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Plans for square outlined for public

July 14, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Residents, downtown merchants, Borough Council members and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials ringed Public Square Monday night trying to imagine, through the use of orange highway department cones, how it would look if the sidewalks were moved up to the traffic corridor.

Such a plan would eliminate about a dozen angled parking spaces that serve two banks and a handful of businesses that line the square.

Affected merchants oppose the idea, as do many borough residents who see the square as a landmark to local history.

The council and a room full of about 50 residents heard PennDOT officials outline three plans for the square, the point where Pa. 16 meets Church Street in downtown Waynesboro.

At stake is more than $900,000 in federal funds to synchronize the antiquated system of traffic lights that control Main Street traffic. The square will be an integral part of any new system.

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John Rautzahn, assistant district engineer for PennDOT, asked the council for a decision by Aug. 14.

The borough can choose to close the square to parking, leave some parking places in place or do nothing.

Timing of the lights for pedestrian crossings is also a consideration. They could be set to stop traffic in all directions or allow traffic parallel to the pedestrian to continue.

The fate of the square has been hotly debated since it surfaced last year.

Some citizens fear any change will diminish the square's historical significance. Others say the current traffic control system is outdated, causes unnecessary delays and is dangerous.

John Leos, owner of the Candy Kitchen, a business on the square, opposes any change.

"It would be a shame to lose our historic culture, part of our past. We can't plan for the future if we don't understand the past. The town was made for people, now they want to make it more accessible to cars," he said.

"I'm in favor of any improvement," said Harry Morningstar, a member of Mainstream, Inc., a downtown activist group. "I like the idea that they're considering alternatives."

Borough Council President Richard Starliper favors the closed square plan that would eliminate parking and improve traffic flow. He said a vote could come as soon as Wednesday, when the council meets again.

"It's not on the agenda, but if the council feels they have enough information, they could well vote," he said.

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