Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Score another one for light rail

LVEDC reports:

Seven thousand cars per hour. Forty thousand Lehigh Valley residents commuting outside the region to work. I-78 is congested and likely to get worse unless more drivers trade their wheels for buses and trains.

That was the message Lois Goldman brought to the Valley when she addressed the LVEDC membership in late February on the I-78 Corridor Transit Study. Lois is manager of corridor studies and project planning for the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority Inc.

The study is assessing the need, impact and feasibility of various transit strategies along the I-78 corridor between Lehigh County and Somerset County in New Jersey. It included a web-based survey to capture public feedback.

Lois was barely into her presentation when she took the most obvious solution off the table and framed the challenge planners in both states face. “In New Jersey, we are broke. We can’t be expanding I-78. We have to look at how to use the facilities we have and get the most out of them. We have to get people out of cars and into mass transit.”

While traffic density is higher in New Jersey than in Pennsylvania, that challenge will have an outsized impact on the Lehigh Valley. The I-78 corridor stretches for 65 miles through two states and affects 650,000 people, with two-thirds of those people living in Pennsylvania.

In the long term, the planners foresee a need for denser, mixed-use development so people don’t have to travel so far to work. They also suggest construction of a light rail line through the Lehigh Valley.

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