Update: On Tuesday, July 17, PennDOT and the contractor for the Water Street Bridge replacement project announced that the project’s start date has again been postponed for a week. The bridge closure is now expected to begin Monday, July 29, and the new projected end date for the project is Friday, Sept. 27. “We apologize for the inconvenience these changes may have,” PennDOT said in an email to Hellertown borough manager Cathy Hartranft. “At this time we do not expect the date to change again, but will keep you informed should it change for any reason.”
Once the Water Street Bridge replacement project begins next week, the intersection of Main and Walnut streets is expected to become more congested, since motor vehicle traffic will be using it as part of a detour around the closure.
Walnut Street is also one of only two roads that lead directly from Main Street in Hellertown to the Saucon Valley School District campus, and it is heavily used by morning and afternoon buses when classes are in session.
The other road that leads from Main Street to the campus–Polk Valley Road–is not signalized at the Main Street intersection.
At their meeting Monday night, borough council members said they are concerned that the additional traffic traveling to and from the schools will worsen congestion at the Walnut and Main intersection betweeen Aug. 26–when the new school year begins– and when the bridge project is complete, which is expected to be around Sept. 20.
The two-month project was originally expected to begin in June, shortly after the school year ended, with completion of the new bridge expected sometime in August before the new school year began.
Instead, the project’s start date has been delayed several times. It is currently expected to begin July 22.
Council president Tom Rieger suggested that the borough send a letter to PennDOT requesting financial aid to pay for a police officer who would be stationed at and controlling the Walnut Street light during school arrival and dismissal times. Rieger said PennDOT has paid for officers to do that when other road projects have caused congestion.
Police Chief Robert Shupp said he has already calculated the times when an officer would be needed at the light.
“It can’t hurt (to send a letter),” Rieger said.
Council voted unanimously to draft and send the letter, and to CC State Rep. Robert Freeman (D-136) and State Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-18) on it.
In other business, council voted unanimously to reject a proposal by Hellertown business owner Rogelio Castillo to host a “Hellertown Fest” that would have featured a number of food trucks selling their cuisine in the 600 block of Main Street from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on a Sunday in late August.
Rieger said solicitor Michael Corriere reviewed the borough’s food truck ordinance and found it does not contain any provisions that would allow for exceptions to a prohibition on food trucks operating within 250 feet of an established restaurant, several of which are located in the 600 block.
Castillo, who owns The Coffee Shop Company, said at a meeting earlier this month that he had received support for Hellertown Fest from downtown restaurant owners.
He was not present at the meeting Monday.
The next Hellertown Borough Council meeting will be held Monday, Aug. 5 at 7 p.m. at Hellertown Borough Hall. Meetings are open to the public.