The corridor management plan for the Lewes Scenic and Historic Byway is about 80 percent complete and committee members are eyeing completion by April.
The byway committee held two open house sessions Nov. 13 to show its progress and discuss plans for the future. The approved byways comprise Lewes' main entry routes Savannah Road, Kings Highway, New Road and Cape Henlopen Drive as well as Gills Neck Road and Pilottown Road. Called the Gateway to the National Byway, the roads showcases Lewes' natural beauty, history and other amenities.
After a roadway is designated as a byway, the Department of Transportation uses the corridor management plan to add context-sensitive design elements to make the roadway more visually attractive to the everyday passerby.
“These byways really affect the whole community,” said Jim Klein of Lardner Klein Landscape Architects, a national byway consultant hired to work with the committee. “They also affect perception as you come into town.”
Some of the goals of the plan are to improve safety and enhance visual quality. One of the more ambitious ideas in the plan is to revamp Kings Highway into a boulevard with a median separating opposing lanes of traffic. A boulevard design has worked in other areas, Klein said, and could be successful in Lewes, too. Other ideas include new landscaping and signage to beautify Lewes' gateways as well as more pedestrian and bike paths.
Committee Chair Gail vanGilder said the goal is to create a living document, not one that will collect dust on a shelf. She is confident the plan will assist DelDOT, the city and the county in future planning efforts.
“We have a lot of really wonderful and significant resources in Lewes,” she said. “If you don't keep the road going to those destinations as scenic and significant as the destinations themselves, they do become diminished over time.”
Lewes Mayor Ted Becker said he is anxiously awaiting the finished plan, so it can be used by the city for future projects along the byway.
“I think I speak for all of city council when say we're looking at this plan to offer us some insight and some planning ideas,” he said.
However, with much of the byway located in Sussex County jurisdiction, he said, it is important that county officials also show support for the plan.
“We, as a city council, can only control a very small part of what's coming our way from Route 1,” he said.
VanGilder said the county has been receptive to the byway committee's work, and she has met with County Administrator Todd Lawson and planning officials. She hopes to have an opportunity to present the plan to county council soon.
The struggle, she said, is the quick process in which the county approves new developments. In the case of Showfield on Gills Neck Road, she said, the byway committee and other concerned citizens had only one opportunity to be heard.
While the committee is advisory, DelDOT Byway Coordinator Anne Gravatt said, its input could be invaluable and dictate how a roadway develops.
“I believe it will do nothing but enhance the standard of living in the Lewes area,” she said. “We, as an organization, and me being the byway coordinator are committed to seeing that this grassroots effort reflects the wants and needs for the byway as a whole and the community that it represents.”
The byway project has been in the works since 2010. VanGilder said cuts to federal transportation funds delayed the project, and the Lewes byway was the last grant Delaware received.
To learn more about the byway effort, go to deldot.gov/information/community_programs_and_services/byways/lewes.shtml.