Route 1: A highway in search of a plan
Two meetings were held last week about safety on Route 1, but don’t think that means government has the answers yet.
If anything, the meetings demonstrate the state’s inefficiency in attacking urgent problems and its reluctance to develop constructive, long-term solutions.
The problem is Route 1 itself, both a gateway to Cape Region beaches and the region’s Main Street for shopping and entertainment. Outlets, eateries and offices line both sides of the road, yet to date there are only two crosswalks in a stretch from Five Points to Rehoboth Beach.
In the past year, the accidents waiting to happen began happening.
Despite calls for action, no new crosswalks were added this summer; officials didn’t even install a temporary sign urging drivers to slow down, not to mention better lighting at key intersections.
Instead, at the first of last week’s meetings, DelDOT officials promised that after years of delays, they finally obtained needed rights of way and are set to install 14 pedestrian-controlled crosswalks.
Then at the second meeting, officials announced an average of 80,000 cars now use Route 1 daily, and we all know daily counts don’t describe summer weekend events. Even so, do officials really believe 80,000 drivers will patiently navigate 14 pedestrian-controlled crosswalks?
Officials offer two views of Route 1: It’s either a beach boulevard, with two traffic lanes and wider pedestrian and cycling lanes, or it’s a highway, with access roads instead of direct access to shopping from the highway.
The Cape Region’s primary artery is in serious trouble, but these visions are both too limited to fix it. Officials should throw out old models and piecemeal plans – crosswalks, a transportation hub, Destination Station outside Rehoboth to name a few – and bring in a bold, new, comprehensive design for this thoroughfare.
Cape Region tourism plays an essential role in Delaware’s economy, but that will continue only if the state invests in critical infrastructure so tourists will continue to choose to come here.