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Why spend money on drawbridge projects?

October 30, 2017

I read with interest and amazement the article on the need for rehabbing the Lewes and Rehoboth drawbridges over the canal. (DelDOT to rehab Lewes, Rehoboth drawbridges in 2018)

I assume that the tall vessels that request those 12 openings per year are likely recreational sailboats that are likely to be ocean-worthy, though perhaps their owners may not want to take them onto the ocean on a choppy day, even from Cape Henlopen to Indian River Inlet.

If their journeys are delayed for a day or two, I’m sure that will impose some inconvenience on the owners of those tall vessels, but does that merit we-the-people spending $7 million on preserving these bridges as drawbridges? A decision was made to abandon the movable rail bridge up in Lewes because only a few rail trips per week were using it.

But perhaps there are fragile tall commercial or research vessels whose insurance or owners would much prefer that they travel in protected waters. Or perhaps there is some emergency such vessels must attend to at one end or the other of this canal which makes it worth our while to make sure they can travel the canal any day they like. Maybe some tourism company has invested in a taller boat, which the rest of us must subsidize for the sake of “business” - 12 trips per year.

What are the economic benefits to Sussex County, Delaware or the nation, of subsidizing these 12 vessels by maintaining these drawbridges and preventing the construction of fixed foot-, bike and car/truck bridges across the canal?

There has been a lot of talk about improving Rehoboth Beach’s bike routes by building a foot- and bike bridge over the canal near Rehoboth Avenue, but it seems to have been dropped. Many hundreds of bikers cross that bridge every day in season, and likely many dozens off season.

Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach are an island off an island, and having fixed bridges we can rely on to get thousands of cars, hundreds of bikes and pedestrians and at least a couple ambulances and fire trucks across the canal each day is vital. Are those 12 vessel trips a year really worth $7 million? Who decides?

Wouldn’t the funds be better spent widening the 50-foot Rehoboth Avenue bridge to accommodate bikes, scooters and pedestrians, inbound and outbound, safely, or adding a second fixed bridge at roughly the level of the top of the canal’s banks?

Wyn Achenbaum
Rehoboth Beach

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