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Borough square issue still up in the air

April 18, 2002|BY RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A letter from the director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Wednesday said that PennDOT, not Waynesboro, must pay any additional costs if the Waynesboro Borough Council decides to keep the borough's center square open.

Borough Council President Douglas Tengler, the leader of the effort to reverse a 1999 council vote to close in the busy four-way intersection, said he was surprised when he received the letter from the commission Wednesday.

Tengler said any new vote on the square will be tabled until the two state agencies can work things out.

The Historical and Museum Commission is doing a study of the square as part of an environmental review required by PennDOT to ensure that anything of historical significance will not be jeopardized by the construction project.

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PennDOT has $1.2 million to reconfigure the square according to the 1999 vote plus add a synchronized traffic light system through downtown.

The council sent a letter to PennDOT March 20 asking if the borough would incur additional costs if it reversed the earlier vote.

PennDOT, in a letter received by the council Tuesday, said it would cost the borough about $60,000 to change its mind.

"Considerable traffic analysis was performed during the preliminary engineering phase of the project to obtain the preliminary signal design of the closed square configuration," Barry G. Hoffman, district engineer for PennDOT, said in the letter.

An extensive analysis would be needed to re-time the signals suited to an open square design, Hoffman said.

PennDOT officials want all four sides of the intersection moved in. Leaving it open creates a less efficient traffic flow with greater delays, they said.

Downtown merchants want it kept open so as not to eliminate about half of the square's 18 parking spaces. Citizens have told the council that the intersection is historic to Waynesboro and should be left in its original state.

In her letter to Hoffman, Jean H. Cutler, director of the Historical and Museum Commission, said, "It is the Department of Transportation's and the Federal Highway Administration's responsibility to study other alternatives, not force the local community to pick the only viable alternative studied. The responsibility for funding other alternatives must be considered part of the original project, not an added burden to be considered by the local borough."

"It's going to be a fight between two state agencies," Borough Manager Lloyd Hamberger said. "And PennDOT has the money."

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