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Allentown’s American Parkway Bridge Open After Decades of Waiting

By Colin McEvoy on November 25, 2015

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent lead a ribbon-cutting at the American Parkway Bridge. (photo courtesy city of Allentown)

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent lead a ribbon-cutting at the American Parkway Bridge. (photo courtesy city of Allentown)

The year the American Parkway Bridge was first proposed, Dwight D. Eisenhower began his second term as U.S. President, Jackie Robinson announced his retirement from baseball, and Elvis Presley made his seventh and final appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

It’s been a long road since it was first conceived in 1957, but the $36 million project is now complete, and cars are finally able to cross the four-lane bridge connecting the Allentown’s East Side to Center City.

“It’s only been, I don’t know, 50 years in the making?” Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski joked at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 24. “But we are here. This is a great day and it marks, I think, the beginning of yet another chapter in the revitalization of our great city.”

Construction began in late 2012, and nearly 500 construction jobs went into the building of the bridge, the third that crosses over the Lehigh River in Allentown.

Regional and city officials have long spoken of the need for the American Parkway Bridge, which directly connects West and East Allentown, and provides a near-direct link between Route 22 and downtown Allentown for the first time.

The American Parkway Bridge. Photo courtesy Roads & Bridges magazine.

The American Parkway Bridge. Photo courtesy Roads & Bridges magazine.

The west end of the bridge connects to Furnace Street, less than a minute’s drive away from the Waterfront, a $300 millon mixed-use development on old Lehigh Structural Steel Co. land along the Lehigh River. The eastern end connects to American Parkway near Coca-Cola Park.

Don Cunningham, President and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) said the bridge creates a pathway providing access to the land along the river and making it easier to flow into downtown Allentown.

“This project will help continue to drive growth in Allentown and improve economic development and quality of life for the entire region,” Cunningham said.

The bridge was constructed by New Enterprise Stone and Lime Co. Inc. Completion was delayed by fractured rock found beneath the bed of the Lehigh River, according to the city. A pedestrian sidewalk is located on the south side of the bridge.

“We’re not just rebuilding our region’s largest city, we’re literally reinventing it every single day, all over Allentown and throughout this region,” Pawlowski said at the ribbon-cutting.

“We need to not just rebuild, but reinvent,” he said. “This bridge may have taken more than 50 years to build, beginning from the time it was first proposed to finally becoming a reality, but make no mistake: we are on the move and our improvements are going to reestablish Allentown as the center for this region for decades and decades to come.”

The American Parkway Bridge was named #4 in Roads & Bridges’ Top 10 Bridge Awards, which recognize top projects in North America, an announcement that was made even before the bridge formally opened.

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