The City of Bethlehem received a grant to revitalize New Street in South Bethlehem. The million-dollar grant is from the Pennsylvania Department of Economic Development. (Megan Burke/B&W Staff)

South Side receives $1 million state grant to revitalize streets

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The blocks between Fahy Bridge and Farrington Square will soon undergo major updates.

The City of Bethlehem received a $1 million grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Economic Development to redesign streets on the South Side. The grant will be matched by other investors, such as Lehigh University and St. Luke’s University Hospital.

“We have seen this rebirth throughout the South Side of Bethlehem in the past 22 years because of these economic development incentives,” said Lisa M. Boscola, a Pennsylvania state senator serving Lehigh and Northampton counties.

Darlene Heller, the director of planning and zoning for the City of Bethlehem, said the purpose of the grant is to support various modes of transportation, such as improving traffic patterns, bicycle lanes and sidewalks for pedestrians.

The grant will allow the city to make many different changes.

Heller said the traffic patterns of the Third and Fourth streets intersection will be improved, and enhancements will be made to the landscaping and storm drains. There will also be increased lighting and sidewalk improvements to ensure pedestrian safety.

The project is expected to begin soon and take a little more than two years to complete.

“We need to show that project is ready to go and have a schedule,” Heller said.

She said the city needs to start designing, hire an engineering firm and break ground on construction.

“When I secure money for projects at the state level, I want to make sure that those projects are shovel-ready to go,” Boscola said. “It doesn’t happen overnight, but it only happens with a team — a team of government officials working hand in hand with private investors and with (a) nonprofit community.”

There are many projects the city would like to work on, but Heller said New Street is a priority because of the amount of traffic that floods the street.

Heller described New Street as a “connection street” because it cuts through downtown Bethlehem, and by way of the Fahy Bridge, connects Lehigh’s campus to the North Side.

This grant will allow the Lehigh community to become more involved with the North and South Side communities.

“I really think it is important to try and make it a gateway into the campus from New Street up to Farrington Square because the goal here is really to draw more students off campus into the community,” said Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez. “We’ve been talking about revitalizing the South Side for 30 years, and it has never happened.”

Adrienne Washington, Lehigh’s vice president of community relations, said it’s important that Lehigh becomes more involved in the Bethlehem community.

“We’re doing all we can to get the students to integrate with South Side Bethlehem,” Washington said. “There is an opportunity for this project to get students excited about what is happening on the South Side.”

Those in charge of planning the project are interested in getting input from South Side residents about what they would like to see improved.

“We want to market the Lehigh Valley as a place to live, work, play and for tourism too,” Boscola said, “but it only works when we have these types of investments and when everyone works together.”

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