Public has a chance to ask about Route 896 improvements in Franklin Township
● By J. Chambless
A crowd of more than 20 residents turned out at a meeting on Aug. 28 to see what PennDOT plans for Route 896 through Franklin Township.
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.
PennDOT representative Bruce Masi, as well as Elwood Kimmel and his associate from KCI Technologies, fielded questions from the public and the Board of Supervisors for an hour and a half. A large aerial map was displayed at the meeting, showing the extent of the proposed work.
Residents voiced concerns about speeding along Route 896, as well as concerns for children getting on and off school buses along the route.
The federally funded project is expected to take two construction seasons, and is projected to cost between $7 million and $9 million, not including the cost of obtaining some rights-of-ways from property owners.
Construction, Masi said, is planned to begin in the spring of 2021. He explained that contacting the approximately 88 property owners who will be directly affected by the work has to be completed before the design and plans can be put out to bid.
When one property owner asked when he could expect to be contacted, Masi said that if he didn’t receive his letter by Feb. 14, 2020, then he should contact PennDOT, but he expected that property owners would be contacted by the end of 2019.
John Auerbach, the chairman of the Franklin Township Board of Supervisors, told the Chester County Press last month that 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 suggested for the intersection is a follow-up PennDOT proposal.
“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 plan 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.
Updated maps and information will be posted when available on the township website, www.franklintownship.us.