The closure of a busy state road on one of the hottest afternoons of the year so far caused traffic chaos and near gridlock in parts of both Hellertown and Bethlehem this afternoon.
, which is located at 1100 Hellertown Road (Route 412), just north of the westbound on and off ramps to Interstate 78.
At 2:35pm, an email from Sean Brown at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's Engineering District 5-0 stated that Route 412 had been reopened.
However, at approximately 3pm, southbound traffic from Bethlehem was still being detoured off Route 412 and onto Millside Drive, near Saucon Park. A Bethlehem police officer and his vehicle were blocking the southbound lane of Route 412 at that time and the traffic being detoured included large tour buses.
The line of cars being detoured extended as far back as Lynn Avenue in the city at about 3:15pm.
Closer to the scene of the fire, Silvex Road at Route 412--by a busy Turkey Hill Minit Mart and Wendy's restaurant--was closed, with a City of Bethlehem fire engine parked in the Route 412 southbound lane next to Wendy's. A hose was connected to a fire hydrant near that intersection, and stretched northward to the Chevy 21 vehicle lot.
In Hellertown, northbound traffic on Route 412 (Main Street) moved toward the I-78 exit at a snail's pace. Shortly after PennDOT issued its statement that Route 412 had reopened, it took about half an hour to travel the distance from Chestnut Street to the interstate, which is less than one mile.
Adding to the chaos were a number of large pick-up trucks with "Oversize Load" signs on them, that pulled into the parking lot at the in Hellertown. At least one of the cars had a tall antenna-like pole attached to it, which scraped the underside of the roof above the gas pumps at the station as its driver pulled up to fill up.
Meanwhile, in the middle of Route 412 south, just north of Cherry Lane, a pick-up truck had broken down and its driver was examining its engine as traffic flowed around in an effort to move northward.
Although the fire was extinguished quickly, the ripple effects of the road closure continued, frustrating many motorists throughout the area.