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$534M in transportation improvements proposed for Lehigh Valley

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Michael S. Donchez, a member of the Lehigh Valley Transportation Study, presents the Transportation Improvement Program.
Michael S. Donchez, a member of the Lehigh Valley Transportation Study, presents the Transportation Improvement Program.

A proposed $534 million transportation improvement plan that touches every corner of Northampton and Lehigh counties, including some of the busiest roads and bridges, was unveiled this morning by the Lehigh Valley Transportation Study committees.

The 2019-2022 Transportation Improvement Program maps out a plan over the next four years to improve more than 110 of the Lehigh Valley’s highest priority roads, bridges, transit, pedestrian, bicycle and rail infrastructure.

This year’s TIP is $76 million higher, a 16 percent increase, over the $458 million plan presented two years ago.

Michael Donchez, senior transportation planner for the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, said the increased funding allowed the committees to fund 42 new projects.

TIPS are four-year plans that are updated every two years. The final two years of one plan serves as the first two years of the next plan. TIP funding is about 80 percent federal and 20 percent state, with some local matching funds.

Some of the most notable road projects include:

- $50 million to widen and improve portions of Route 22.

- More than $80 million in work along Route 309,

- More than $30 million to widen the Lehigh River Bridge to MacArthur Road by 2020 and to design and acquire the rest of the road between 15th Street and Airport Road.

- $19 million on resurfacing and restoration projects from Interstate 78 to 15th Street in Lehigh County and from 25th Street to Route 512 in Northampton County.

“As demand on the Lehigh Valley’s infrastructure grows, continued investment in the transportation system is imperative,” Becky Bradley, executive director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission and secretary of the LVTS, said in a statement.

“We are proud to be able to increase funding to enhance mobility, maintain assets and improve safety.”

This year’s TIP will fund 58 road projects, 57 bridge projects, several railroad improvements and mass transit operations that provide 5.6 million rides a year.

Overall, $244.3 million would be allocated for road projects; $144 million to repair or replace bridges; and $145.8 to fund the Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority.

Brendan Cotter of LANTA said $88.7 million would be allocated for state and local operating systems and $57.1 million for capital projects, including replacing 28-30 diesel buses with buses that run on compressed natural gas and replacing 75 diesel paratransit buses with gasoline-powered buses over the next four years.

Michael W. Rebert, executive of the state Department of Transportation District 5, said the new TIP would “benefit tourism, commerce and the everyday commuter.”

The LVTS committees approved the draft for a 30-day public review and comment. Public comment on the plan begins April 23, and passage is expected in June.

Federal review would begin in July, with approval expected in late September.

The new plan would go into effect Oct. 1.

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