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Chester County Press

Dinniman gets first-hand view of work needed at Red Rose Inn

03/24/2015 01:06PM ● By J. Chambless

A group of township officials, PennDOT officials and Sen. Andy Dinniman on the steps of the Red Rose Inn, which has been vacant for years.

The ongoing question of what to do with the Red Rose Inn property was officially addressed on Monday afternoon by State Sen. Andy Dinniman, who stood on the vacant property across the street and agreed that the derelict building is blocking progress.
The intersection of Old Baltimore Pike and Jennersville Road in Penn Township worked just fine when people traveled by horse and wagon. But drivers going north or south on Jennersville Road who want to turn left or right onto Old Baltimore Pike face a dilemma – stall traffic behind them while they wait to turn, or simply give up. Backups are routine at the intersection, which at this point cannot be widened with a turn lane because the porch of the Red Rose Inn forces the road to shift sideways.
Penn Township owns the historic inn and the large corner property it sits on, but any plans to do something with the site have stalled for more than a decade. On Monday, Dinniman came to Southern Chester County on a tour of problem sites that he will be working on solving. 
“You can see that traffic takes a while to turn,” Dinniman said, gesturing to cars backing up on Jennersville Road. "We have some money now from Act 89, and in my district, I want to get these projects to move ahead. We're trying to get everything down in writing, so we know how to put everyone together. We will go back to Harrisburg and try to find sources of funding."
With the summer opening of a large medical facility near Route 1, and long-delayed plans for an expansion of the Shoppes at Jenners Village, there is a clear need for improved traffic flow through the intersection. 
Bill Finnen, a 36-year supervisor in Penn Township, was part of the gathering on Monday and said, “This intersection hasn't changed since I was a boy. We do want to move this project, but we're tied up until we get this intersection done. We, as a community, can't move.” 
Finnen said the plan is to demolish the more recent additions to the inn, but leave the main building intact. Ideally, it would be renovated to be a place to display items from the township's history and serve as a tourist bureau headquarters. A new community center is planned on the vacant lot behind the inn, and the Shoppes at Jenners Village would like to demolish homes across the street from the inn and expand out to the roadway in the next five years. A new school is planned behind the National Penn Bank. But before any of that can happen, the traffic clog has to be addressed.
Finnen said the township is ready to go ahead “very soon” with the demolition, but there's no sense in doing that without first having the road work locked in. The estimated cost for the redesign and paving is in the $1.5 million range, according to PennDOT representatives, who said that funding may be available to help pay for the project.
Karen Versuk, the director of operations for Penn Township, told Dinniman that, “We can connect all of these pieces together, but we really have to correct the corner first.”
Dinniman said, “I'll go to Harrisburg and ask for money ... Let's work to see what we can come up with.”
“There's a lot of exciting things going on,” Versuk said. "Not only is this about education, but the health of our community, and also making jobs down here for people." 
With the proximity of so much housing in Jennersville, it would be ideal to make the intersection more walkable, she said. “This is part of the whole mobility plan we've been working on, so that we can connect the village and create a navigable and economically viable area that will function from the shopping center to the hospital. 
"We took a look at where our foot and bike traffic was coming from," Versuk said. "We have all these walkers who come to the park from the senior communities and the Y and so forth. And you can't walk here. We also have a public bus system that is growing. We want to get this all accessible, so people can take a bus or walk to the hospital or the Y on a safe pathway. We want a walkable community.”

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail jchambless@chestercounty.com.

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