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Long-awaited Allen Street makeover begins Monday

Allen Street hasn't had a makeover in decades, but that's about to change beginning Monday.

Phase 1 of the Allen Street Reconstruction Project from Main Street to Delaware Avenue begins Monday, weather permitting.

The first of two phases will focus on upgrades to utilities – particularly a new waterline – that are over 100 years old, said Michael J. Finn, city engineer and acting commission of the Department of Public Works, Parks and Streets.

The preconstruction that begins Monday will prepare the utility lines in advance of "major utility work" that starts March 18. Crews will be digging up individual spots.

Two-way traffic will stay open Monday although there will be intermittent land closures, Finn said.

Once construction begins March 18, traffic will be impacted, Finn said. Allen Street between Main and Pearl streets will be closed block-by-block as workers advance water main work from Main to Delaware over the first couple weeks of the project.

"The advantage is we're going to be able to kind of test out the closure plan that will be in place for the larger reconstruction that happens after the water main work is done and work out any kinks with businesses and residents," Finn said.

Planners have built in a two-year construction schedule for the entire project to minimize the impacts on businesses and residents, Finn said.

"Obviously when we're doing a major construction project, there's going to be work that we have to do with residents and business owners to make sure that they are accommodated," Finn said. "There will be some impacts that we all have to work through."

The price tag for Phase 1 – which will last into the 2020 construction season – is about $5 million, Finn said. The second phase will cost about $4.5 million.

It has taken a couple of extra years to get the project off the ground. Planners had anticipated starting the reconstruction two years ago and then again last year, but planners used the extra time "to make sure we got it right," said Andrew Eisenhardt, executive director of the Allentown Association, which has been a liaison with the community. Eisenhardt, who also owns Allentown Antiques, has lived and worked in Allentown since 2001, he said.

"We took a little extra time to hear as many voices as we could so that the project is the best we can do," he said. "So many people had different opinions about things, bike lanes and bringing back the trolley car. There were just so many options that we really didn't want to ram something through that wasn't right.

"We haven't had any infrastructure improvement on Allen Street for 60 years," he continued. "Our light standards, our Medina sandstone curbs, our sidewalks – they're just falling apart. They're crumbling before our eyes."

People will be thrilled with the project once it's done, Eisenhardt said.

"It's exciting," he said. "It really is a wonderful time to be in Allentown."

Allen Street makeover to start in late summer

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