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Lewes plans major streets project for fall

Images like this will be the norm this fall when Lewes officials kick off a major infrastructure project downtown. NICK ROTH PHOTO
July 17, 2017

The main access to Lewes Beach, where Savannah Road meets Gills Neck Road and Front Street, will be closed for five days this fall as crews tear up the road to replace key infrastructure. Downtown Lewes is also expected to be impacted for several weeks, if not months.

The overall project is immense in scale, tentatively planned to take place over the entire 2017-18 shoulder season, September to April, before pausing for the summer season. The remainder of the project will be completed from October to December 2018.

“Lewes is a historic town, but unfortunately so is our infrastructure,” said Board of Public Works General Manager Darrin Gordon.

The project, estimated to cost the BPW $3.2 million and the county $2.25 million, has been broken into several phases, with some elements of the project overlapping.

Bridge to close 

The key phase of the project will be the Savannah Road intersection. The bulk of the city’s wastewater meets at the bridge before heading under the canal and the marsh on a direct route to the Howard Seymour Reclamation Plant on American Legion Road. Many of the pipes in the ground at the intersection are 75 to 100 years old, Gordon said. 

Project timeline

Phase 1A -
Sept. 15 to Dec. 14 - Add wastewater force main on Gills Neck Road from Wolfe Pointe to Rodaline Avenue
Phase 1B - Oct. 14 to Dec. 31 - Gills Neck Road gravity sewer replacement
Phase 1C - Oct. 9-15 - Savannah Road, Gills Neck Road, Front Street intersection work      
 - Oct. 14 to Nov. 30 - Savannah Road, Gills Neck Road, Front Street jack and bore work
Phase 2A - Dec. 1 to March 15 - Front Street sewer and water replacement 
Phase 2B - March 15 to April 30 - Savannah Road water main abandonment and sewer improvements 
Phase 2C - Feb. 1 to May 1 - Front Street curb and sidewalk restoration 
Phase 2D - Oct. 1, 2018 to Dec. 31, 2018 - Roadway and 1812 parking lot paving 
- Project timeline is subject to change

Access to the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal drawbridge is anticipated to be closed in early October. Crews will work 24 hours a day until the work is completed, estimated to be five days. The Department of Transportation is also planning bridge work that would restrict or block access to the bridge. Although efforts have been made to synchronize the projects, DelDOT’s work is anticipated to occur in spring 2018. 

Closures will also occur on Front Street and Savannah Road in 150-foot segments as the project progresses. Charlie O’Donnell, an engineer with George, Miles and Buhr, said accommodations have been made to ensure the impact on businesses and residents is minimal. Detours or lane closures should allow access through most of the project, but, he said, there may be several days or weeks where businesses on Front Street are inaccessible. 

Lewes Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Betsy Reamer voiced concerns about the impact on special events and the holiday shopping season.

Councilwoman Bonnie Osler and other members of council also aired concerns about the effect on downtown businesses.

“It’s going to have a tremendous impact on downtown,” Osler said. “You’re basically shutting down downtown for three months, if not more.”

O’Donnell said they will work with the contractor to minimize the impact. 

Second Street will always be accessible,” he said. 

County connects 

The first phase of the project will connect Sussex County’s wastewater system to Lewes. In September, the BPW agreed to accept effluent from the county during peak times. Through the partnership, the county could divert up to 300,000 gallons per day of effluent into Lewes' system during the winter, and 75,000 gallons per day year-round.

The connection to the Howard Seymour Reclamation Plant is part of a county plan to provide more options for wastewater treatment in the Cape Region. Sussex now has three options, said Hans Medlarz, the county’s chief engineer. Wastewater can be treated and discharged at the county's Wolfe Neck Regional Wastewater Facility between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, but also at the county's Inland Bays Regional Wastewater Facility near Long Neck, and the Lewes plant.

To accommodate the new Lewes partnership, the county will pay to add a new force main on Gills Neck Road, more than a mile from the Wolfe Pointe development, to Savannah Road.  

Lewes disturbances

Following the five-day shutdown to reconfigure the pipes under the Savannah Road intersection, crews will bore a pipeline under the drawbridge to the 1812 Park parking lot, which will be closed while work is underway.

Crews will then install a new water main and gravity sewer on Front Street from Savannah Road to Market Street. Once complete, crews will install a new water main, reline sanitary sewer and add new valves on Savannah Road from Front Street to Third Street. At the same time, they will restore the curb and sidewalk on Front Street. 

If all goes to plan, work should be complete by May 1, 2018. However, the roads and the 1812 Park parking lot will have temporary paving for the entire 2018 summer season and will not receive a new surface until the fall.

Gordon said he is exploring the option of working on an expedited schedule for certain portions of the project, where crews would work nearly 24 hours a day. Though it would likely ensure the project is completed before May 1, it would come at a 30 percent higher price, he said. Since it is still early in the process, all prices are still estimated. Numbers will be firmed up when bids are received in the coming months, he said. The project will be self funded, coming from reserve funds, which include collected impact fees.

Deputy Mayor Fred Beaufait applauded BPW officials and the engineers for working out a timeline that would minimize impact on the community.

“It’s a project that’s going to be disruptive, no question, and I think you’ve tried to minimize that, and I appreciate it,” he said.