Westmoreland County comprehensive plan ideas aired
Decreasing congestion on Route 30, attracting a more diverse population and boosting local trade school enrollment were some of the goals suggested Wednesday for steering Westmoreland County into the future.
Close to 50 people discussed those ideas and others at a public workshop held in Westmoreland County Community College's Science Hall to help update the county's comprehensive plan.
Those attending signed up to take part in brainstorming sessions for a half-dozen key issues identified through previous public input and shared their best ideas at the end of the two-hour meeting.
The transportation group suggested several options for easing the flow of traffic on the two major east-west arteries through the county. Facilitator Josh Spano, a transportation planner with the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, cited such ideas as encouraging use of alternate routes that parallel Route 30, upgrading public transit service and installing “smart” traffic signals that will adjust transitions between red and green lights based on traffic conditions monitored by cameras or radar.
The group suggested a way to achieve the greatest impact on traffic: “Prioritize investments in denser communities, North Huntingdon and Hempfield,” he said.
A group searching for ways to retain and attract population — to halt the county's loss of about 12,000 residents since 2000 — suggested making residents of all cultures and races feel more welcome, perhaps through development of a county welcome center.
Members of the group also urged improved train or bus transit between the county and Pittsburgh so there would be fewer barriers for those who work in the city to make their homes in Westmoreland.
Churches might be part of the solution for improving cross-cultural relations, “We need to educate our young people about different religions and ethnicities,” said Rod Booker of Hempfield.
Speaking on behalf of a group looking to improve business retention and recruitment, Collin Warren of Southwest Greensburg suggested that trade schools might attract more students through show-and-tell programs in public schools, stressing trade schools as an alternative to a college degree program.
If students don't consider attending a trade school, he said, “This is leaving out a lot of high-paying jobs.”
Another breakout group recommended forming a regional planning body that could provide services to smaller Westmoreland communities that lack their own planning commission. Another idea was to start a campaign to educate residents about the ill effects of blight in communities and what can be done to combat it.
Jaemi Jackson, a senior associate with plan consultant Houseal Lavigne Associates, said the ideas generated in the breakout sessions will be revisited at a public meeting in August or September.