Recently, the Morning Call outlined what I see as a wakeup call for Lower Macungie. Basically it amounts to a Crystal Ball moment. Re-read the below article about Upper Saucon’s traffic issues at 309 and Center Valley Parkway and substitute the bypass for 309 and Lower Macungie for Saucon Valley. Sound eerily familiar?
Center Valley Parkway intersection improvements a decade away
Officials in Saucon are currently asking employers to stagger work hours in an attempt to deal with traffic plaguing the area. Similar to Hamilton Crossings proposal in Lower Macungie, in 2006 developers with projects in the area contributed one time funds for quick fix improvements to get projects approved. This included additional lanes and signal upgrades. (again, sound familiar?)
This knowing full well that a more permanent solution of grade separation was one day needed. What that means is essentially a new bridge over 309 eliminating the signalized intersection where gridlock and problems like the above photo occur. The proposed solution at the time was estimated to be complete 2 years ago at a cost of 20 million. Obviously that hasn’t yet materialized and turns out that mark was nearly 20 years off.
Today, with the mess beyond critical mass the Morning Call reports the end game solution is now an additional 20 years away with an estimated cost ballooning to 30 million. 20 years from now you can bet the final cost will be 40 million plus. Meanwhile residents have to live with the mess for nearly 30 years. Why? Failure to force developers to pay for their impacts up front.
Look very closely at this scenario and compare it to Lower Macungie, Hamilton Crossings and the 222 bypass. Our scenario is actually worse since not only will we have to pay down the road, we are being asked to pay now as well to the tune of 250,000 dollars in improvements to Hamilton Boulevard. Add to that the real kick in face that when we have to deal with this issue likely within the next 20 years we’ll still be paying 50% of our taxes to the developer if we participate in TIF. This is money we will need to address issues that inevitably will materialize because of this and other projects along the bypass.
Just like Saucon Valley in 2006 the money now is for the quick fix. Improvements needed just to satisfy Penndot for permits to get a project built. In some ways it actually makes the situation worse for us in Lower Mac. Instead of addressing the bypass so it functions as a bypass the gameplan is to increase capacity on Hamilton Boulevard. This will pretty much kill any plans for the road to evolve into a Main St. Boulevard. Instead, we get a classic costly STROAD. In fact instead of one road (move cars quickly and efficiently from A to B) and one street (a value capture mechanism where businesses can flourish.) we’re building two side by side STROADS.
The more I think about LMT participating in TIF the more I think it’s foolish. It’s crazy to think this project will not go forward without TIF. Therefore, this amounts to nothing short of charity for a developer paid for by you and I.
What do you think about this project? I am looking forward to hearing from residents on both sides of this issue over the next 2 months before LMT votes. Please contact me at email@example.com.