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More improvements of major highways on the way

PHOTO/STEVE WILLIAMS, FLIGHT QUEST AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY/ A new $40 million interchange off Route 33 in Palmer Township is nearly complete and will service the nearby Chrin Commerce Center.

With a growing population and increased truck-freight traffic through the Greater Lehigh Valley, the region is at a transportation crossroads.

With a growing population and increased truck-freight traffic through the Greater Lehigh Valley, the region is at a transportation crossroads.

Traffic congestion in areas such as Route 222 through Berks County and along Route 22 through Lehigh and Northampton counties is getting worse.

As the population continues to grow, economic development, planning and transportation officials are looking closely at what needs to be done – and how much money needs to be spent – to keep us all moving.

Major improvements to some roads may be years away, but with the uncapping of the state’s oil franchise tax to fund highway improvement projects, officials said work on roads such as the West Shore Bypass, Interstate 78, Route 33 and Route 22 are closer than ever. Officials also said that by using off-site construction tactics, some of the improvements can be done with limited impact on existing traffic.

In 1991, Interstate 78 was completed, making the Lehigh Valley the center of a burgeoning transportation corridor between the major metropolitan areas of New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

This one stretch of road was a leading contributor to population growth in the region, with the area now more easily accessible to companies and commuters alike.

Census Bureau statistics show a dramatic increase in population in the Greater Lehigh Valley over the past 25 years – a growth pattern that isn’t slowing and one that is significantly affecting existing and future road projects that try to ease new waves of traffic.

According to the Census Bureau, the population of the Lehigh Valley (Lehigh and Northampton counties combined) grew by more than 82,000 between 1990 and 2010 to 574,000. Berks County saw its population grow by more than 75,000 between 1990 and 2010 to 411,500.

A projection made by Lehigh University showed that the combined population in Lehigh and Northampton counties will surpass 700,000 by 2030.

James McGee, assistant director in charge of design for Pennsylvania Department of Transportation District Five, seeks ways to get people where they want to go as quickly and efficiently as possible. District Five consists of Lehigh, Northampton, Berks, Carbon, Schuylkill and Monroe counties.

Stacy Wescoe
Writer and online editor Stacy Wescoe has her finger on the pulse of the business community in the Greater Lehigh Valley and keeps you up-to-date with technology and trends, plus what coworkers and competitors are talking about around the water cooler — and on social media. She can be reached at stacyw@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4104. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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