Transportation problems dominated the news in the Cape Region in 2019 and will continue to create headlines in 2020.
From a series of future projects totaling more than $1 billion to millions of dollars in trail work, Delaware Department of Transportation news has filled Cape Gazette pages.
DelDOT officials also completed a major land deal. Based on recommendations from the volunteer Five Points working group appointed in 2018, DelDOT announced in May the state would purchase the 4-acre Best Ace Hardware property at Five Points to make way for future road improvements.
Also in 2019, the stage was set for two initiatives between Sussex County and DelDOT officials. Sussex County officials are expected to take action on a proposed Henlopen Transportation Improvement District and an updated memorandum of understanding outlining how the two agencies work together on land-use applications.
Transportation improvement district
The proposed district encompasses $284 million in road improvements, including 13 new roundabouts, 12 traffic signals and up to 4 miles of new roads. The district, an area south of Route 1 and Route 9 to Angola surrounding Route 24, covers 24 square miles and includes 66 miles of roads and 62 intersections.
Major roads in the district include sections of Route 24 and Route 9, and sections or all of Robinsonville, Plantation, Mulberry Knoll, Cedar Grove, Angola, Dorman, Jolyns Way, Webb's Landing, Jimtown, Beaver Dam, Kendale, Wil King, Conley’s Chapel, Hollymount and Camp Arrowhead roads.
Within the proposed district, almost 13,000 new housing units and 1.5 million square feet of commercial space are expected by 2045, according to transportation officials.
Among issues to be worked out by officials is an infrastructure fee to be paid by developers to cover costs of projects in the district. DelDOT officials recommend a 20 percent to 30 percent fee per residential unit or based on square footage for commercial projects; DelDOT would cover the remaining costs.
Memorandum of understanding
The proposed memorandum of understanding between DelDOT and Sussex County officials would expand to include all county land-use applications. The current agreement, dating back to 1988, applies only to rezoning applications. The proposed agreement includes rezoning, subdivision, residential-planned-community and conditional-use applications, and county officials say it would give them more say in road improvements tied to land-use applications.
DelDOT officials would provide a preliminary traffic analysis for land-use applications to determine whether traffic impact would be diminutive, negligible, minor or major. That finding would trigger three possible actions – a traffic-impact study, traffic-operational analysis or a fee charged to developers in lieu of a study.
Phasing of construction is also a component. Phasing of a project could include delaying all or some development until specific highway improvements are made by DelDOT or developers.
Among other provisions, county officials – including the county administrator, planning and zoning director and attorneys – would participate in negotiations between developers and DelDOT officials on roadway improvements. DelDOT would be required to notify county officials of any alterations made to the plans.
Major projects scheduled
DelDOT has plans for 31 projects in Sussex County totaling $1.25 billion over the next six years; 20 of those projects are in the Cape Region. Projects included in the capital transportation program will enter some stage of development during the time period.
Included are three grade-separated interchange projects on Route 1: Route 16 overpass near Milton, construction summer 2021-fall 2023; Minos Conaway Road overpass with access and service roads near Lewes, construction spring 2023-fall 2025; and Cave Neck Road overpass, construction date pending.
One of the first major projects to get underway in spring 2020 will be Phase 1 of Route 24 widening from Route 1 to Plantation Road. Phase 2 will include widening from Plantation to Love Creek bridge. A traffic signal will be added to the Route 24-Mulberry Knoll intersection.
A four-phase project is planned along Plantation Road from Robinsonville Road to Route 9. Plantation Road will be widened; sidewalks and bicycle/pedestrian pathways as well as a roundabout are planned. The roundabout, on a 13-acre parcel near Plantation Road-Route 9-Beaver Dam Road intersection, will change traffic patterns to alleviate congestion and confusion at what locals call Malfunction Junction. Phase 1 is expected to begin in January 2022.
Realignment of Old Orchard Road at Wescoats Corner, with a roundabout planned at the Marsh Road intersection, is scheduled for construction in 2021-22.
Other projects include:
• Route 24 at Camp Arrowhead Road and Route 24 at Robinsonville Road-Angola Road near Lewes intersection improvements; advertise for bid in late 2020.
