Project managers for the Coplay Bridge construction project appeared before the Allen Township Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, June 12 to request access to Howertown Park and Short Lane for the project’s steel beam transportation. Construction on Route 329 has threatened to put the project, on schedule since December 2016, in a delay that could cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Ten steel beams, between 130 and 180 feet long, are scheduled to pass through the township around July 16. However, the recent Route 329 construction project, which detours drivers onto Atlas and Savage Roads, has project managers worried. The trucks transporting the beams will not be able to fit on either road. Simply attempting to navigate these roads will create a traffic standstill and a dangerous driver-safety issue, project managers say.
“No other route [besides 329] can handle the beams,” said Larry Franco, project manager.
As a result, Franco and his team, on behalf of Lehigh and Northampton Counties, are requesting access to Howertown Park and Short Lane. They believe that their drivers can turn off 329 onto Short Lane and cut across a short parcel of the park, avoiding the detour, before entering back onto Route 329. They propose to construct a temporary road in the park and then restore the park to its natural conditions “100 percent.”
The ten deliveries will be spread across three days, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. They will be accompanied by a state police escort. Should the drivers be allowed to access Howertown Park and Short Lane, an operator will be on hand to dress the road between deliveries.
The contractors propose an expedited timeframe- “building the roads on day one; transporting the beams on days two, three, and four; and restoring the roads and park on day five.”
Despite these details, Allen Township supervisors were wary. They wondered whether the beams could be delivered at night, to which Franco responded that their contract with PennDOT states the beams can only be delivered between dawn and dusk for safety reasons. Supervisors also worried about the weight of the beams on Short Lane, in addition to compounded traffic issues.
“Time is critical,” urged Franco.
Without accessing Howertown Park, the beams cannot be delivered until the Route 329 project is completed. He said this would put a six-week to seven-week delay on the entire bridge construction project, one that could cause costs of the project, funded by local and state taxes, to go up “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Allen Township Supervisors tabled their decision, requesting that Franco return during their June 26 meeting with more detailed plans. They also requested that he “push harder” with PennDOT for night delivery.
“You have your schedule, but we have the township to worry about, too,” said Supervisor Dale Hassler.