Bipartisan effort celebrated at Route 796 project

State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19 of West Whiteland, and state Rep. John Lawrence, R-13 of Kemblesville, congratulate each other on their successful bipartisan efforts to bring the Route 796 project to fruition.
State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19 of West Whiteland, and state Rep. John Lawrence, R-13 of Kemblesville, congratulate each other on their successful bipartisan efforts to bring the Route 796 project to fruition. Chris Barber — Digital First Media

PENN >> As the speakers took to the microphone at the Route 796 ground breaking on Thursday, the words they used over and over were “bipartisan” and “group effort.”

And it was obvious that the whole thing could not have come together without a lot of cooperation from all sides.

The realigning of the road and the continuing restoration of the Red Rose Inn got a joyful kickoff as state Rep. John Lawrence, R-13 of Kemblesville, and state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19 of West Whiteland, joined officials from PennDOT and Penn Township along Baltimore Pike for at what is now a clogged and slightly skewed intersection.

They were there to celebrate more than three years of intense planning as well as an estimated 13 years of informal talks that has led up to the financing, design and approval of what will be a much more efficient and free flowing road.

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Penn Township Supervisors Chairman Curtis Mason hosted the event and told his audience the project will preserve the structure and history of the country by restoring the Red Rose Inn, which has been in place since the days of the founding fathers and will become a township building.

Additionally, he said, the straightening of the intersection will facilitate the economic growth of the area.

As the road is laid out now, drivers who exit the Route 1 Bypass at Jennersville onto Route 796 and head south have to make a jog from left to right to cross over Baltimore Pike and continue drive southward.

Additionally, because of delays by traffic waiting to turn, long lines form in all directions, creating a bottleneck for drivers.

That will all change when left turn lanes and new traffic lights are installed.

PennDOT Traffic Services Manager Fran Hanney said the construction would take about a year and would cost an estimated $2.6 million. As he stood beside the Red Rose Inn and traffic whizzed by, he said pointed to the flat area beside the inn and said the highway would be moving in that direction so the cars could go straight through to the other side of Baltimore Pike.

As for the mood of the day, it was conciliatory and almost convivial. Thanking the efforts of his fellow supervisors, PennDOT and the two legislators, Mason said, “It’s the community that is affected.”

Likewise, Lawrence recognized the mutual work that he and Dinniman had put in.

“In one of those meetings down the street in my office, we were able to obtain a commitment from PennDOT for $800,000 towards this project. Later through the efforts of Sen. Dinniman, the township was able to secure an additional $250,000. With more than a million dollars in state taxpayer funding in hand, Penn Township has moved to institute a traffic impact fee on new development that will provide the remainder of the funding necessary to get this project across the finish line,” he said in a prepared statement.

Dinniman told the audience assembled in the parking lot, “This is what partnership can bring about.” He also praised the efforts of PennDOT. “PennDOT is a true friend of the people of this county,” he said.

The officials then joined for a ceremonial groundbreaking, which consisted of putting on hard hats and tossing shovels full of dirt that had been placed at the corner of Baltimore Pike and Route 796.

Lawrence said he thought he spoke for everyone when he said that it will be even more exciting when they cut the ribbon on the completed project.

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About the Author

Chris Barber

Chris Barber is the editor of the Avon Grove Sun. She was previously southern bureau chief of the Daily Local News and editor of the Kennett Paper, earning honors in writing and photography. Reach the author at agsun@kennettpaper.com .