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Route 33 Interchange Plans Unveiled

Traffic, construction and detours addressed during public hearing at county courthouse.

Get ready for the new Route 33 interchange.

It will be well-lit, it will feature multiple lanes, it will be geo-technically sound, it will alleviate traffic, it will address future development and, as project engineers stated at a public hearing Wednesday night, it won't disrupt wetlands or harm any endangered species.

Before a handful of people in county council chambers at the courthouse in Easton, Northampton County Councilman Ron Angle hosted an informational session for the public to hear about traffic and development concerns.

The interchange will be located on Main Street in Palmer Township, just west of the Tatamy line, said AnnMarie Vigilante, project manager for Langan engineering and environmental services, which is handling the interchange.

She said the interchange will be diamond shaped, feature acceleration and deceleration lanes, ramp up with Main Street in Palmer Township, widen Van Buren and 8th streets, replace an existing bridge and provide numerous turning lanes.

"We hope this interchange will alleviate traffic on Routes 248 and 191 and help provide a direct route to the highway for people in Palmer and Forks townships, Nazareth and Upper Nazareth," said Alan W. Lothian, a Langan project engineer.

According to figures, 4,064 motorists use the Route 33 interchange at Route 248 during the peak morning hours of 7-9 a.m. and 3,854 motorists use it during 4-6 p.m.

"There will certainly be inconveniences leading up to it," Angle said. "But it seems to me that the interchange will alleviate some of the problems we already have."

One of the biggest inconveniences will be a detour that will be in effect while the bridge is being replaced, Vigilante said.

That detour will send motorists down 8th Street south, around the industrial park, west on Newlin Mills Road and then onto Van Buren, about 10 to 15 minutes, Vigilante said.

"Any type of detour is inconvenient," she said. "We hope it will be something you will find convenient enough not to make your long construction season terrible for the area."

Some residents, though, expressed concerns about finding a way to get their children to school on time or how to get to school in an emergency with a detour.

"There is no other way around with bridge locked up," said one Nazareth resident who wished to remain anonymous. "It's hard enough getting home now."

Vigilante said Route 33 would be closed at various points during construction, mainly at nighttime with 15-30 minute delays.

Vigilante tried to assure those in the audience by saying that "everyone (PennDOT, Palmer Township) is on board" with the project, especially when one person asked if the project is a done deal.

A proposed tax-increment financing district plan for the $33.25 million interchange project was already approved by Palmer Township supervisors and the Easton Area School Board and requires the approval of county council.

The county council is expected to vote on the TIF on Oct. 16. The TIF plan uses expected future increases in tax revenue to finance improvement projects that would spur development and increase the value of the land.

The Northampton County Redevelopment Authority is looking for a 20-year bond term for the $33 million project, which includes the interchange and an industrial park.

Construction would begin in the spring of 2012 with completion expected by the end of 2013.

Two prior public hearings were held in Palmer Township in the summer of 2010 for the surrounding municipalities. Palmer, now undergoing a zoning map review of the township's north end, would have control over what type of businesses would go on the 689-acre parcel.

Officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation did not attend the presentation Wednesday night.

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