Lehighton is always advocating for businesses downtown and beyond.
In August, Lehighton Main Street manager Bambi Elsasser told borough council that weekend traffic had dropped sharply in downtown Lehighton.
Elsasser said the problem was that tourists were being asked to turn right when leaving the Carbon County lot at Jim Thorpe, heading away from Lehighton.
Councilor Autumn Abelovsky brought the matter up for discussion at Monday’s council meeting.
Borough Director Steve Travers said he filed a right-to-know request with the Jim Thorpe Borough on Sept. 30 for accident reports for Lehigh Avenue and Susquehana Street, as well as for Lehigh Avenue and the Jim Thorpe/Carbon County parking lot, for the time period of January 1, 2021 through September 30, 2022.
Travers said after the meeting that he had received a total of 22 reports from Jim Thorpe; of these, five were not in the area, three were inside the parking lot, and four were cars driving on the train tracks.
He said that left 10 crashes at the intersection, eight of which were trucks hitting cornering cars at Lehigh and Susquehanna, leaving two crashes at the intersection.
“During a Zoom meeting with Jim Thorpe Borough regarding not allowing traffic to turn left (from) county land, I asked if they had done a traffic survey as required the PennDOT Highway Occupancy Permit; they said they didn’t do a survey and didn’t change the highway occupancy permit, but PennDOT said if they did it for safety, they could” , Travers said.
Safety issues would include fires, collisions or trees in the road.
“Not allowing cars to turn left off (the) county lot diverts all traffic to the tollway at 903 and bypasses Lehighton altogether, negatively impacting our downtown business district. town to the point that some might close up shop,” Travers said.
Travers said the next step may be for the borough to contact PennDOT.
“The next step may be for PennDOT to clarify its position regarding the Highway Occupancy Permit and that it is not necessary to follow the PennDOT regulations that would be required to do so,” he said. “The county owns the parking lot and should amend its permit to do so.”
Abelovsky said she believes the council should continue to champion downtown businesses, as well as those throughout the borough.
At Elsasser’s request, the council agreed in August to place a Discover Lehighton banner at the lodge at the trailhead.
After that meeting, Elsasser said motorists’ GPS units take them to Maury Road and Lehighton picks up people who leave Jim Thorpe normally and are looking for a place to eat or just something to do while leaving Jim. Thorpe.
Elsasser said the case started in the spring and affected not just Lehighton, but all of Carbon County.
In September, Jim Thorpe officials said their decision to ban left turns from the Carbon County parking lot on Route 209 on weekends had done wonders for traffic flow.
While the move helped ease congestion in one of the busiest areas of downtown Jim Thorpe, it routed vehicles in the opposite direction of Lehighton Borough.
For years, motorists leaving the county lot paid off, trying to turn left in heavy traffic coming from the Nesquehoning side of Highway 209.
Both issues have now been resolved as the county has added parking kiosks and left turns off the lot are not permitted.
The new signs will instruct motorists wishing to return to Lehighton to turn right out of county land, turn right to cross the Highway 903 bridge, and turn right onto one-way West Front Street before making the tour of West Second Street, which will take them back to Route 903, where they can cross the bridge again and return to Route 209.