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Public square discussion coming up again

January 29, 2002

Public square discussion coming up again



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro


WAYNESBORO, Pa. - An old and emotional controversy - the future of Waynesboro's Public Square - may resurface as a result of last November's Borough Council election.

In 1999 the council voted on a recommendation of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to close in the square on all four sides. PennDOT engineers said narrowing the intersection would funnel traffic through a more direct and safer path through town.

The square intersects Pa. 16, the east-west thoroughfare through the borough. It's also the borough's Main Street. Church Street runs north and south through the square.

Navigating the intersection with its unsynchronized traffic lights is confusing, especially for newcomers, state traffic engineers have said.

Currently there are 18 angled parking spaces on the square. Drivers leave the spaces by backing into oncoming traffic - a dangerous practice, engineers said.

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Modifying the intersection would eliminate more than half of its parking spaces. Parallel parking spaces would replace the angled ones.

Before the 1999 vote, downtown merchants bemoaned the loss of the parking spaces. Many residents opposed changing what they said is a familiar and historic borough landmark.

Three council members voted for PennDOT's recommendation to close up the square and three to keep the square as is. Mayor Louis Barlup broke the tie and voted on the side of those who want the intersection modified.

The state has earmarked $1.2 million for reconstruction of the square plus a new computerized, synchronized traffic light system along Main Street, PennDOT spokesman Greg Penny said Monday. The new system will run from Welty Road in Washington Township west through seven intersections, including the square, to Grant Street, Penny said.

Douglas Tengler, who was elected borough council president earlier this month, said Monday he favors leaving the square open.

Tengler succeeded Councilman Darrel Potts, who decided not to run for re-election in November 1999. Potts also favored leaving the square as it is.

Tengler has made no attempt to bring the subject up for a new vote because the results would be the same, he said. Things changed in November when John Cook won the council seat held by Richard Starliper. Starliper, who supported closing the square, did not seek re-election.

Tengler said he will bring the issue up at the council's Feb. 6 meeting for a new vote.

"There's enough interest on the council now to reopen discussion," he said.

Cook could not be reached for comment Monday.

According to Tengler, council members Allen Porter, Vicki Jo Huff and Starliper voted to close the square in 1999. Those wanting it left open, in addition to Potts, were Charles McCammon and Ardie Winters.

Tengler said his focus is on the revitalization of the downtown business core and the loss of more than half of the parking spaces on the square.

"I'm looking at 10 years down the road," he said.

According to Penny, the earliest bids could go out on the new traffic lighting system and reconstruction of the square would be the summer of 2003.

The state has already spent money on preliminary engineering and environmental studies. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is also studying the square to ensure that no historical elements will be jeopardized, Penny said.

He said even with the new traffic lighting system, traffic will still back up at the intersection if the square is not modified.

"We've successfully modified them in other towns," Penny said. "They can make it attractive with landscaping and sidewalks."

Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger declined to comment on the issue, saying it was a political matter.

"When you have a vote as close as this one was on an issue that is as emotional as this it's not surprising that it will be revisited," Hamberger said.

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