Warehouse construction and truck traffic, two hallmarks of the eCommerce boom, continued to grow in 2020 across the Lehigh Valley, according to local planning studies released this week.
The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission at its meeting Thursday night reviewed data from December and 2020 as a whole, ahead of the release next month of its annual BuildLV report on development and housing trends.
Among the findings were continued strong residential construction, with plans submitted for 513 new homes in December alone across Lehigh and Northampton counties, said commission Executive Director Becky Bradley.
“In a global pandemic, it didn’t really slow development down in the Lehigh Valley,” she said.
Warehouse construction, in particular, had a strong year with 7.9 million square feet proposed during 2020 in the commission’s two-county region. The square footage approved for construction in 2019 totaled 4.25 million square feet, according to the commission. The following chart looks at local industrial and warehouse development from 2015 through 2020; click here to view it if it is not displaying.
Commission Chairman Greg Zebrowski pointed out that the region’s land mass is finite, and stressed the need for developers to locate new warehouses along the region’s highways instead of farmland.
“They are going to come to an end very quickly if we continue at this pace,” he said of local land resources.
Bradley said “a lot of people at all levels of government” are going to need to get more involved in managing industrial growth, and that the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission is prepared to facilitate those dialogues.
“We’re going to continue to see these things and that’s going to pose a lot of pressure on our local governments as well as our infrastructure,” she said.
Just as warehouses signal the strengthening of the shop-from-home reality of life during COVID-19, so too did truck traffic continue to make its presence felt last year, said LVPC Senior Planning Technician Brian Hite.
He discussed figures for overall traffic plus truck traffic last year compared to 2019 that demonstrated the key role commercial vehicles play in keeping local communities functioning during the pandemic.
Overall average annual daily traffic counts were down year over year at the commission’s traffic-count points on area highways, while average annual daily truck traffic increased.
Total traffic, both overall and trucks, dipped during the start of the pandemic but rebounded on the year, according to the LVPC’s analysis. The commission noted a sharp drop-off in traffic on Aug. 4 when Tropical Storm Isaias inundated the region.
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Kurt Bresswein may be reached at [email protected].