Franklin Township slates meeting on Route 896 construction plans
By J. Chambless
The long-delayed and
much-discussed safety improvements to Route 896 through Franklin Township are
entering a new phase, with a public meeting to review the latest proposals
scheduled for Aug. 28.
In advance of the meeting, Franklin Township officials have posted the proposals online so that the public can come to the meeting prepared with any questions or concerns. The focus of the improvements will be a stretch of about five miles of Route 896, from Elbow Lane in London Britain Township to Shepherd Lane in New London Township.
While there are many smaller measures proposed to deal with drainage issues along the roadway and other concerns, the two major improvements will be a roundabout at the intersection of routes 896 and 841, as well as a three-way stop in the village of Kemblesville.
These two locations were the sites of many of the accidents reported in a 2007 safety study by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, which called Route 896 a “High Risk Rural Road” with 132 reportable crashes between 2003 and 2005. Reportable crashes are those which result in a fatality, injury and/or property damage that disables a vehicle.
John Auerbach, the chairman of the Franklin Township Board of Supervisors, said this week that the focus of the public’s interest will likely be the two major changes to the roadway.
The intersection of Route 896 and Route 841 has been a point of contention for years. Several solutions have been discussed, but the solution in place for the past several years has been a four-way stop at the intersection.
“The system was an immediate success, with only a very small number of minor conflicts,” Auerbach said. “Since all traffic has to stop, any conflicts occurred at low speed, and resulted in fender benders at worst. As time passed, everyone was satisfied. But because the system was an interim measure, PennDOT continued development of their solution, which was a major traffic signal system with turning lanes. Township officials and residents opposed this proposal.”
The roundabout is a follow-up PennDOT proposal that will be discussed at the Aug. 28 public meeting. The last such public meeting was held in November 2015. The new plans differ significantly from those unveiled at the prior meeting.
“Any of the proposed solutions for this intersection require major earthwork,” Auerbach said. “One key element is a large hump as you approach the intersection southbound on Route 896. This terrain prevents drivers from getting a good view of the intersection as they approach. This was a major factor in the design of the current interim system, requiring a southbound stop sign at Den Road. Removal of this hump is required for any improvement scenario.
“The property at the northeast corner of the intersection, owned by David and Gwen Galligan, will be significantly impacted by removal of the hump,” Auerbach explained. “Their driveway enters Route 896 and has a steep slope. Removal of the hump will make the driveway so steep it will be unusable. PennDOT must provide a remedy.”
Auerbach said he would favor building a new driveway to the property off of Route 841 as part of the roundabout installation. All the construction is within the PennDOT right of way. Traffic calming median islands are shown on the proposal in all four directions approaching the roundabout.
The other area of major work will be the curve in Route 896 in the middle of Kemblesville, and the angle of its intersection with Appleton Road. The layout has not changed since the days of horse-drawn travel, and Auerbach cites problems with trucks traveling northbound on Route 896 that cannot stay in their lane, either drifting into oncoming traffic or nearly stopping to make the turn.
“A remedy for this intersection has few options, because the intersection is completely surrounded by historic properties,” Auerbach said. PennDOT is proposing a three-way stop at the location, along with other traffic-calming measures.
While the supervisors are encouraging public turnout at the meeting, they and the public recognize that the plan – studies for which started in 2006 – is still a long way from any construction start.
“These projects are federally funded, and PennDOT has little design flexibly related to compliance with federal guidelines,” Auerbach said. “These projects were scheduled for implementation in 2017, but have been delayed many times, so I can’t speculate on any current schedule.”
View the design plans, and details about the Aug. 28 meeting, www.franklintownship.us.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email email@example.com.