The proposed Packer Ave. Promenade

(Latest in a series of posts relating to Lehigh University, the Southside,
and neighborhoods)

“Lehigh University proposes to have the City of Bethlehem vacate the portion of Packer Avenue from Webster Street to Vine Street to create a pedestrian corridor.”
 – Lehigh Traffic Study

Gadfly is confident that we have all at one time or another been traveling on Packer Ave. through the Lehigh campus and experienced the hazardous crossing right at the main entrance.

Especially at class change time, students and faculty flow en masse up and down across Packer Ave., sometimes almost oblivious to traffic.

Students coming down the hill often flow with such force and determination that you are reminded of one of the falls in the Jim Thorpe area.

Students going uphill have the primal focus of salmon going upstream to spawn.

While students sometimes seem oblivious, drivers run the gamut from impatience to anger.

It’s not a good scene.

For this and other reasons having to do with a new physical plan in operation for the campus, Lehigh (as Gadfly first noted in the student newspaper back in March) is exploring seeking approval from the City to make Packer between Adams and Vine a promenade.

The safety concern would be eliminated.

And one can see good things in such a plan from Lehigh’s perspective. A promenade would help unify the lower campus buildings and fit right in to the (laudable) goal of a walking campus.

At a meeting two or three weeks ago, Gadfly heard the Mayor say there was no definite decision yet, but the positive thing he saw was a better flow of students down to the 4th St. businesses. So, at first blush, good for the City economics too.

In early May, a group from a Lehigh graduate class studying this proposal made a presentation to our Environmental Advisory Council (EAC), primarily, I think, to recommend use of their assessment tool — Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) — to complement existing planning processes in new development projects.

Active Gadfly follower Peter Crownfield seems to have been involved in the assessment (see the conclusion to the executive summary), and I am sure we will hear from him.

Here is the complete PowerPoint presentation: Packer Promenade – Sustainability Council.

And here the executive summary:



Per Gadfly usual practice, let’s look at the primary sources before we editorialize and criticize.

But Gadfly had in mind then at the EAC presentation and has more in mind now with the South Bethlehem Historical Society May 22 letter about the impact of “progress” on the Southside still bubbling on his brain things like impact on the residential neighborhood, consultation with neighbors, and the dreaded “Lehigh sprawl.”

So join me in chewing on the Packer Ave. Promenade proposal.

One thought on “The proposed Packer Ave. Promenade

  1. How about speed ‘humps’ in both directions to slow traffic and a pedestrian crossing ala Moravian College on Elizabeth Avenue? This way you have the best of both worlds, improved safety for pedestrian crossings and maintaining a city street that undoubtedly is important for east-west traffic flow on the southside and public safety access in the event of an emergency on campus.

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