The existing Northern Lehigh transportation network consists of state and local roads, sidewalks, LANTA bus routes and multi-use trails. Due to the rural character of the region, much of the local network is designed as reliant on automobiles for access and mobility. However, there are a number of trails in the region utilized primarily for recreation, including the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Trail, Blue Mountain Loop, Woodpecker Trail in Slatington Borough and the Slate Heritage Trail in Washington Township. LANTA provides public bus service along Route 873 through Washington Township, and southern parts of Slatington Borough, through Main Street and North Best Avenue to Kmart in Walnutport Borough.
A transportation analysis was performed to examine current transportation infrastructure and operational conditions. Data was gathered on the existing transportation network, average daily traffic and crash patterns. Transportation system analysis consisted of comparing concerns identified by the community against available data in order to determine if perceptions of concerns for mobility and access were comparably accurate. The data was further analyzed to identify other issues that may not have been identified during the public outreach process.
Average Daily Traffic
Interstates 78 and 476 carry the highest traffic volumes within the region. Interstate 78 has controlled access via interchange at Route 863. Interstate 476 has no interchanges within Northern Lehigh area. Within the Northern Lehigh area Route 863 is a main corridor with an interchange at Interstate 78. Other corridors such as Routes 143, 100, 873 and 309 carry moderate volumes in comparison to Interstate 78 and Interstate 476.
There are 98 bridges of at least eight feet in length along state-owned roads within the region. All of those bridges are open to traffic with no weight restrictions. Twenty-nine bridges of at least 20 feet or more are located on the local route system in the region – 8 bridges are posted with weight restrictions, while one bridge is closed. Bridges with weight restrictions include: Rex Road bridge over Jordan Creek in Heidelberg Township, 26 tons for singles and 36 tons for combinations; Narris Road bridge over Switzer Creek in Lowhill Township, 5 tons; Springhouse Road bridge over Ontelaunee Creek in Lynn Township, 15 tons; Gun Club Road bridge over Ontelaunee Creek in Lynn Township 15 tons; Ulrich Mill Road bridge over Ontelaunee Creek in Lynn Township, 35 tons for singles and 40 tons for combinations; Seager’s Quarry bridge on Country Bridge Road over Trout Creek in Washington Township, 9 tons; Furnace Road bridge over Trout Creek in Washington Township, 8 tons; and the South Walnut Street bridge over Trout Creek in Slatington, 15 tons. The only closed bridge in the region is the Winchester Road bridge over Mill Creek in Lowhill Township. The average age of all posted bridges is 103 years, while the oldest bridge in the region dates back to 1843. The average age of all bridges at least eight feet in length on state-owned roads is 73 years, while the average age of all bridges at least 20 feet in length on locally-owned roads is 70 years.
Municipal Transportation Concerns
The Northern Lehigh Steering Committee members were asked to identify their biggest transportation concerns. These locally identified issues were compared to crash report data, traffic volumes and congestion, and bridge status data collected by the LVPC, PennDOT and other agencies. The results show a strong correlation between local perceptions of transportation issues and available data, enabling Northern Lehigh to have a better understanding of these transportation impacts. The findings are broken out by municipality below and data has been included within a summary table.
Crash data for 2013 through 2017 was obtained from Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Pennshare Crash Download Map. Crashes were classified as low, medium or high, based on the number of crashes in close proximity within the study area.
Lowhill Township identified traffic issues where Route 100 intersects Holbens Valley Road and where Route 100 intersects Kernsville Road to the east and Claussville Road to the west. Route 100 and Holbens Valley Road intersection was identified as having significant truck traffic, and traffic data in this area shows that there is high traffic in this intersection along the Route 100 corridor, with an average daily count of 1,972 trucks traveling through the corridor. The high volume of truck traffic, combined with high volumes of total daily traffic and multiple points of vehicular movement conflicts has resulted in medium to low crashes in this corridor for the five-year period from 2013 through 2017.
The Kernsville Road, Claussville Road and Orchard Road intersections along Route 100 were identified as having considerable increase of traffic. Traffic data projects that this area will be congested by 2040. There is an average of 1,221 trucks per day, with relatively high traffic volumes. Subsequently, a high number of crashes occurred at these intersections.
The community expressed concerns about general traffic volumes at the Route 309 and Route 143 intersection. The intersection experiences moderate total traffic volumes of 11,590 vehicles per day, of which 1,249 are trucks. The intersection experiences a high level of crashes.
Heidelberg reported general traffic concerns of about the Route 309 and Route 101 intersection. Traffic volumes are moderate at 12,372 vehicles per day, including 1,265 trucks. A moderate amount of crashes occur at the intersection.
The Township identified a concern regarding traffic on the Route 100 intersection at Werleys Corner Road. The Route 100 southbound directional flow carries 11,395 total vehicles per day, including 1404 trucks. Crashes in the intersection is moderate.
The Route 100 intersection with Saddle Road was reported as having general traffic issues. The intersection carries moderate traffic volumes of 11,639 vehicles per day, including 1,702 trucks. Crash rates are medium to low in the vicinity of the intersection.
Slatington, Washington and Weisenberg Townships
There were no traffic concerns identified by the communities within the three townships listed above.
Transportation infrastructure is aging in the Northern Lehigh Area communities, as evident by the age of bridges. As previously mentioned, the average age of all eight posted bridges is 103 years. The oldest posted bridge in the region was built in 1834. At the same time, the area is experiencing increased impacts from heavy truck traffic associated with both existing businesses and business growth, primarily in the southern portions of the region near the I-78/Route 863 interchange. Quick and convenient access to Interstate 78 makes this southern area of the region attractive for logistics operations. Sidewalk/pathway infrastructure is most heavily concentrated in Slatington Borough, although smaller pockets of sidewalks or pathways exist in the villages of Emerald and Slatedale, Rising Sun, Newside, New Tripoli, adjacent to the Northwestern Lehigh High School and Weisenberg Elementary School. Multi-use trails serve largely recreational needs and possibly some small-scale commuter needs within the region, primarily in Slatington Borough. Public bus transportation services are limited to the northeastern municipalities of Washington Township and Slatington Borough. Investments to enhancing the mixed-transportation infrastructure in the region in appropriate locations will not only improve resident mobility and safety, but quality of life as well.