Delaware Department of Transportation officials will hold a workshop Tuesday, March 29, at the Lewes Public Library to provide an update on plans to replace the Canary Creek bridge on New Road.
DelDOT has made changes to the shared-use path since it was last presented to the public in August 2021. Plans at that time had a shared-use path running along the south side of New Road from the new Lewes Waterfront Preserve development, across the new bridge and down to Captains Circle. The latest version has the path crossing New Road about 200 feet west of Forecastle Lane, remaining on the north side of New Road until Captains Circle, where it crosses back over to the south side.
DelDOT Chief of Bridges and Structures Jason Hastings said the change was made due to significant impacts on the tax ditch on the south side along the Reserve at Pilottown community, as well as an existing drainage issue.
“As with any transportation project, the design gets refined as we get more information,” Hastings said. “We found out more information about this drainage issue … so we looked further into that and felt like we could actually make some adjustments.”
Hastings said other alternatives were considered to avoid the drainage and tax ditch issues. One was to move the entire shared-use path to the north side of New Road, but that would’ve resulted in substantial front-yard and driveway impacts to property owners. Another option was to shift New Road to the north, but the benefits were minimal and created negative impacts to the roadway design.
DelDOT chose to cross over New Road just west of the Reserve of Pilottown community, then tie into an existing shared-use path on the north side. After crossing Park Road, the path will cross back over to the south side of New Road at Captains Circle.
Both crossings will have median refuge islands for crossing bicyclists and pedestrians. In addition to providing a safe place for people to wait while crossing, Hastings said the islands also provide traffic-calming effects. Rectangular rapid-flashing beacons are planned for both crossings.
Doug Spelman, a resident of nearby Canary Creek and a member of the Historic Lewes Scenic Byway Committee, said he and his group are concerned about the new design.
“We believe this design is unsafe and counterintuitive to the way bikers ride, impacting bicycle, pedestrian and vehicle safety in the vicinity of the Park Road/New Road intersection,” he said. “The Historic Lewes Byway Committee feels strongly that the safety of everyone is compromised by this change.”
Spelman said bicyclists will not take the time to dismount and cross New Road and Park Road three separate times. Many children and impatient adults will take a chance by riding on a very narrow shoulder instead of crossing, he said.
Mary Roth, a member of both the byway committee and the city’s bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee, agreed, saying many eastbound bicyclists and pedestrians are likely to travel the extra 200 feet on New Road to Forecastle Lane than cross over to the other side. As part of the project, DelDOT is planning to remove the existing sidewalks at Forecastle Lane.
The Lewes Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee is opposed to the latest version of the plan, voting March 22 to send a letter to DelDOT voicing its concerns.
Committee member Chip Davis pointed to DelDOT’s plans to build a grade-separated intersection at Minos Conaway Road, which will encourage more motorists to use New Road.
“Traffic will be increased 10 times, 20 times,” he said. “Crossing [New] Road twice makes no sense from a safety aspect.”
Clay and Diane Blanton have a different perspective. They say their Lightship Lane home would be significantly impacted if DelDOT moves forward with its original plan. After that plan was presented, they say they invited DelDOT officials to their property to see firsthand their concerns. The original plan meant the shared-use path would be 15 feet from their back window and they would have to remove all of their trees. The roadway and shared-use path would also be elevated. Significant drainage issues are also present, which Diane said DelDOT analyzed.
“DelDOT has tried their best,” Diane said. “When you have houses here already, you have to build within the confines that already exist.”
She said the land directly across New Road is open and owned by the city.
“We applaud them for being responsive to our concerns,” Clay said.
The workshop will be held in the Lewes library’s large meeting room from 3 to 6 p.m., March 29. The meeting will be available on DelDOT’s YouTube channel after the meeting.
Hastings said plans are expected to be finalized in April, with the project going out to bid this fall or early 2023. Work is expected to begin in October 2023 and last until April 2024. New Road will be closed for a majority of the construction time.