Schwartzkopf comments on Rt.. 1 misguided

August 16, 2013

The following letter was sent to Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, with a copy submitted to the Cape Gazette for publication.

I was dismayed when I read the comments you made at the Aug. 7 meeting of the Public Safety Task Force regarding the DelDOT proposal to address pedestrian safety issues along Coastal Highway.

The comments attributed to you in the Cape Gazette were that the DelDOT proposal to construct five-foot-wide sidewalks on both sides of Coastal Highway and to install crosswalks at 14 signalized intersections would hurt traffic, hurt tourism, cause traffic back-ups, and drastically change driving habits. You failed to note the data in the 2010 Delaware Strategic Highway Safety Plan: Toward Zero Deaths that they would also dramatically improve pedestrian safety on this section of road.

According to information in the October, 2010 DHSP, in 2009 the state had 14 pedestrian fatalities. So far this year the news reports are that the state has experienced 13 pedestrian fatalities. The DHSP reported three pedestrian deaths in 2007 in Sussex County, two in 2008, and three in 2009. In the first seven months of 2013 there were five pedestrian deaths in Sussex County. The DHSP statewide report noted that in the three years of the study there were 38 pedestrian deaths in the roadway but only three pedestrian deaths in a marked crosswalk at an intersection. Clearly, it is safer for pedestrians to cross roadways in crosswalks at intersections than elsewhere on the road.

The motorists on Coastal Highway are either residents or tourists who either come and visit for a week or two or on weekends. Anyone who has visited the area more than once would realize that inbound traffic will be backed up on Friday nights or Saturday afternoons and that outbound traffic will be backed up on Saturday mornings or Sunday evenings. I have lived here since 2006 and quickly learned not to drive to Lowe's or Home Depot on Saturday afternoon in the summer unless you want to spend an hour or more driving back home.

The proposed improvements for pedestrian safety will include push-button-activated walk signals at the 14 intersections. If pedestrians are not there to cross the road, the walk signal will not be activated and traffic will not be affected. When the signal is activated by a pedestrian, traffic might be delayed 30 or 60 seconds. Isn't that a reasonable price to pay for increased pedestrian safety?

The following comment was also attributed to you in the news article: “Many of the pedestrian problems are along the Forgotten Mile and this does not touch that.” Are you saying that the improvements are good, but that they should be extended to the Forgotten Mile? Or are you saying that the improvements are not good and we should further aggravate the condition on the Forgotten Mile by extending them to that road section? Which is it, Mr. Schwartzkopf?

I fully support the DelDOT proposal and urge you to reconsider your opposition to it and to support these measures.

Thomas Wontorek
Rehoboth Beach

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