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Lehigh Valley, PA–NJ MSA
Allentown–Bethlehem–Easton,
PA–NJ Metropolitan Statistical Area
Eastern Pennsylvania
Metropolitan Statistical Area
Allentown.jpg Monocacy Creek Bethlehem.jpg
Pburg-281.jpg Easton Skyline.jpg
Clockwise from top left, Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, and Phillipsburg
Map of the Lehigh Valley
Map of the Lehigh Valley
Country United States
States Pennsylvania
 - New Jersey
Largest city Allentown
Other cities
Rank 64th
Area
 • Total 42 sq mi (110 km2)
Elevation 2,180 ft (660 m)
Population (2010 Census)
 • Total 821,623 (2,010 Census)
Time zone ET (UTC−5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC−4)

The Lehigh Valley (/ˈli.h ˈvæ.li/), known officially by the United States Census Bureau and the United States Office of Management and Budget as the Allentown–Bethlehem–Easton, PA–NJ Metropolitan Statistical Area and referred to colloquially as The Valley, is a metropolitan region officially consisting of Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton counties in eastern Pennsylvania and Warren county on the western edge of New Jersey, in the United States. The Lehigh Valley's largest city, with a population of 119,104, is Allentown.

The Lehigh Valley is the fastest growing and third most populous region in the state of Pennsylvania with a population of 821,623 residents as of the 2010 U.S. Census. It is eclipsed in total population in Pennsylvania only by the metropolitan areas of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. It is the 64th most populated metropolitan area in the United States. Lehigh County, the Valley's largest county in terms of overall population, is among the fastest growing in the nation and, as of 2010-2012, ranks in the 79th percentile for population growth nationally. The core population centers are located in southern and central Lehigh and Northampton counties along U.S. Route 22 and Interstate 78. The Lehigh Valley is proximate to two of the nation's largest cities, New York City, which is 90 miles to its east, and Philadelphia, which is 60 miles to its southeast.

In March 2014, the Lehigh Valley was recognized by Site Selection Magazine as the second-best performing region of its size for economic development in the United States. It was also ranked by Fortune in May 2015 as being among the top 10 best places in the U.S. to locate corporate finance and information technology operations for companies, such as call centers and IT support. Allentown, the region's largest city, was cited as a "national success story" in April 2016 by the Urban Land Institute for its downtown redevelopment and transformation, one of only six communities nationwide to achieved this distinction.

Historical region

The Lehigh Valley is named for the Lehigh River, which runs through it, and owes much of its development and history to the anthracite supplies, timber, and ores which poured down the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company's (LC&N) Lehigh Canal and railroads LC&N built or encouraged parallel to it. The lower Lehigh Valley is geologically part of the Great Appalachian Valley and is bordered on the north by the mineral-rich Ridge and Valley Appalachians, which define its rugged upper parts from ‹See Tfd›White Haven and west of the Poconos, south through the Lehigh Gorge to the Lehigh Gap near ‹See Tfd›Palmerton. The upper drainage basin contains or shares nearly half the southeastern Coal Region, which have the richest anthracite deposits in the world, while the lower valley holds valuable limestone, sandstone, and clay deposits. In the charter of March 20, 1818 for the Lehigh Navigation Company, the legislature gave virtual total control to the Canal Company which it retained until 1964. These transportation improvements overcame the country's first energy crises due to deforestation in the early 19th century. The Canal operated into the Great Depression, feeding ports up and down the Delaware River, the Delaware Canal, and transoceanic demand, and was integral to the regional industrial revolution in the greater Philadelphia-Trenton-Wilmington region. The Morris Canal and the 22–23 miles (35–37 km) coal feeder of the Delaware and Raritan Canal and locks at ‹See Tfd›New Hope on the Delaware Canal were built to fuel the anthracite needs of Newark, Trenton, Jersey City and New York City.