• Route 24 at Route 5 and Route 23 intersection improvements; construction in spring 2021.
• Route 24 at Mount Joy and Route 24 at Bay Farm Road near Long Neck intersection improvements; construction in spring 2020.
• Minos Conaway Road-Route 1 service road to Janice Road under Nassau Bridge; construction to begin 2023.
• Canary Creek bridge improvements, Lewes, are funded for 2023 but pending projects could change the timeline.
• Nine short-term projects to make Route 1 median crossings safer are also proposed in the 9-mile corridor from Prime Hook Road near Milton to Tulip Drive in Lewes. The median improvement project at Cave Neck Road is already completed with the remaining projects scheduled to be done by the end of 2020.
Projects in DelDOT's 2020-26 capital transportation program:
• Intersection improvements at Cave Neck Road, Hudson Road and Sweetbriar Road.
• Old Landing Road and Airport Road intersection improvements, as well as improvements at Old Landing Road and Warrington Road, possibly including a roundabout; engineering in 2025, no construction timetable.
• An extension of Airport Road to connect with Route 24 in front of Beebe Healthcare's Rehoboth Beach campus; engineering in 2026, no construction timetable.
• Route 9 and Minos Conaway intersection improvements, construction to begin in 2025.
• Route 9, Kings Highway and Dartmouth Drive road and intersection improvements, construction to begin in 2026.
• Dewey Beach pedestrian and Americans with Disabilities Act sidewalk and street work from Anchor Way to Bayard Avenue. Curb and curb ramp construction has started and will continue through winter; paving expected this spring.
• Dairy Farm Road and Beaver Dam Road/Fisher Road intersection improvements; engineering in 2026, no construction timetable.
• Beaver Dam Road widening to Dairy Farm Road; engineering in 2026, no construction timetable.
• Road improvements, including widening, along New Road from Nassau Road to Old Orchard Road; engineering in 2025, no construction timetable.
Trail work progresses
In June, DelDOT officials opened Phase 2 of the Lewes-Georgetown Trail. The phase extends the trail 5 more miles from Savannah Road in Lewes west to Log Cabin Hill Road. Part of the trail was named in honor of Tom Draper, former owner of WBOC-TV, who died from injuries sustained in a crash Sept. 7, 2017, when he was struck by a pickup truck.
The first mile in Phase 1 from Gills Neck Road to Savannah Road in Lewes opened in October 2016. Work on Phase 3 in Georgetown is expected to start in spring or summer 2020. When completed, the trail will cover 17 miles and link to the Junction-Breakwater Trail to provide a trail from Georgetown to Rehoboth Beach.
In addition, in summer 2019, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control officials completed a trail from the entrance of Cape Henlopen State Park, across Freeman Highway to Savannah Road in Lewes. In late 2019, DelDOT completed a repaving and widening project along Savannah Road to provide dedicated bicycle-pedestrian lanes from the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal bridge to American Legion Road to link to that trail.
A 1,600-foot extension to Milton's Rails-to-Trails pathway is expected to get underway in February 2020 and be completed in the summer. Phase 1 extends from Chestnut Street to Federal Street. The project includes rehabilitation of an old railroad bridge.
Bridge work in the area
Two major bridge projects will be completed in 2020-21. An $8 million project to replace the roadbeds on the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal bridge in the Forgotten Mile area between Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach will be completed in spring 2020.
Work on a $13 million project on the spans on Route 1 over the Broadkill River between Lewes and Milton will begin in October 2020 and be completed in spring 2021.
Lewes Transit Center
The final phase of the multimillion-dollar Lewes Transit Center near Five Points is slated to be finished in early 2020. A new maintenance building at the rear of the property will be a three-bay facility, designed for alternative-fueled vehicles, including propane for DART’s paratransit fleet and eventually electric buses for regular bus service.
A new visitor center with a waiting area, tourist information and restrooms opened in late summer.
The center opened in May 2017, with 248 parking spaces, security cameras, passenger shelters, electric car charging stations and bike racks with a bike repair station.