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Welcome to the Bethlehem Gadfly!

Definition of gadfly
1: any of various flies that annoy livestock

2: a person who stimulates other people especially by persistent criticism
3: someone who challenges people in positions of power

The main goal of the Gadfly blog is to provide a space for healthy public dialogue about issues of concern to Bethlehem, Pa., residents. All sides, all perspectives welcome.

For good examples of in-depth coverage of continuing serious issues, see the threads onGadfly 54 candidates for election, Martin Tower, Parking, and on 2 W. Market St.

As context for and balance to the serious issues, we also have some fun stuff relating to Bethlehem as well.

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The Gadfly — Ed Gallagher — would like to hear from you!

Collecting some Packer Ave. comments

logo Latest in a series of posts about Lehigh University and the Southside logo

Follower “comments,” as Gadfly has often pointed out, can get lost because of the WordPress format.

So that me collect a few here to make sure they get visibility:

  • Yes, even if through truck traffic is banned, there are still plenty (too many) delivering to SS businesses & residences. (Peter Crownfield)
  • The mayor’s comment [‘it’s been talked about for 2-3 decades’] means, I suspect, that it was first proposed 20–30 years ago — NOT that it’s actually been talked about very much over the years. (Peter Crownfield)
  • Additional crosswalks could be an alternative that would help student experience — but would make it even worse for drivers than it is now. I don’t think there’s a huge payoff in terms of connecting students to SouthSide, but eliminating even a small barrier won’t hurt. We’re still missing data about the pedestrian experience, but seeing students basically stepping out to force vehicles to stop is at least an indication that something is amiss. (Peter Crownfield)
  • Why not close the road to truck traffic? And no truck or van deliveries on Packer. Lower speed limit to 15, strictly enforced. (John Rothschild)
  • I see 3rd and 4th streets as east/west routes, but how does Packer Ave. imitate that? It doesn’t. (John Rothschild)

Yes to restricting truck traffic

logo Latest in a series of posts about Lehigh University and the Southside logo

Breena Holland is an Associate Professor at Lehigh University in the Department of Political Science and the Environmental Initiative. She is a past and current director of Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative.

Gadfly:

Response to Bill Gontram: Yes, I have also noticed an increase in truck traffic on 3rd Street. Last spring my students did a black carbon air monitoring project on 3rd Street. During the afternoon rush hour, there were a lot of tractor-trailer trucks going through the south side. Many of them were Fed Ex trucks. I agree this area should have truck traffic restrictions put on it. The city is not cleaning the ice off the south side of Third Street and so anyone walking on that side of the street is at risk for slipping off the ice in front of a massive truck, as well as other vehicles. But putting the ice problem aside, I believe that when the traffic on 22 gets backed up, the trucks take the route through South Bethlehem to get to 78. It’s a mess that we can probably address through road restrictions.

Breena

Closing Packer Avenue — is there a Plan B?

logo Latest in a series of posts about Lehigh University and the Southside logo

The January 23 Broughal public meeting was a few people in a large auditorium with dim lighting and without mics — not ideal for recording. Sorry, you may need to put your audio volume setting at the highest level.

Closing Packer Avenue is a pretty big step.

The Mayor has said it’s been talked about for 2-3 decades.

Gadfly senses a big push now. Lehigh is really on the move in this area. It is poised to gobble up this portion of Packer.

But people at the meeting wisely asked about options and alternatives: crosswalks, traffic light, pedestrian bridge. In other words, alternatives to achieve the same goals.

Here are two sections of the conversations that Gadfly has patched together. Listen particularly to Lehigh response at the end of the second section.

“Nothing’s being planned right now . . . We are in fact-finding.”

This later audience comment on the same topic of options/alternatives was not really addressed at all.

Interesting.

to be continued . . .

Push-back on the goals for closing Packer Avenue

logo Latest in a series of posts about Lehigh University and the Southside logo

The January 23 Broughal public meeting was a few people in a large auditorium with dim lighting and without mics — not ideal for recording. Sorry, you may need to put your audio volume setting at the highest level.

A Lehigh student questioned each of the three goals Lehigh laid out for closing the section of Packer Avenue between Vine and Webster.

Safety: how about an additional crosswalk?

Connection between Lehigh and South Bethlehem: how would pushing traffic down a block help that?

Improve pedestrian experience: any data to show that it’s bad now?

The answers might not seem very satisfactory:

  • safety is not a prime goal
  • congestion can help — to a certain degree — the urban experience
  • part of a Lehigh pattern of closing roads

Interesting.

to be continued . . .

Closing Packer Avenue: more on what the Mayor had to say

logo Latest in a series of posts about Lehigh University and the Southside logo

The January 23 Broughal public meeting was a few people in a large auditorium with dim lighting and without mics — not ideal for recording. Sorry, you may need to put your audio volume setting at the highest level.

Gadfly loves your participating voices. Public meeting: democracy in action.

But let’s begin with a Gadfly question that eventually elicits as firm and as declarative a response from the Mayor as he has heard in his 16 months on duty. In this clip, the ever skeptical Gadfly asks if closing Packer Avenue is a done deal (the phrase that always makes Gadfly shudder).

“No decision has been made to close Packer Avenue Period.”

Let’s listen to the Mayor again. The meeting was ending. The Mayor was giving thanks when I think it was Kim Carrell Smith who wedged in one last question that importantly elicited from the Mayor his sensitivity to the dark history of Lehigh interaction with the Southside as well as another statement of his goals regarding the Lehigh/City relationship.

Very poor quality. Turn the volume up. Be patient. Important words.

“You just don’t change the whole feeling of a community in a matter of years.”

So the Mayor of course is aware of a history of ill will in the community toward Lehigh (Gadfly always suggests that you browse the “Lost Neighborhood” web site), is aware of lingering resentment.

Which begs the question, was the neighboring residential community aware of the meeting? If so, it would not seem that community was well represented at the meeting. A few posts ago Councilwoman Olga Negron even questioned calling it a “public meeting,” wondering, for instance, if Broughal parents were notified.

So a man asked about the “community engagement” plan for the meeting. A good question.

“For the promotion of this meeting, what was your methodology?”

Aside from the fact that the “invitation” was translated into Spanish, that question was not answered.

Remember that we did the City Communication Survey last year. That was mainly about how we communicate with the City. We need to think the other way around. How does the City communicate with us in a case like this?

There was a message in English and Spanish on Facebook January 15 — 8 days before the meeting. Gadfly’s no expert on announcement timing, but that may be too far ahead, and a follow-up might have been in order.

But is Facebook the best way for the specific Southside community that should be reached for this purpose? What do you think?

And was this the only thing done? Gadfly wishes Lehigh administrator Adrienne McNeil had given more information.

Was the City aggressive enough in getting the word out and stirring up attendance? Has this pilot program been discussed at the Southside Task Force or Southside 2020 or other groups? Were notices in the Hispanic Center? Whatever.

We hope.

to be continued . . .

Close Packer, and close 3rd and 4th to thru-truck traffic

logo Latest in a series of posts about Lehigh University and the Southside logo

Bill Gontram is a Philly transplant happy to find a nice quality of life on the Southside.

Gadfly:

Has anyone noticed the increase in truck traffic specifically on 3rd and 4th Streets? And especially tractor trailers bearing the FedEx logo? FedEx drivers use the corridors as a cut-through from/to I-78 to/from Route 378. Other truckers probably do it too depending on what their GPS might be saying at any given time. If Packer Ave is taken away as an east-west route, then big tucks, excepting through traffic on 378 (perhaps), should be restricted to local deliveries only.

Bill