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Trees will fall to protect "critical infrastructure"

Published On: Aug 16 2013 05:16:03 PM EDT   Updated On: Aug 16 2013 05:31:36 PM EDT

A contractor will begin cutting back vegetation --  and removing large trees --next week along the north side of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive between Franklin and Jefferson streets in Allentown.

The goal is to prevent damage to "critical infrastructure" in the city, according to Allentown communications coordinator Mike Moore.

"This project involves removing the larger trees in the aforementioned area, 100 feet back from the roadway," said Moore.


Moore reported that, after Hurricane Sandy last fall, the city was within a day or two of running out of water to serve its residents because of power outages caused by trees falling along that stretch of road.

The $42,600 contract has been awarded to Jaflo Inc. of Orefield. Work is expected to begin Monday and take four weeks to complete. It will be done during daytime hours Monday through Friday.

No traffic disruptions on MLK Drive are anticipated until the third week of the project. Those possible disruptions will be in the form of single-lane closures with active traffic control, between the hours of 9 am and 3 pm along MLK Drive from Franklin to Jefferson.

Two 13,000-volt PPL transmission lines run through the wooded area on the north side of the road, according to Moore. "These circuits not only feed main and back-up power to the water filtration plant, they also feed power to the 911 Communications Center.

"In addition, a fiber optic cable runs through this wooded area from the Communications Center to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. This fiber feeds city network connectivity to facilities at Bridgeworks, the Recycling Bureau, the Streets Department and Mack South Fire Station."

In the past 20 months, reported Moore, several storms including Irene and Sandy,   brought down large trees along that stretch of Martin Luther King Drive.

Those trees pulled down electrical lines causing extended power outages to the water filtration plant and the communications center.

During Hurricane Sandy,  he said, the trees brought down both the main and redundant feeds to the water filtration plant in addition to damaging the city fiber optic cable.

"Repairs in some instances took days to complete, during which the water filtration plant was unable to produce drinking water," said Moore.

"The city asked its customers to conserve water. At one point after Sandy, the city was within a day or two of running out of water. During previous storms, both the water filtration plant and the Communications Center were without power for extended periods of time --more than 12 hours.

Despite some "vegetative remediation" by PPL in its right-of-way, Moore said it falls to the city to address the real threat of downed trees, which extends well beyond the PPL right-of-way.

  He said money was allocated this year for the city to take immediate action to remove the remaining trees that could bring down the power lines and fiber optic cabling during a storm.