Is Lot X Viable for Students?

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Wan

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Wan

Twice in the month of September, heavy rainstorms hammered the Bethlehem area. The first instance occurred on Wednesday, Sept. 1, during Hurricane Ida. The second occurred on Thursday, Sept. 23. 

The former of the two storms proved to be more impactful, especially in regards to Moravian University’s commuter parking lot, Lot X. 

Lot X is located on Mauch Chunk Road, right next to Monocacy Creek. The close proximity to the creek leaves the lot especially vulnerable to flooding during severe rainfall.

At 4:05 on Sept. 1, Moravian students received an email from Moravian’s Chief of Police, Richard Blake, that warned about the upcoming storm and requested students to move their vehicles from Lot X to a different location. 

Six hours later, Lot X was closed down and remained as such for the morning of Sept. 2. Commuters were instead instructed to park in Lot A or in the College Hill Moravian Church parking lot on West Laurel St.

This day stuck in my mind because I also had an important Zoom meeting after my classes and before the flooding became a serious problem. I had originally planned on attending this meeting while on campus before heading home, but I disregarded those plans because of the flooding. 

I still remember the long, cold, miserable walk back to my car in Lot X. Rain soaked through all my clothes, which — combined with anxiety that I might miss my meeting and/or that my car would be submerged from the flood — made for a tense and uncomfortable drive home.

On Sept. 23, with the threat of another looming storm, the University sent out a text alert at around 2:00 p.m., which warned that Lot X could flood if the rain continued. The text did not require students to move their vehicles at that moment.

Ultimately, the storm proved to be inconsequential and Lot X stayed open for the day.

After the events that occurred earlier in the month, I was anxious for the entire duration of my afternoon class that day. I knew that if the parking lot were to flood again, I’d need to leave class early, hurry down the hill to Lot X, and pray that my car wasn’t flooded. 

This begs a number of questions: 

Has Moravian done anything to combat the flooding issue? 

And what, if anything, can it do to prevent things like this from happening again? 

It is worth noting that these issues with Lot X are not new. In fact, a former reporter of The Comenian previously reviewed this issue at length. Flooding has been a problem since the Lot’s opening back in 2017, when it was originally intended to be a resident-only parking lot. 

Moravian has acknowledged the problem of Lot X’s flooding and had attempted to fix it.

This last year, the University installed new drainage pipes behind Beck and DeSchweinitz dorms and along Laurel street, said Amber Donato, associate director of project management at Moravian. The new pipes “direct storm water into [an] underground piping system,” which “minimiz[es] the water that enters Lot X from the east side of the lot,” she said.

During the construction of Lot X, the University also cleaned and repaired the existing drain pipes there. It also installed new “check valves” in pipes that discharge water into the Monocacy Creek, “improv[ing] the performance of the existing stormwater pipes that run from Laurel Street into the creek,” according to Donato. 

As evidenced by the Sept. 1 flooding, the countermeasures did not completely solve the issue. 

The Comenian asked Donato what additional plans Moravian has to keep Lot X from flooding. Donato said that the University would continue to monitor creek levels and advise students to move their vehicles when levels get too high. 

But for the flooding of the lot itself, Donato said, “there is nothing that Moravian University can do to prevent the Monocacy Creek from rising over its banks.”