International, an engineering firm based in Moon Township, with a local office in Allentown, to be the consultant for the project.
The state Department of Transportation will fund the study, which should be complete in December, said Becky Bradley, executive director of the LVPC.
The Airport Area Transportation Study starts next month and will examine transportation, land use and freight changes in an area that reaches from Route 512 in the east to the Lehigh River in the west and from Route 22 in the south to north of Route 329, Bradley said.
The area covers several municipalities in both Lehigh and Northampton counties, including Allen and East Allen townships, Lower Nazareth, Bath, Whitehall and Hanover Township, all of which will provide data.
The FedEx Ground hub under construction along Willowbrook Road in Allen Township has sparked strong interest from developers looking to build industrial projects near that site.
“FedEx was proposed almost five years ago and there has been a whole lot of interest for freight-based businesses,” Bradley said. “We need to look at how everything fits together from a global perspective. We need to look at what happens to the system as a whole because there will be a transportation impact. We have a very high growth rate of freight-based businesses not only in the state, but in the country.”
Adding to increases in traffic from freight-based businesses is the fact that population has been increasing every year as well as the number of passenger vehicle registrations, she said.
The LVPC approached PennDOT to address the need for a network-based study of transportation needs in that area and they agreed to fund it, Bradley said.
Bradley said this is the first time that PennDOT has funded a study for a specific area.
Sean Brown, spokesperson for PennDOT said this is the first study of this kind for the area of the Lehigh Valley and said the state agency is estimating about $150,000 to fund the study.
A combination of public and private funds will finance the improvements outlined in the study, Bradley said.
“What will come out of this is a better plan for how we deal with the network as a whole,” Bradley said.
Aside from impacts of new truck and car traffic, the study will determine the type of land and road improvements needed to handle the new industrial development. The study will also create a freight transportation-planning model, identify new truck routes and explore opportunities to reuse buildings and possibly increase density in the industrial parks in the study area.
The study will also consider the impact this growth will have on nearby residents and businesses.
Brian Funkhouser, senior transportation planner of Michael Baker International at its Harrisburg office, will be the lead consultant, Bradley said.