FedEx Ground Official Discusses Lehigh Valley Megahub at Transportation Forum
By Colin McEvoy on June 8, 2016
With the land deal closed and the uncertainty around the FedEx Ground megahub in Allen Township passed, a high-ranking FedEx official discussed the $300 million project during the Lehigh Valley Transportation Forum on June 8.
Stephanie Cohen, Vice President of Strategic Planning for FedEx Ground, said the company conducted an exhaustive search across three states before deciding the Lehigh Valley was the right place for its warehouse and distribution facility, which will employ 600 workers.
“This area is really well situated to serve the entire eastern seaboard,” Cohen said. “The site here will really allow us to compete and grow and really serve our customer base, as well as the many large retailers that located around here.”
Cohen was a panelist at the forum, which was held at the Mack Trucks facility in Lower Macungie Township and organized by the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce (GLVCC). The event focuses on educating and engaging the region’s business community on issues of transportation and infrastructure.
After several years of planning, which required seeking approval from multiple boards and and overcoming several legal challenges, the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority (LNAA) last month formally closed its deal to sell 253 acres of airport-owned land for the 1.1 million square-foot project.
Construction is projected to begin soon, with a groundbreaking expected this summer, and the facility is anticipated to open in mid-to-late 2018, Cohen said. It will be the largest warehouse and logistics hub of the nearly three dozen they operate across the country. FedEx Ground currently has 20 facilities throughout the state of Pennsylvania employing about 4,000 people.
Answering questions posed by GLVCC President & CEO Tony Iannelli, Cohen said she was not surprised by the delays that preceded final approval of the Allen Township site.
“I believe it’s just part of the process,” she said. “This is a very large project, with many stakeholders involved, and we had a lot of hurdles we needed to clear.”
The land sale helped allow the LNAA to pay off the remaining portion of a previous $26 million court judgment against the airport. With those debts paid, LNAA Executive Director Charles Everett said the airport can now start focusing more on capital projects and runway rehabilitation projects that had been delayed for several years.
In addition to Cohen and Everett, other panelists during the Lehigh Valley Transportation Forum included Robert Clark, New Jersey Division Administrator for the Federal Highway Administration; Susan Heimberger, PennDOT special assistant for multimodal transportation; and Becky Bradley, executive director of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC).
Bradley unveiled the planning commission’s new Transportation Improvement Plan, which encompasses $458 million in transportation infrastructure investment for 2017 to 2020. It targets the region’s highest priority road, bridge, transit, pedestrian, bicycle, and rail infrastructure projects proposed to be developed with federal assistance.
The plan includes 60 projects, with major ones including a $17.6 million widening of Route 22, a $14.1 million reconstruction of PA Route 100, a $12.8 million resurfacing of PA Route 309, and major bridge projects like the Tilghman Street Bridge ($28.5 million), Coplay Northampton Bridge ($21.8 million), Cementon Bridge ($19.2 million), and Route 22 Lehigh River Bridge ($13.3 million).
“The Transportation Improvement Plan takes federal money allocated to the Lehigh Valley, matches it with state monies, and then forwards it to us to be able to allocate,” Bradley said. “We make the allocations based on a series of technical criteria, as well as the overall economic impact in the Lehigh Valley.”
Bradley said the Lehigh Valley has a total of 4,105 miles of roads, of which 3,046 are federally owned, and the remaining 1,060 are owned by the state, federal government, or Pennsylvania Turnpike.
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