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Chester County Press

Penn Township Intersection Project Receives Award

08/19/2020 06:00PM ● By Steven Hoffman
Penn Township officials gathered at the Red Rose Inn on Aug. 12 for a special award presentation to the township for the project that improved the intersection of Route 796 and Old Baltimore Pike. The annual Road and Bridge Safety Improvement Award is presented by the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS), the Pennsylvania Highway Information Association (PHIA) and PennDOT to recognize projects that make a significant improvement for vehicle traffic in Pennsylvania.

“It really is a feather in the cap for the township and the engineering firm,” said Karen Versuk, the township’s director of operations and road master. “It’s a big honor and we’re thrilled to death.” The award ceremony was led by PSATS executive director Dave Sanko along with PHIA managing director Jason Wagner and Lou Calvanese on behalf of PennDOT. Attending the presentation were township staff and officials, representatives for the Pennsylvania State PoliceMedic 94, and West Grove Fire Company

Also on hand were State Sen. Andrew Dinniman and State Rep. John Lawrence, who came with citations for the supervisors, the engineer and contractor. “We’re here to highlight an intersection folks have talked about for years and years and years, and it’s finally done,” Sanko said.

The intersection of Route 796 and Old Baltimore Pike in Jennersville has long been a problem for motorists—traffic backups were common at peak hours and there was an ever-increasing number of traffic accidents.  The need for improvements became more important as traffic volume has increased with commercial and residential development. The impending construction of the new Avon Grove High School close by the intersection made it even more critical to correct problems at the intersection before school bus traffic was added to the equation. After seven years of active planning, the project finally was completed in 2019. “Safe passage through our town center is not just a convenience, but a critical public safety component, without which we would have been mired in the 20th century,” said Curtis Mason, the chairman of the Penn Township Board of Supervisors. “With these dramatic improvements, our town center can thrive and attract new businesses, homes, services, jobs and more to Southern Chester County.”

The project involved realigning the intersection while widening southbound Route 796 to add left turn and right turn lanes. Northbound was re-striped to create a left turn lane and improve the turning radius.  Old Baltimore Pike was also reworked to add left-turn lanes and pedestrian crossing was improved. To complete the improvements, the traffic signals were upgraded and the roadways were resurfaced. McMahon Associates did the engineering and design work for the intersection improvements which were followed by contractor Road Con Construction.

Design and construction came only after discussion and input from the Penn Township Planning Commission, Historical Commission, and the township supervisors. “This project was years in the making, the township came together for a fantastic project,” Calvanese said. “It really shows that you really care about your municipality and the people who travel your roads. It’s a fantastic example of what can be accomplished.”

The biggest hurdle faced by the township was the limited amount of land available for the intersection widening and realignment. Standing in the way was the historic Red Rose Inn, vacant and in disrepair. It was still an important part of the community’s history that no one wanted to see destroyed.
The township took the bold step of purchasing the Red Rose Inn property, and preserved the historic inn by demolishing portions of the building that were later additions to create space for the road widening. The Inn has been returned to its original core structure, and the interior restored as a museum. “The Red Rose Inn was such an instrumental thing to making this happen,” Versuk said.