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Waynesboro to discuss center square issue

April 16, 2002|BY RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - In 1999, when the Waynesboro Borough Council passed a tie-breaking vote to close in the Public Square on all four sides, PennDOT engineers said narrowing the intersection would create a more direct and safer path through the center of town.

Mayor Louis Barlup broke a 3-3 tie when he voted with the members who wanted the square closed.

The council makeup changed in November, however, as members who favor leaving the square open gained a vote when John Cook replaced Richard Starliper.

Starliper sided with those who wanted the square closed. Cook said Monday he wants the intersection left as is.

Council President Doug Tengler, an open-square proponent, wants to bring the issue up for another vote.

The only thing stopping a new vote is whether it will cost the borough money if the council reverses its decision.

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The council sent a letter to Penn-DOT in February asking if the reversal would cause a delay in the construction schedule and more importantly, if it would cost the borough any money.

PennDOT spokesman Greg Penny said a fax explaining the state's position will be sent to the office of Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger as soon as today.

"We'll do what the borough wants," Penny said in telephone interview Monday. "It's always been PennDOT's goal to reduce congestion at that intersection and leaving it open will not bring much of an improvement."

Penny said if the council changes its mind, it would be responsible for any additional costs. He declined to disclose how much that would be, saying it would be up to the council to review after the fax is received.

He also said the council will have to weigh additional costs in any decision it makes.

The council is expected to discuss the matter at its regular meeting Wednesday.

State traffic engineers are concerned about safety when drivers have to navigate through an intersection with unsynchronized traffic control signals.

In its current configuration, the square has 18 angled parking spaces. Drivers leave the spaces by backing into oncoming traffic - a dangerous practice, engineers said.

Bringing in all four sides would eliminate more than half of the parking spaces, a rallying point of proponents, including downtown merchants, of keeping the intersection as it is.

Many residents have expressed opposition to changing what they said is a familiar and historic borough landmark.

PennDOT has completed some engineering and environmental studies. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is also studying the square to ensure that no historical elements will be jeopardized.

The state has set aside $1.2 million for reconstruction of the square and for a new synchronized traffic light system from Welty Road in Washington Township west through seven intersections, including the square to Grant Street.

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