Bethlehem City Hall is the chief administrative building of the city of Bethlehem, including city council. Bethlehem City Council recently approved a $1.6 million upgrade on South New Street between Third and Morton streets. (Xiaozhe Zhang/B&W Staff)

Bethlehem City Council approves plan to upgrade South New Street


Bethlehem City Council approved a $1.6 million contract to upgrade South New Street between Third and Morton streets. 

According to a Lehigh Valley Live article, the city originally received a $1 million grant from the state in 2017 to revitalize the area of South New Street between Fahy Bridge and Lehigh’s Farrington Square.

Bethlehem City Council President Michael Colón said the effort was pushed back due to other funding resources being recognized, the pandemic and the contract bidding process. The most recent project was approved on March 15.

Colón said the project will include replacement of the sidewalks with more decorative sidewalks using pavers, new trees, lighting upgrades, added landscaping and a new overlay to the street. 

He said the intersection’s corners will have upgraded ramps to comply with current ADA wheelchair accessibility requirements. There will also be a new crosswalk dedicated to creating a safer entrance to the South Bethlehem Greenway.

“There’s a lot of attention being given to South Bethlehem right now,” Colón said. “The marking gateway to South Bethlehem is pretty much Third and New Street, that intersection is a very significant intersection. With the recent development there from the parking garage to the new building that went up a couple years ago, this will add to what’s going on there and upgrade that corner.” 

The Lehigh Valley Live article states that the project is being funded largely by a $1 million grant from the Multimodal Transportation Fund, a $335,954 donation from Lehigh University and $138,000 from the Bethlehem Tree Developer’s Fund. 

Colón said the project will begin construction as the weather gets warmer, and it is estimated to be finished by the end of 2022. 

Lehigh professor of political science Karen Pooley is a member of the Bethlehem community and advocate for the South Side. She said she thinks this project is a great idea, as it will use urban design to make South New Street more walkable and connect Lehigh’s campus with the South Side.

“(The upgrade) affects people’s perception of the area and will change people’s desire to walk through it,” Pooley said. “If there are more students getting drawn down to New Street, to the Third Street commercial corridor, or to the Fourth Street commercial corridor, that’s good news for local businesses.”

Rakkii Ramen, located at 328 S. New Street, was founded by Bryan Lu, ‘22, and his father back in 2018. 

Lu said the owner-operators at the restaurant are happy with the project. He said he hopes the renovations on South New Street will bring in more foot traffic and make the street look nicer.

Lu said he also hopes the sidewalks on the street get expanded, which would allow Rakkii Ramen to fit more seating outside during the warmer months. 

“I think the city of Bethlehem and its residents will be appreciative,” Lu said. “It’s a pretty large project. I don’t feel like there’s a lot of investment into making downtown South Side Bethlehem aesthetic, so I think they will be receptive to it. I can’t see why anybody wouldn’t like it.”

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