Consequently, culturally and historically, the Valley runs from the drainage divide in the Solomon Gap just north of Mountain Top where coal flowed up the Ashley Planes from the Wyoming Valley coal beds in Luzerne County and across the divide, then downhill to the White Haven, then down through the Lehigh Gorge, past the historic Jim Thorpe terminus of the Summit Hill & Mauch Chunk Railroad (SH&MC) through historic locks and dams below Jim Thorpe or along side the canal which fueled the American Industrial Revolution and operated into the Great Depression. The American Canal age had its epicenter at the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware rivers where five major canals met major rivers and coastal waterways, and all gave the people and industries of the Lehigh Valley access to minerals and markets via Easton from Connecticut, New York, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Cities and location

The Lehigh Valley's principal cities are Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton, making up the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton metropolitan area. The traditional bounds of the region are The Poconos to the north, the Delaware River to the east, the boundaries of Berks County and Montgomery County to the southwest, and the boundary with Bucks County to the south. More recently, however, the area around Phillipsburg, New Jersey west of Pohatcong Mountain, parts of upper Bucks County around Quakertown, and portions of northeastern Berks County and southern Carbon and Schuylkill counties in Pennsylvania are considered outer parts of the Valley.

The Lehigh Valley is located approximately 60 mi (97 km) north of Philadelphia, 80 mi (130 km) northeast of Harrisburg, and 90 mi (140 km) west of New York City, the country's largest city. The area is home to more than 820,000 people as of the 2010 U.S. Census. Recent census studies show it to be the fastest growing region in Pennsylvania, due in part to its growing popularity as a bedroom community for the highly populated neighboring regions of Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York City as well as its favorable business climate and much lower cost of living in comparison to surrounding areas.

The Lehigh Valley is geologically and geographically part of the Great Appalachian Valley, a region largely made up of limestone that stretches along the eastern edge of the Appalachian Mountains. The Lehigh Valley is so named because it is composed of an actual valley that lies between two mountain ranges, Blue Mountain to the north and South Mountain to the south. Lehigh Valley also is considered part of the historic Pennsylvania Dutch Country.

Municipalities with more than 10,000 people

See also: List of Allentown neighborhoods

Municipalities with fewer than 10,000 people

Census-designated places and villages

Metropolitan and Combined Statistical Areas

The United States Office of Management and Budget has designated the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania as the Allentown–Bethlehem–Easton, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area. The three counties in the Metropolitan area are Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton. As of the 2010 United States Census the Metro area had a population of 821,173. The Lehigh Valley ranks as the third most populous metropolitan areas in the state of Pennsylvania and ranks 68th most populous in the United States.

The United States Office of Management and Budget also has designated the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania as part of the larger New York metropolitan area. The larger combined area consists of the Lehigh Valley counties of Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton as well as Pike County and the Monroe County/East Stroudsburg, PA Metropolitan Statistical Areas in Pennsylvania, and several other Metro areas from the States of New Jersey and New York. As of the 2010 US Census, the population of the CSA was 23,076,664, making it the most populous Combined Statistical Area in the United States.

Climate

See also: Climate of Allentown, Pennsylvania

The Lehigh Valley has four distinct seasons, which typically include humid summers, cold winters, and very short and mild springs and falls.

Demographics

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1980 551,022
1990 595,081 8.0%
2000 740,395 24.4%
2010 821,623 11.0%

At the 2008 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Lehigh Valley had a population of 808,210. 87.1% of the population were White American, 4.6% were Black or African American, 0.1% were American Indian, 2.3% were Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Americans made up 0.1%, 4.3% were of some other race, and 1.5% belonged to two or more races. Hispanics and Latinos of any race made up 11.3% of the population.

The Lehigh Valley has seen an influx of residents coming from New Jersey and New York to take advantage of the reduced cost of living. The population of the area is expected to increase by 227,000 people by 2040.

Arts

See also: Culture of Allentown, Pennsylvania

The Allentown Art Museum, based in center city Allentown, is the Lehigh Valley's largest museum. The museum's collection includes more than 11,000 works of art. Lehigh University's Zoellner Arts Center and Lafayette College's smaller Williams Center for the Arts host a wide variety of plays, concerts and performances throughout the year.

Bethlehem is also home to ArtsQuest, a non-profit that promotes Visual and Performing Arts in the Lehigh Valley. The ArtsQuest center and Steelstacks campus on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel Company have several performing arts venues including the Levitt Pavilion and the Musikfest Cafe. The Banana Factory in Southside Bethlehem has several art studios and galleries open to the public.

Artsquest also hosts Musikfest every year in August. Musikfest is the largest free music festival in the country, bringing more than 1 million people to the region annually.

