Construction of the $18.5 million Lewes Transit Center will not start this summer, or even this year. State transportation officials announced last June that shovels would be in the ground within a year. Construction was pushed back due to time needed to complete design work and secure a $5 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, said Geoff Sundstrom, Delaware Department of Transportation spokesman.
Final plans are expected by the end of the year and construction is scheduled to start in spring 2014, Sundstrom said. “The project will be built in phases over several years,” he said.
Phase 1, including site work, construction of the park-and-ride and a two-bay maintenance facility, is expected to be completed by May 2015. Phase 2, expected to be completed in 2017, includes a passenger facility and doubling the size of the maintenance building.
Looking to the future, Sundstrom said, the facility will be designed to include compressed natural gas buses. “Although we do not currently have CNG buses in the fleet, the design of the maintenance facility will incorporate elements needed for CNG in the event we are able to deploy CNG buses in the area. The fuel is environmentally-friendly and can be procured domestically,” Sundstrom said.
The Lewes Transit Center along Route 1's southbound lanes near Five Points is about five miles north of another park-and-ride and the planned site of Destination Station just outside Rehoboth Beach.
The plan includes a 239-vehicle park-and-ride facility with seven bus stalls and a covered passenger boarding area. An indoor waiting area would also be provided that would include a ticket window, restrooms, vending machines and visitor information. The plan calls for a bus maintenance facility to be constructed along Shady Road with bus parking and fueling and a drivers' lounge.
Entrance and access will be provided from Shady Road and the southbound lanes of Route 1. A new traffic light has been placed at the Shady Road-Plantation Road intersection and plans also include upgrades to Shady Road. The former car dealership building on the site will be demolished.
Funding is scheduled over several years and includes approximately $9 million in federal grants going toward the anticipated $11 million construction cost. The 6.5-acre parcel, formerly the Wright Chrysler property, was purchased with state funds for $6.5 million. Engineering costs are estimated at $1 million, adding up to the total $18.5 million cost for the project.
During a workshop last year, DelDOT project manager John Sisson said the center could facilitate a future plan for year-round resort bus service and also lead to better connections with private Greyhound buses and the Delaware River and Bay Authority bus system.
Sisson said no changes to the present park-and-ride in Rehoboth Beach and the DART bus transit hub in Georgetown are planned because of the addition of the Lewes Transit Center.
Resort bus ridership has risen steadily since 2004 from just over 226,000 riders to more than 380,000 riders in 2012, the second best year on record.
Under the current park-and-ride fee schedule, vehicles are charged a flat $8 rate; up to four passengers get daily bus passes to use resort transit for the entire day. Separate DART bus rates are $1 each way and $2.10 for a daily pass.
DART operates two fixed routes throughout the year in Sussex County and seven routes as part of the resort transit system.