The trial Packer Avenue closure is suspended due to Lehigh’s shift to remote learning. On March 16, Packer Ave reopened to traffic. (Annalise Kelloff/B&W Staff)

Packer Avenue closure experiment postponed

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The trial closure of Packer Avenue — scheduled to take place between March 9 and April 30 — has been halted as a result of Lehigh’s move to remote learning for the remainder of the semester. 

Packer Avenue was scheduled to remain closed to vehicles, but remain open to foot traffic to see how the street would function for exclusively pedestrian use, excluding emergency vehicles when necessary. The segment of the street between Webster Street and Vine Street was to remain closed for the experiment. 

Tiffany Wells, a traffic coordinator for the city of Bethlehem, said the decision to initially close Packer Avenue was requested by the university, and after receiving council approval, the city agreed to conduct a test closure of the street.

Packer Avenue reopened to traffic on March 16, a week after the trial closure began. There is no expected date for the experiment to be resumed. 

“Unfortunately, (Packer Avenue) was only closed for a week, and by Monday, it will be reopened,” Wells said. “We haven’t done any testing because the university was shut down. At some point in the future, there may be another test, but at this time, we asked Lehigh, and Lehigh agreed to reopen the road.”

Wells said since the university shut down, and no testing could be conducted, the city requested the road to be reopened. 

Rebecca Patterson, ‘22, said the university still shouldn’t close Packer Avenue, since students will lose their ability to park there.

“Being in a sorority, the walk up is pretty bad for me,” Patterson said. “I have lunch at our house with our chef every day, so I usually want to get back quickly so I can study more and do my work.

She said losing the ability to park on Packer Avenue would force her and many others to park on Morton Street, which would make the street  more congested. 

She said Lehigh should create a student parking garage or lot if Packer Avenue were to close. 

University Architect Brent Stringfellow said the earliest they would consider opening Packer Avenue again would be the fall semester, depending on discussion with the city. 

“We didn’t do any real data collection at that point, but there didn’t appear to be any significant problems resulting at that moment,” Stringfellow said. “With everything being closed right now, there’s no data.”

Wells said the Bethlehem City Office does not have a specific time they plan to resume the experiment, but that it would have to be a time when the university is fully staffed and students are back.

Wells said the Bethlehem City Office will wait for Lehigh to initiate continuing the experiment.

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