Recreation

Dorney Park Steel Force Thunderhawk
Dorney Park's Steel Force and Thunderhawk roller coasters, in South Whitehall Township in the Lehigh Valley. Steel Force opened in 1997 as the tallest and fastest roller coaster on the East Coast of the United States, with a first drop of 205 feet (62 m) and a top speed of 75 miles per hour (121 km/h).
See also: List of city parks of Allentown, Pennsylvania and List of sites of interest in Allentown, Pennsylvania

The Lehigh Valley is home to Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, a popular amusement and water park. Located in South Whitehall Township, Dorney Park is known nationally for its elaborate roller coasters and water rides.

The region's ski resorts are Bear Creek Ski and Recreation Area and Blue Mountain Ski Area. Bear Creek is a 21 slope resort located outside of Macungie, Pennsylvania. Blue Mountain is located near Danielsville, Pennsylvania. The Poconos, which feature some of the East Coast's best-known ski resorts, is approximately 30 miles (48 km) north of the Lehigh Valley. Several large lakes used for boating and fishing also are located there. Pocono Raceway in the Poconos holds two NASCAR race weekends a year along with an IndyCar race. The region also hosts some of the best hiking in eastern Pennsylvania, including 30 miles of trails at the Trexler Nature Preserve.

New Jersey shore beaches are approximately 70 to 140 miles (110 to 230 km) to the east and southeast of the Lehigh Valley.

Dutch Springs, the nation's largest SCUBA amusement park, is in Bethlehem and Lower Nazareth Township. Over 40,000 divers annually utilize the facilities, which have sunken "treasures" to enhance the underwater experience. In addition to scuba diving, kayaking and paddle boats are available. The facility has a water park, camping grounds, and picnic areas.

In 2009, Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, an $879 million casino, hotel and apartment complex owned by the Las Vegas Sands, opened in Bethlehem, bringing legalized gambling to the Lehigh Valley for the first time. It is one of only 13 authorized gaming sites in Pennsylvania.

Many large festivals are held each year in the Lehigh Valley. Musikfest, a large, 10-day music festival, is held in Bethlehem each August. Mayfair Festival of the Arts, a visual and performing arts festival, is held in the Allentown Fairgrounds each May. In September, one of the largest Celtic heritage festivals in America, The Celtic Classic, is held in Bethlehem. The Great Allentown Fair has been held on the grounds of the Allentown Fairgrounds in Allentown annually in late August through early September for more than 150 years. Das Awkscht Fescht is an antique car festival that is held annually the beginning of August in Macungie's Memorial Park.

Ice skating (including ice hockey, figure skating and speed skating) is popular in the Lehigh Valley and the region has three facilities. The Steel Ice Center is the premier ice skating facility, in Bethlehem on East 1st Street, not far from the Sands Casino. The Rink, formerly Lehigh Valley Ice Arena, is in Whitehall (north of Allentown) just off MacArthur Road (Route 145) on 7th Street. Each facility has two ice surfaces and public skate times are available at both facilities. The City of Bethlehem also opens a covered outdoor rink (one ice surface) annually from November through March.

The Bethlehem Skateplaza is a city park for skateboarding and freestyle BMX riding located at 1325 Steel Avenue, in Bethlehem.

Transportation

LVI-sat
Aerial photo of Lehigh Valley International Airport (IATA: ABEICAO: KABE) in Hanover Township, 2005

Air transportation

The Lehigh Valley is served by air transportation through Lehigh Valley International Airport (IATA: ABEICAO: KABE), in the Lehigh Valley's Hanover Township, three miles (5 km) northeast of Allentown.

The Valley is also served by Allentown Queen City Municipal Airport, a two-runway general aviation facility located off Allentown's Lehigh Street. Queen City is used predominantly by private aviation. The airport was awarded General Aviation Airport of the year by the Eastern Region of the Federal Aviation Administration in 2006.

Bus transportation

Public bus service in Lehigh Valley is available through the Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority, known as LANTA. In New Jersey, bus service is provided by New Jersey Transit.

Several private bus lines, including Bieber Tourways, Susquehanna Trailways and Trans-Bridge Lines, provide bus service from various Valley locations to New York City's Port Authority Bus Terminal, Philadelphia's Greyhound Terminal, Atlantic City's Bus Terminal, and other regional locations.

