The Bethlehem Parking Authority recently sent a survey to residents to assess the need for parking in North and South Bethlehem. Once results are in, the parking authority will hold two meetings to discuss the outcome.
Bethlehem mayor Robert Donchez said the Bethlehem Parking Authority is looking into building two parking garages: one on the South Side next to Northampton Community College on Third and Polk streets and one on the North Side to replace the Walnut Street Garage. In addition, Donchez said the parking authority has had conversations about building another garage on the North Side by the Long Street lot.
The Bethlehem Parking Authority is looking into installing facilities in both the garages and on the streets for electric car battery plugs.
Donchez said the city decided to send out the parking survey because it’s important to get input from the community.
Specialists from Desman Design Management will attend two parking study meetings, which will take place at noon Oct. 24 on Northampton Community College’s Fowler campus. At 6 p.m. the same day, Desman Design Management will give the same presentation at Bethlehem Town Hall.
Donchez said he doesn’t think the cost of parking in Bethlehem is too high.
“When you compare (Bethlehem) to our neighboring cities or other third-class cities, we are nowhere near the top — we’re probably more in the middle,” Donchez said.
Accessibility is another factor that affects residents’ ability to park.
Lisa Girard, the general manager of the Moravian Book Shop, believes her business has been hurt by the lack of parking on North Bethlehem’s Main Street. She said many customers have come in and complained about parking.
Girard said her employees have a hard time finding and paying for parking as well.
“I have employees working four hours a day, and the city expects those people to pay to park,” Girard said. “It’s just ridiculous.”
Many of Girard’s employees, are in their 70s and have to walk up hills to get to work each day.
“You have elderly people who are coming here and you’re making them park down below,” Girard said. “They (physically) can’t do that.”
Sal Basile, the owner of Sal’s Brick Oven Pizza, voiced the same concern. He said he lost a lot of business when new buildings were constructed around Bethlehem because roads were often closed and traffic became heavier, making it more difficult for people to access his restaurant.
The Fahy bridge connecting North and South Bethlehem has been partially closed for over a year. Basile believes this has also contributed to a loss of business.
Basile has high hopes for the parking garage that is under construction across the street from his restaurant. However, he is concerned with the cost of parking. His employees receive parking tickets frequently, and he wants to provide a better solution for them.
“People are afraid to come here for dinner because they get charged until 9 p.m.,” Basile said.
Basile plans on giving customers free two-hour parking and hopes it will boost his business as soon as the parking garage opens.
Basile said overall the North Side is treated better than the South Side of Bethlehem.
“They should open their eyes up and be better on the South Side,” Basile said, “and actually make the South Side prettier and nicer.”