Plans to help people using the Junction and Breakwater Trail reach Rehoboth Avenue are on hold, but Rehoboth Beach officials have raised safety concerns about the proposed plan.
Marco Boyce, planner for Delaware Department of Transportation, said the agency has proposed an an 8- to 10-foot-wide paved pathway from the Junction and Breakwater Trail to the Rehoboth Avenue traffic circle.
At Rehoboth Avenue, Boyce said, the path would be on the north side of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal Bridge. The sidewalk on the north side of the bridge and the approaches to the bridge will be widened to allow for two-way bicycle and pedestrian traffic on the same sidewalk.
Commissioner Stan Mills said putting bicyclists on sidewalks contradicts city policy, and bikers going both ways on the same sidewalk makes the problem worse.
“The trail plan seeks to merge with city routes, and I believe that a plan that incorporates the above scenarios will send mixed messages to bike riders,” Mills said.
“Getting the pathway to the roundabout is critical, as this will serve to disperse bicycle and pedestrian traffic throughout the rest of Rehoboth in a controlled and safe manner via not only Rehoboth Avenue, but Columbia Avenue to the north and Grove Street to the south,” Boyce said.
The trail splits in two as it approaches Holland Glade Road. Under DelDOT’s proposal, the northern section of the trail, which ends at Holland Glade Road, would be extended down Hebron Road and link up with the south trail at Canal Street. From there, DelDOT has proposed three alternatives to travel on Church Street to Rehoboth Avenue.
Boyce said funding for final design and construction is not yet available. He said the $1 million project has been put on hold until next fiscal year because of a lack of funding. He said Gov. Jack Markell’s proposed 10-cent increase to the state gas tax for infrastructure improvements would help in funding the trailhead.
It appears DelDOT will also have to win over Rehoboth officials not totally convinced about the plans.
Mayor Sam Cooper said at this point, the beginning of the trail in Rehoboth is not very well thought out, as it is unclear where people would get on or off. He said the city needs to know how the connection will be used and how many people expect to use it. Cooper said DelDOT has not yet defined whether the connection would be used primarily for bicyclists or pedestrians, as an alternative route into Rehoboth or a recreational trail.
Commissioner Bill Sargent, chairman of the city’s streets and transportation committee, said the committee has urged Cooper to write a letter to DelDOT spelling out the city’s desire to be actively involved with the planning.
Boyce said within Rehoboth, users would access the trail at the Rehoboth Avenue traffic circle and at the canal bridge. He said Rehoboth is on board to provide design feedback and guidance and help with the public outreach effort. Boyce said the city and DelDOT would have to work out a maintenance agreement for the portions of the trail within Rehoboth.
“We’ve met with city leadership to discuss the concept plan as currently envisioned, and any changes will be closely coordinated,” he said. Boyce said the trailhead would be used for bicycle and pedestrian transportation and recreation.
“I suspect it will be equally both bicycle and pedestrian traffic nearer to Rehoboth city limits, but favoring bike traffic farther out toward Lewes,” he said.