I'm planning on using PA route 309 from Tamaqua, PA to Hazleton, PA for a tour this weekend. I'm a little worried about the safety of this 10ish mile stretch, though. Based on google street view imagery there's 3-4 lanes with an occasionally limited shoulder.
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I think you will be fine, at least if you go early on a weekend. A few years ago I was up that way for the Flaming Foliage ride and drove some of that road. Didn't seem to be that much traffic. The multiple lanes takes the pressure off.
The real queston is: Why do you want to go to Hazleton? I remember riding through McAdoo, which you will pass through, early on in the ride and seeing two very shabby people (think "Deliverance") coming out of either a VFW or American Legion. Probably there for an eye opener.
Thought we took 309 from Hazletown to McAdoo but wasn't sure. I'd be careful about straying onto some of those western side roads to avoid 309. I remember at least one seriously steep and rutted descent between McAdoo and the second water stop where the route crosses 309. Might have been in Delano. I would not want to have to climb that going the other way. There was a super nasty RR crossing, too. It's old Anthracite county back there.
I'm wondering why you're ending up in Tamaqua in the first place. It's not what I'd call scenic, and the town features a lot of tricky hills (the town's grid plan becomes terrifyingly logical once you've seen the hills). I've been up there a lot because a good friend lives there.
I've driven on 309, and it's a pretty typical PA highway. Narrow, twisty and with drivers who go way the hell too fast because they're mostly locals. Figure cruising speed on a lot of 309 will be 55mph or more. The hills are rather tricky even in a car, so I'd guess grades in the 10-15% range. It's going straight at the hills, so the grades will not be nice. I-81 through there has a bunch of stretches where the grades go above 5%, and PA state highways usually don't mention how bad the grade is... and I-81 is hitting all those hills for minimum climb.
The road signage and numbering around there is pretty bad, even by PA standards. Super confusing. Most stuff is barely signed or just isn't signed, so I have a hard time keeping it straight which road is which. And from the looks of the map, 309 is my usual way out of Tamaqua, which means there are some fun Y intersections where you're dealing with oncoming semi traffic.
If you're used to PA main roads, it is probably ok. It probably would not be my first route pick, and I don't think it's a route most folks in Tamaqua would pick to bike on.
Thanks for the feedback. I wasn't expecting anyone to have ridden in that area.
Passing through Tamaqua and Hazleton wasn't intentionally included in the trip. I'm going from Lebanon county to Rickett's Glen State Park and my route happened to pass through the area.
I'm can't say I'm surprised about the steep grades...I've come to expect them in PA. That said, I'm still dreading them a bit. The entire trip is 94 miles and I'm not in the greatest shape, so I plan on leaving at the crack of dawn and riding straight through the day.
The best I can get Google Maps to spit out for a route is 99 miles from city of Lebanon to your target state park. And yeah, their suggestions mostly hit up Tamaqua and Hazelton. Trying to bike that route in one day is probably ok if you're an experienced century rider. If you're not, well... it starts out hilly, and will only get hillier. I'd be real worried about getting hurt (mostly from my own exhausted stupidity), or having to put a lot of miles on in the dark. Tuscarora State Park is right near Tamaqua, and has cabins and yurts for camping. It's not clear if they allow tent camping. Locust Lake State Park is mentioned on Tuscarora's website as having camping as well. Either one would give you a bailout option around the 50-60 mile mark.