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Latrobe’s rail heritage inspires new Route 981 signal design

Jeff Himler
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Jeff Himler | Tribune-Review
A signal cautions motorists to keep right at the north end of the Route 981 bridge across the Loyalhanna Creek on Monday, June 25, 2018, in Latrobe. Southbound lanes of traffic on Depot Street narrow to a single lane at that point, rejoining the northbound lane after being separated by one block. The bridge was newly reopened to two-way traffic near the end of a PennDOT rehabilitation project spanning two construction seasons.
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Steven Patricia | Latrobe Community Revitalization Program
Artist’s sketch shows railroad-inspired design for upgraded flashing signal on Route 981 near the Loyalhanna Creek bridge in Latrobe.

A new flashing signal, designed to resemble an antique railroad lantern, could be installed in Latrobe near the bridge that carries Route 981 over the Loyalhanna Creek.

The design upgrade, unveiled this week, would warn motorists of a traffic pattern change and serve as a nod to the importance of rail connections in the town’s past.

City council members Jim Kelley and Jack Murtha serve on a committee that oversaw the design, which was submitted by Steven Patricia, lead design consultant for the Latrobe Community Revitalization Program.

Positioned where Route 981 splits into northbound lanes on Main Street and southbound lanes on Depot Street, the current signal resembles a standard traffic light. It sits atop a concrete pylon with a sign directing drivers to keep right in order to continue heading with the flow of traffic on Route 981.

Since PennDOT recently rehabilitated the bridge with a new decorative railing and lamp posts, the bare-bones signal looks out of place at one of the main entrances to downtown Latrobe, city officials have said.

The lantern-styled replacement “will be an attractive thing to see when you come into the city,” said city manager Wayne Jones. “We’re trying to pay homage to the fact that the city was really started by the railroad.”

The city, incorporated as a borough in 1854, was laid out by Oliver Barnes, an agent of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The new signal should cost less than $1,000, Jones said. The city will be responsible for maintaining it, as it does the existing signal.

Council is expected to vote on the revised signal design in October.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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