Bigfoot has invaded Whitehall. And there's not just one, but rather hundreds.
In this case, a "bigfoot" is a rubber base that holds an orange and white striped road construction marker. These objects line MacArthur Road in the area of the municipal building and the intersection of Route 22 and MacArthur.
"During the holidays, we thought it was traffic lights that were holding up southbound traffic," said Whitehall Mayor Edward D. Hozza Jr., addressing the members of the Whitehall Township Crime Watch Feb. 25. He gave an updated version of his state of the township address.
In an effort to get at the root of the problem, township officials parked in the Perkins lot to observe traffic.
"We quickly realized it was not the traffic lights holding up the southbound traffic. It's the fact that people can't see to pull out on Route 22 to go eastbound," Hozza said.
The problem with visibility is caused by bigfoots that line Route 22, blocking visibilityand making it especially difficult to see when pulling out onto the highway from MacArthur Road.
"There are so many of them on Route 22 that when you're trying to pull out, in the rearview mirror you can't see the oncoming traffic," Hozza said. "So we've been pressuring PennDOT to move them back safely so that we can get traffic onto Route 22."
The project is supposed to be done in December of this year, but it is currently 45 days behind schedule, he said.
Despite the inconvenience, Whitehall is lucky. Most road projects go on the "TIP," which Hozza described as a PennDOT spreadsheet. Projects work their way up from the bottom to the top of the list.
However, the Route 22 and MacArthur Road interchange project was never on the TIP.
"That's what's amazing to people. It never came up the ranking. It was inserted by Penn-DOT," Hozza said.
This interchange is the busiest one in the entire Lehigh Valley and possibly the entire state with 85,000 to 100,000 average daily trips on Route 22 and 30,000 to 37,000 average daily trips on MacArthur Road. The current configuration creates backups because traffic cannot easily merge into Route 22.
Hozza also addressed other road construction projects in the township.
"No we are not running the Keystone pipeline from Canada through Egypt down to the Lehigh River to pump oil," he quipped. "The large pipes that you see along MacArthur Road and Eberhart Road and soon you will see in the Whitehall Parkway and [Ironton Rail-Trail] are [for] the Coplay Creek interceptor sewer project."
The $12 million project, undertaken by the Coplay-Whitehall Sewer Authority, involves replacing the sewer system originally installed in the 1960s along and sometimes even through the Coplay Creek.
The improvements ultimately will reduce the amount of wastewater to be treated by the Allentown system, resulting in reduced costs for ratepayers.
The work has required periodic closings of portions of the Ironton Rail-Trail. The CWSA contractor is now working at MacArthur Road and Chestnut Street. Work will progress to the Whitehall Parkway to the west of MacArthur Road and then west and north, crossing under South Church Street in Egypt and down the Essroc Private Road, ending at the border with North Whitehall Township.
Another detour exists because of the Hokendauqua Bridge project. The detour begins at Church Street and has trail users using Quarry Street, crossing Lehigh Street and then using a temporary path to get back on the trail.
"People must use that detour because there is heavy equipment and demolition going," Hozza said. "It's a short detour and you're back on the trail in no time."
Hozza said motorists on Lehigh Street can see the many angles in the construction of the existing bridge to North Catasauqua.
"The new bridge will not have all those twists and turns like a ride at Dorney Park," he said.
The project, which includes work being done in front of the municipal building on MacArthur Road, is expected to be completed in October.
"Our biggest concern throughout the project has been the excess speed," he said. People leaving the township building should look both ways before pulling out, even with a green light.
Motorists soon will be faced with detours for additional projects. The Fullerton Avenue Bridge and ramp reconstruction, the Fifth Street Bridge reconstruction and the Route 22 Lehigh River Bridge reconstruction projects are scheduled to begin in 2014 and 2015. PennDOT consultants are working on detours that will limit traffic to one direction at a time on Fullerton Avenue. One side would remain open while the other side is demolished and replaced.
"How many of you know Route 329 in Cementon? That might be your alternate route," Hozza quipped.
Increased funding for PennDOT has been proposed and that could mean the widening of Route 22, which Hozza advocates.
"We have to make sure, as Lehigh Valley residents and, more importantly, as Whitehall residents, that Route 22 widening from Airport Road out to Cedar Crest remains at the top of the [list of road projects to be completed]."