The intersection of Main Street and 21st Street (or Route 329) in the Borough of Northampton has long caused congestion and headaches for drivers. However, the borough received a grant to explore road improvement possibilities. The results of that exploration were presented to borough council during their October 15 meeting. A bypass from 24th street and Cherryville Road to Route 329 via Cement Haul Road was proposed. But following the presentation, council was not entirely convinced that this would solve the borough’s problems and a motion to move forward failed on the floor.
The problem at this intersection, said Larry Turoscy of Lehigh Engineering, will get worse as surrounding townships with more land continue to develop and grow. The influx of trucks, buses, and cars make right turns difficult, block traffic, and force drivers to wait as many as three lights or more to simply get through. Widening the intersection to build new lanes is not an option. But Turoscy believes his firm found another way forward.
“Larger cities build a bypass,” he said.
While Northampton is by no means a “large city,” a similar concept, he said, would work well.
Cement Haul Road is a private road that was used by Lafarge Cement. The company still holds the right-of-way. The road runs from the intersection at 24th Street and Cherryville, past the Cherryville road shopping center, and comes out at Route 329 across from Canal Street. The road would have to be widened, but Turoscy says it is in good condition.
“This is a little better than half a road constructed the whole way,” he said.
Trucks and buses coming from Main Street and Cherryville Road could turn right onto Cement Hill Road, allowing more cars to get through the green light at Main and 21st. The road would also provide cars with easier access to 23rd Street and the shopping center’s parking lot. A walking trail connecting Canal Park to 26th Street Park was also proposed.
“If trucks have an alternate route, they will use it,” said David Lear of Lehigh Engineering.
A new signal would be installed at the 24th Street intersection to help with traffic flow.
The cost, explained Turoscy, is not insignificant. The entire project was estimated at $1,214,776. However, there are grants available. If the borough would apply for a PennDOT multimodal grant and an ARLE grant and receive them, the out-of-pocket cost for the borough would be $252,000.
Council had to vote that night whether they would want to apply for the multimodal grant in 2020, but councilmembers were not convinced this project would meet their needs.
“Why would we want this…[it] bypasses the business district,” said Councilwoman Judy Kutzler. “We need money for waterlines, infrastructure…not a road to nowhere.”
Right-of-ways would also have to be acquired from Lafarge, the school district, and the shopping center.
“We look foolish going forward with a project where we don’t have the land,” said Councilman Tony Pristash.
“This project is viable and has advantages, [but] we need to know costs,” added Councilman Robert McHale.
Lear said the borough could apply for the grant in 2021, but warned the borough that it may take several tries for them to get the funding. Despite this, a motion to apply for the multimodal grant failed on the floor, meaning no funding for the project.
Council asked borough manager LeRoy Brobst to explore the costs of acquiring the land so they can potentially revisit the plans next year. Until then, drivers may have to wait through a few more lights.