State updates design for Lewes-Georgetown Trail

Decommissioned rail line to give path new look
August 22, 2017

The decommissioning of part of the Delaware Coast Rail Line will give a new look to an upcoming phase of the Lewes-to-Georgetown Trail.

Since a section of track has been decommissioned, state transportation officials say rails and ties will be removed and a paved trail will take their place.

Originally, that part of the trail would have run alongside the rail line, as it does in the first phase of the trail.

The Delaware Department of Transportation will hire a contractor to start removing tracks in spring 2018. The project will also include removing rails that cross roads and highways from Savannah Road west, beyond the crossing at Route 9 in Coolspring. The cost of the project will be approximately $1 million, said Jeff Niezgoda, DelDOT's assistant director.

Niezgoda said in a cost analysis, transportation officials considered constructing the trail adjacent to the existing rail line; removing the tracks; a proposed road project in the area of Route 1 and New Road; and repairs or removal of the railroad hand-cranked swing bridge over the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal.

He said proceeding with the new plan will save taxpayers about $20 million, which includes about $3 million projected for repairing the old bridge.

Use of the 100-year-old hand-cranked bridge was halted almost a year ago after it was discovered the bridge had settled 7 to 8 inches into the canal below.

Niezgoda said transportation officials met with the owners of the railroad and SPI Pharma, located just outside Cape Henlopen State Park, the lone company using that stretch of rail line. “They were supportive of the plan to remove the rails,” he said.

Three Delaware Coast Rail Line tanker cars have been sitting on the rails in front the plant since the bridge was deemed unsafe. The company has instead been trucking product.

Local residents got a chance to see maps of the trail and plans for a proposed sidewalk along Savannah Road during an Aug. 17 workshop at Cape Henlopen High School. Public comment was also accepted.

Phase 2 – costing about $3.2 million – will extend the path 3.2 miles from Savannah Road, under the Nassau bridge, ending at Minos Conway Road. The 10-foot-wide, hot-mix trail will mirror the existing section of trail. Construction of the trail is expected to begin in fall 2018.

“It's still a challenging project, but putting the trail on the rail alignment is easier and better from an environmental perspective,” Niezgoda said.

The tree canopy along the side the trail bed will now be preserved. He said under the original plan, many trees would have been cut down to make way for the trail alongside the rail line.

Possible future sidewalk project

DelDOT is also undertaking a feasibility study for a sidewalk project along Savannah Road, one of the busiest roads leading into Lewes. The 3,700-foot sidewalk would start at Quaker Road and run east to the railroad crossing where it would tie into the Lewes-to-Georgetown Trail. The proposed sidewalk would pass Cape Henlopen High School and tie into the school's existing pedestrian walkway.

Niezgoda said residents in the area contacted Sen. Ernie Lopez about constructing sidewalks along Savannah Road. He then contacted DelDOT officials who are in the process of doing a planning study.

Public comment on both projects is now being accepted. Comments can be mailed to DelDOT Community Relations, PO. Box 778, Dover, DE 19903 or sent via email to or fax at 302-739-2092.

Phase 1 of trail opened last fall

Phase 1 of the Lewes-to-Georgetown Trail runs from Gills Neck Road at the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal to Savannah Road with a trailhead at the Lewes library. Opened in fall 2016, the trail connects to the Junction and Breakwater Trail between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach.