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Sheetz gets county OK for new store in Latrobe

| Friday, May 4, 2012, 11:37 p.m.

Plans for a new Sheetz store at a busy Latrobe intersection got the green light Wednesday from Westmoreland County engineer Henry G. Fitz.

Fitz said the county will issue a waiver to PennDOT for the county-owned Ligonier Street Extension at state Route 982 on behalf of the project traffic engineer, David E. Wooster and Associates of Pittsburgh.

Sheetz Corp., of Altoona, plans to build the store bordering the eastbound lane of Ligonier Street Extension and the northbound lane of Route 982, according to Sheetz spokesman David P. Hazelet.

The waiver calls for PennDOT's permission to alter traffic light patterns for both roads. The change would mean an increased wait time for motorists at the Ligonier Street Extension/Route 982 traffic light, Hazelet said.

The waiver is subject to four requirements, Fitz said.

First, project developers must complete an additional traffic impact study at the intersection within the first six months of the store's opening.

"The (first) traffic impact study was based on so many assumptions, such as a PennDOT's 25 percent projected increase in trips to the proposed Sheetz," Fitz said. "When I had a meeting with Wooster (& Associates), they thought that projection was extremely high."

Independent studies by Wooster and Associates projected a 10 percent to 14 percent increase in traffic flow, Fitz said.

If PennDOT's traffic service rating for Ligonier Street Extension drops significantly, Sheetz will be required to install a left turn lane on the road, Fitz said.

"I might even be a little more than 25 percent (traffic flow increase). You would think the new store would attract more traffic," Fitz said.

Hazelet said Sheetz plans to build the store further back from Ligonier Street Extension to allow for a turn lane if necessary.

Second, the waiver can be used only for the store's construction.

"No further development of the site will be permitted without an updated traffic impact study," Fitz said.

Third, an additional right of way will be dedicated to the county fronting Ligonier Street Extension to accommodate future widening if warranted, Fitz said.

Fourth, Fitz asked for consideration of a pedestrian crosswalk for Ligonier Street Extension.

In January, PennDOT directed Wooster & Associates to seek the waiver from city council. Council determined the county was responsible for issuing the waiver on the county-owned road.

A project completion date has yet to be determined.

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