Waynesboro square to get makeover

March 13, 1997


Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- For years the town square has served as the heart of Waynesboro. It's a community gathering place, a logical spot for the Christmas tree and the hub for town parades and celebrations.

In the early days, the square was a natural place to congregate because the town water pump stood at its center. Legend has it General Robert E. Lee stopped to water his horse there on his way to Gettysburg, and the square served as the town's trolley depot.

Known as the diamond in the town's early days, the square is losing some of its luster as a more hectic pace downtown has brought its deficiences to light. Because of traffic problems, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is planning to "realign" the square, creating a four-way intersection.


Preliminary plans call for mast-arm traffic lights that would hang over the middle of the square, and wider sidewalks that would eliminate pull-in parking spaces while preserving some parking on the square.

But business owners object to the loss of the parking near their stores, and other residents don't want the square's historic character altered. "The first guy that touches it should be thrown out," said local historian Bob Ringer.

Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger II said PennDOT has wanted to change the square "since day one" to expand the intersection and square it off to improve traffic safety.

The square's new traffic lights are part of a federally funded, seven-intersection upgrade planned along Pa. 16 from North Grant Street to Welty Road, said PennDOT spokesman Gregg Penny.

Known as SAMI, or Safety And Mobility Initiative, the seven traffic lights along the Pa. 16 corridor will be connected and regulated by a computer based on traffic flow, Penny said.

Tentative plans are for PennDOT to open bids in late 1998 with work starting in early 1999, according to Penny. Public hearings will be held in April or May, Hamberger said.

To an outsider, the traffic lights at the square can be confusing, said Waynesboro Police Chief Glenn Phenicie.

Drivers have been known to go through a red light because they were looking at a green light at the other end. But even with the confusion and an average of five accidents a year-mostly collisions with cars backing out of parking spaces-there haven't been any serious injuries or fatalities, Phenicie said.

But the parking on the square is a necessity for some businesses.

Mike Gates, owner of Gates TV and Radio Service in the northeast corner, said he'd have to move his business if parking is eliminated on the square.

"It's hard enough the way it is now," Gates said, because of the loading and unloading of heavy televisions. "It's not going to help the businesses on the square at all."

Most business owners on the square hope some kind of compromise can be worked out.

"Somehow there's got to be a feasible way to do it," said Darlene Stouffer, branch manager of Office Essentials. "I don't think they need to take away from the square."

Born and raised in Waynesboro, Stouffer said she sees the square as a unique and traditional part of the town. Though traffic is a concern, she said losing parking in front will add more pressure to the demand for spaces downtown.

John Leos, owner of the Candy Kitchen and several adjoining properties, and an advocate for preserving the square, said simply, "Let's save this grand old dame."

Waynesboro Historical Society President Todd Dorsett said the historical preservation committee will have comments when the plans are presented.

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