Pedestrians in Latrobe are likely to be greeted by the sounds of Fred Rogers later this year.
Jarod Trunzo, executive director of the Latrobe Community Revitalization Program, said plans are in place to play Rogers’ famed “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” song at two city intersections — at Depot and Jefferson streets near the Westmoreland County Community College-Latrobe campus and at Main and Jefferson streets near James H. Rogers Memorial Park.
Instead of hearing a beeping sound when pedestrians are permitted to walk across two busy streets, the crosswalk sign will play the song, which was written by Rogers in 1967 and was used as the opening theme for each episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
The iconic television series aired 895 episodes from 1968 through 2001. Rogers, a Latrobe native, died in 2003 at the age of 74.
Trunzo said the song will play about 15 seconds. It hasn’t been determined if Rogers will be singing the tune or if another version will be featured.
“It’s going to be playing, which is great,” he said of the song.
The song is expected to be playing at the two intersections by the end of the year, Trunzo said. The musical addition has received approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) while the McFeely-Rogers Foundation and city officials, among others, have been involved in the planning process.
Trunzo likened the musical addition to what visitors experience when utilizing a pair of Indiana Borough crosswalks. More than a decade ago, the borough dedicated new audio signals with the voice of Jimmy Stewart — who starred in the 1946 holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” and was born and raised in Indiana — to guide pedestrians across the street.
It doesn’t hurt, Trunzo noted, that the Jefferson-Main street crosswalk addition will be featured at a location where visitors often stop for photos or take a moment to enjoy the small park. He said the city has seen an uptick of people taking pictures with the Rogers statue seated on a park bench since the release of the 2019 film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” starring Tom Hanks.
“With all the attention from the movie, we think it fits nicely into that experience you can’t get anywhere else,” Trunzo said. “... These things matter and having that reminder of (Fred Rogers) is important.”
The Rogers song addition is being done in unison with an improvement project set to begin this spring at nine city intersections at Depot, Ligonier and Main streets. City officials said other intersection upgrades include updated traffic signals and handicapped-accessible curb ramps, along with fresh pavement.
Trunzo said the traffic signals will be the same shade of black as new city streetlights; curbs will be painted a softer, more earth tone terracotta-like color instead of the traditional yellow, and six crosswalks that are part of the project will feature a thermoplastic material with brick-like aesthetics.
“This will probably be the most transformative project we’ve had here in many decades,” he said of the planned upgrades.