Mayor breaks tie on I-81 exit vote

September 26, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - In his first tie-breaking vote since he was elected mayor, Tom Newcomer added his support for two new exits on Interstate 81 to help alleviate local traffic congestion.

Chambersburg Borough Council members deadlocked Tuesday night on whether to send a letter to U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-9th, affirming their support for an exit near the Walker Road overpass and requesting consideration for one south of the borough where commercial distribution centers are booming.

After some residents had asked the council to support swapping funds for the long-debated exit near Walker Road to a new southern interchange, council members said they would rather send a letter, which keeps "Exit 7" a priority.


When the letter came up for a vote Tuesday night, Councilman Allen Coffman called it "ambitious."

"The plain need to me is an exit south of Wayne Avenue," Coffman said. "I have never been a supporter of Exit 7. We need to help the situation with the industrial parks."

Other council members also opposed the language in the letter, but for different reasons.

"My feeling is there is no need for us to play in two ball games at one time," Councilman John Redding said.

"We've been working for some time for an exit north of Chambersburg. I think we need to carry it through," Councilman Robert Wareham said.

Councilman Scott Thomas had a different perspective.

"My feeling is we're missing the whole boatload. Chambersburg needs a bypass," Thomas said. "Without a major bypass, we're not solving the problem."

Councilman Carl Helman said the two exits are not mutually exclusive, and said his interpretation of the letter was that it pledged continued support for a Walker Road exit while additionally pursuing a new southern one.

Council President Bill McLaughlin agreed.

"I see it as totally independent. I see no harm going on record saying the borough would support an exit south of Chambersburg," McLaughlin said.

Council members were evenly split with McLaughlin, Helman, Thomas, Sharon Bigler and Ken Gill voting in favor of sending the letter to Shuster.

Coffman, Redding, Wareham, Ruth Harbaugh and Allen Frantz voted against sending the letter.

That left Newcomer to cast the tie-breaking vote, his first since being sworn in as mayor at the start of the year. As mayor, Newcomer votes only when there is a tie among the 10-member board.

Newcomer added his support to the letter.

A southern exit in the vicinity of the new Target distribution center would take several years to build once it receives funding, because traffic and environmental studies would first have to be completed.

Similar studies near Walker Road were done nearly a decade ago, but litigation has held up any work on the interchange. The project is stalled as a federal judge considers the latest legal challenge.

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