A bridge not too far, but too late?

February 14, 2020

On Feb. 5 I attended a workshop to learn about the proposed Henlopen Transportation District.  I want to thank DelDOT for  creating  the workshop; using a multimedia approach was a fine idea.  While the acoustics were not the best, everyone did what they could to be heard. Director of Planning Drew Boyce took substantial time with me to discuss the Love Creek Bridge, and while I did not like what he had to tell me, he was honest and thoughtful in his remarks, and for that I thank him. 

The job of creating better pathways for we who live in Sussex County is not easy, with coastal water in so many places and with so many developments underway or planned.  

While I came away with a better understanding of what this particular TID is supposed to do and I like the concept, I remain skeptical that it will achieve the desired result.  Yes, more roads, lights and even roundabouts are necessary, but Route 24 is central to the vision we who live along it have.  Without a way over or under Love Creek, enhanced  side roads and intersections will only put more traffic onto an already heavily trafficked road. Gridlock happens all the time now; funneling more traffic onto Route 24 will only create more bottlenecks at the bridge. 

Not having a widened bridge in place for at least 20 years is just not acceptable to me or many others who travel this east/west road regularly. If the existing bridge collapsed tomorrow, a new one would be in place ASAP.  Can’t the same sense of urgency be applied now?  You can bet the residents of the Angola area, and beyond, will focus on what’s planned for Route 24, bridge and all. 

I am concerned that the study leading to the proposed fee structure is already out of date and over the life of the TID would need to be updated numerous times. Doing away with traffic-impact studies sounds nice, but is it prudent?  Yes, a TIS is for only one particular development, but it works for that development, if done correctly.  

And yes, costs to developers vary, but community locations and sizes vary.  TISs take time, but that time can also be utilized by residents who want more information about what is to be built and by the county councilmen who must decide the fate of an application. And in the end won’t additional studies need to be done anyway and on an annual basis just to keep up with growth? 

The TID goal for a level of service (LOS) is D. That is by DelDOT standards borderline; I cannot accept that as a goal, nor should anyone else. I was told not to look at the LOS like a school grading system, but how can you not when A is free-flowing and F is gridlock? I would suggest that during peak summer days,  at peak times, the LOS will be an F, inviting accidents and road rage.

I am not sure too how the proposed Memorandum of Understanding fits into a TID  since there seem to be conflicting guidelines. These concepts are new to me and I’m still learning about them. What I do know for sure is Sussex County officials need  to come up with tools to manage growth, tools that allow our lagging infrastructure to play catch-up.

Whether it’s a TID, impact fees, an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, a building moratorium or a moratorium on rezoning, an MOU, even phased building that stays phased, a traffic consultant, something needs to be done. 

Some would say it’s too late; I have to be optimistic that our county council will get this right.  I have to be optimistic that planning and zoning will look twice before approving every development plan that comes their way.  I have to be optimistic that DelDOT will work with the council, with or without a new MOU.

For years I’ve thought it’s now or never as far as doing something about our overtaxed roads.  Looking to the north and south of where I live in the Angola area, and to the east and west, I see nothing but new homes going up.  The map presented by planning and zoning, full of yellow-shaded areas, suggested a large number of  new developments during the life of the Henlopen TID, with thousands of new homes bringing even more cars to our troubled roads.

I am not saying  we should stop these developments, I am not saying no to commercializing where appropriate, I’m only saying let our lagging infrastructure play catch-up. A TID in concept is a good idea; it’s how it’s executed that matters most.  At the Governor’s Town Hall on Feb. 4 a question about overdevelopment was asked, resulting in much applause.  That says something.  

County council, look into your toolbox and find something you can work with, please!! 

Judy Kane


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