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Lehigh Valley Hosts Tour of Public Sector Transportation Professionals

By Colin McEvoy on May 5, 2017

Visitors stopped at the Majestic Bethlehem Center as part of a Lehigh Valley bus tour organized through the I-95 Corridor Coalition’s Freight Academy.

Visitors stopped at the Majestic Bethlehem Center as part of a Lehigh Valley bus tour organized through the I-95 Corridor Coalition’s Freight Academy.

Nearly four dozen public sector transportation professionals representing state departments of transportation and transportation agencies at both federal and regional levels visited the Lehigh Valley this week.

Planners, engineers, transportation specialists, economists, and community planners from agencies across 18 different states spent the day familiarizing themselves with the Lehigh Valley on May 3 as part of a bus tour organized through the I-95 Corridor Coalition’s Freight Academy.

This marks the third time in the last three years the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) has been invited to participate in the Freight Academy, a comprehensive immersion program for public agency personnel aimed at ensuring public sector decisions and investments are made with an understanding of the comprehensive supply chain.

“The fact that we’ve been invited to participate in this program multiple times shows that the Lehigh Valley is viewed as a national model for private-public partnerships,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC President and CEO. “People across the country are hearing about the region and our central location, excellent infrastructure, access to markets, and other economic assets.”

Participants in the tour included professionals from the Federal Highway Administration, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, U.S. DOT Maritime Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, New York City Economic Development Corporation, Atlanta Regional Commission, and the city of Newark.

Bob Kester, Crayola Manager of Transportation & Distribution, speaks to the tour during a stop at the Crayola Distribution Center in the Majestic Bethlehem Center.

Bob Kester, Crayola Manager of Transportation & Distribution, speaks to the tour during a stop at the Crayola Distribution Center in the Majestic Bethlehem Center.

It also included Department of Transportation representatives from such states as Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Washington.

“The ability for the participants of the 2017 Freight Academy to view, firsthand, the LVEDC and their partners in the region’s successful merging of planning, investment in redevelopment of existing sites and new facilities, transportation improvements, leadership and community involvement, which has facilitated the region’s transformation into one of the nation’s most successful economic hubs, was invaluable,” said Marygrace Parker, Freight Academy program manager.

The day-long tour began at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem, with remarks by Cunningham, Lehigh Valley Planning Commission Executive Director Becky Bradley, and Brian Knowles, Principal with Lee and Associates.

Bradley and Knowles discussed the linkage between public sector transportation planning and development, while Cunningham discussed economic development and freight. Cunningham also gave an overview of the regional economy and discussed its $37 billion GDP, its resurgent manufacturing sector, and its top five ranking for development among regions in the Northeast.

After the remarks, representatives from LVEDC took the visitors to field visits at the Crayola Distribution Center in the Majestic Bethlehem Center, as well as other surrounding areas in the Majestic, before finishing the day with a visit to Lehigh Valley Rail Management.

The 800,000 square-feet Crayola Distribution Center, located near Route 412 and I-78, consolidated the company’s previous warehouse operations in Harrisburg and multiple other locations, putting all of Crayola’s merchandising, shipping, and receiving under one roof.

Bob Kester, Crayola Manager of Transportation & Distribution, said during the tour that Crayola did an analysis of multiple sites across the country seeking the best location from a transportation perspective, and selected the Lehigh Valley. The proximity to ports is a major benefit as well, as the company brings in 1,700 containers each year from ports.

“We made a conscious decision to be here, and we love being here,” Kester said. “Majestic has been a great partner, and the Lehigh Valley is a great location from a transportation perspective.”

Cunningham previously served as an instructor at I-95 Corridor Coalition Freight Academy sessions held at the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation at Rutgers University in both 2014 and 2015. The programs included such topics as international, national, regional and local freight movements; recent and future freight trends impacting the transportation system; and the role ports play in the freight system.

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