Rail

See also: SEPTA Diesel Service

Passenger service to the Lehigh Valley ceased in 1981 when several rail operators opted to curtail long-distance services. From the south, SEPTA Regional Rail limited their services to their electrified-only territory with trains going only as far north as Lansdale and Doylestown, Pennsylvania. (In the early and mid twentieth century golden age of passenger rail, the Reading Railroad provided rail service south and west of the area.) To the east, the Central Railroad of New Jersey ceased passenger operations into the area, from Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1967 in conjunction with the Aldene Connection.

The Lehigh Valley Railroad, primarily using its main line, served the areas with freight transporting along with the Lehigh & Hudson River Railway and the Lehigh & New England Railroad. In 1974, passenger service was restored to Phillipsburg under state (New Jersey) subsidy. That service was terminated in 1984. All of the original railroads ultimately went bankrupt and were taken over by today's railroads. SEPTA removed the tracks approaching Allentown and Bethlehem from the south. The nearest rail station for travel south towards Philadelphia is in Lansdale, Pennsylvania on SEPTA's Lansdale/Doylestown Line. The nearest station for travel eastward is High Bridge, New Jersey on New Jersey Transit Rail Operations's Raritan Valley Line.

Current operator New Jersey Transit has looked at restoring rail service to Phillipsburg, New Jersey, but there are no official plans to extend service over the border into Pennsylvania at present. Nor are there official plans to restore SEPTA service to Philadelphia. Freight operator Norfolk Southern Railway, heavily serves the region with a major classification yards in Allentown and Bethlehem using the former Lehigh Valley Railroad main line and the former Reading Company branch line, the Lehigh Line and the Reading Line. Canadian Pacific Railway, another freight operator, also transports through the Lehigh Valley using the Lehigh Line and the Reading Line.

In November 2008, the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), along with both Lehigh and Northampton Counties, commissioned a study to explore the merits of expanding New Jersey Transit rail to the Lehigh Valley, which would potentially include stops in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton. The Lehigh Valley is currently the largest metropolitan area by population on the East Coast of the United States without passenger rail service of any kind. If plan succeeds, the Lehigh Line will then once again host passenger services since 1961.

Roads

The Lehigh Valley has four major highways: Interstate 78, a major east-west highway, runs through the southern part of the Valley, duplexed with Pennsylvania Route 309. I-78 runs from Lebanon County in the west, where Interstate 81 provides a connection to Harrisburg, to the Holland Tunnel and New York City in the east.

U.S. Route 22 is a major freeway that runs through the Valley from Kuhnsville in the western part of the Valley to Easton in the eastern part of the Valley. U.S. Route 22 starts in Cincinnati, Ohio in the west, running through the Valley to Newark, New Jersey in the east. A third highway, Pennsylvania Route 33, runs north-south through the Lehigh Valley, from the Poconos in the north to Northampton County in the south.

The fourth major highway in the Valley is Interstate 476, the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It stretches 131 miles (211 km) from Chester in the south to the ScrantonWilkes Barre area in the north.

Other major roads in the Valley include MacArthur Road (PA 145), a divided local road that leads to the Lehigh Valley Mall and its surrounding commercial district. Cedar Crest Boulevard, a north-south highway, runs from North Whitehall Township in the north through west-side Allentown to Emmaus in the south. Lehigh Street runs from northeast to southwest, originating in downtown Allentown and ending in Emmaus. Tilghman Street runs from Fogelsville in the west to continue as Union Boulevard into Bethlehem in the east. Tilghman Street runs through most of Allentown and also intersects with Cedar Crest Boulevard, Pennsylvania Route 100, Pennsylvania Route 309 and several other major Lehigh Valley highways.

Telecommunications

The Lehigh Valley area was once served only by the 215 area code from 1947 (when the North American Numbering Plan of the Bell System went into effect) until 1994. With the region's growing population, however, Lehigh Valley areas were afforded area code 610 in 1994. Today, the Lehigh Valley is covered by 610. An overlay area code, 484, was added to the 610 service area in 1999. A plan to introduce area code 835 as an additional overlay was rescinded in 2001.

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