Lafayette receives state funding to address Cattell Street safety concerns

Previous+accidents+along+Cattell+Street+have+spurred+the+college+to+address+safety+concerns.

Photo by Caroline Burns

Previous accidents along Cattell Street have spurred the college to address safety concerns.

Lafayette College was recently awarded $710,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to address safety concerns on Cattell Street from College Avenue to High Street. Announced to the college community last week, this sum will fund a handful of projects to improve safety for both students and the College Hill community.

“[The project] is pedestrian-focused, and some of those pedestrian amenities will calm traffic,” Maurice S. Luker III, executive director of corporate, foundation and government relations, said.

New additions to the street will include traffic-calming devices such as bump-outs and marked crosswalks, more streetlights and newly paved sidewalks.

“Everything is focused on improvements of safety and accessibility,” Luker said. “Anything we do will be ADA–Americans for Disabilities Act–accessible. So, for wheelchairs and people with disabilities…the sidewalks will be even, so it’ll be a much better and safer experience for pedestrians and those with disabilities and wheelchairs.”

Cattell Street will also see improvements such as bicycle racks, benches, landscaping and trees in the coming years.

The college applied for funding for this project last year, and while this is not the first time they have applied for state funding from PennDOT, this is the first time their proposals have been met with success, according to Luker.

In contrast, High Street has seen renovations in recent years, as they are under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and were funded with multimodal transportation funding through the Department of Community and Economic Development.

According to Luker, improving pedestrian safety along Cattell Street has long been an area of interest for the college, but as it is PennDOT controlled, they needed funding and approval before action could be taken.

“When the decision was made to expand the multi-use building on McCartney Street, there was a greater interest in improvements because when you build buildings like that, you also have to improve the sidewalks and the infrastructure around them,” Luker explained.

President Nicole Hurd has worked to push this project through, collaborating with Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr. over the past year.

“I’m obviously concerned, as a member of this community, as somebody who lives in this community, as a neighbor in the community. But I’m also concerned, frankly, as a woman on this campus. I’ve had my own moments where at night, I’ve called my husband and been like, ‘it’s dark right now, in this part of campus like I need you to stay on the phone with me,’” Hurd said.

“I do think I’m very aware of…not just women, of everybody’s safety on this campus,” she added.

Collaboration with the president of an institution and the local governments is uncommon among the independent colleges in Pennsylvania, according to Luker.

“It’s very rare for a college president and a mayor of a city to make the case that collaboration would be mutually beneficial,” Luker said. “We have enjoyed a really successful collaboration with our community that has really led to a lot of investment in our community and a revival of our downtown in Easton. And I think students and our faculty are enjoying that.”

“It’s through the really hard work of Representative Freeman and Senator Boscola as they make the case for us. So, they’re really important to making that happen,” Luker added.

In addition to collaborating with the local and state government, Lafayette partnered with the state grant consulting firm Delta Development Group Inc. who helped the college secure the award.

“We have been working very successfully with them, and that has been an important investment that the college’s made,” Luker said.

In the past, the Delta Development Group Inc. has secured awards for Lafayette, Easton and the Greater Easton Development Partnership, the economic development agency for Easton, Pa.

“This is one of those exciting moments where obviously things were happening before, I got here. I’ve just been incredibly honored to help push it to the finish line,” Hurd said.

Correction 4/29/2022: A previous version of this article stated the name of the Greater Easton Development Partnership as the Greater East End Development Partnership.