To reduce flooding on Route 1 between Dewey Beach and the Indian River Inlet, portions of the four-lane road will be raised six inches during a repaving project slated for spring 2018.
Sarah McDougall, Department of Transportation pavement management engineer, said Dec. 19, approximately 2,000 feet of the 4.3 mile repaving project will receive the additional asphalt – the typical two-inch raise associated with a repaving project, plus four more. A map provided by DelDOT shows the section begins south of New Road and ends south of Key Box Road. The entire repaving project runs from Bedford Avenue in Indian Beach to Savages Ditch Road, about 1.3 miles north of the inlet.
DelDOT announced Dec. 14 that Dover-based George & Lynch was awarded the contract to repave the entire stretch of road running through Delaware Seashore State Park at a bid price of $3.4 million. McDougall said approximately $300,000 of that amount will be spent to raise the road.
McDougall said the short section of the highway will be raised to minimize road closures due to flooding from severe weather events and high tides. She said the entire project is expected to take about 80 days to finish.
Over the past several years, McDougall said, this section of Route 1 has seen flooding about twice a year.
McDougall said the additional six inches of asphalt won’t prevent all flooding. Coastal storms are unpredictable, she said, and it is likely Route 1 will flood during severe weather events. However, she said, the higher pavement grade for this section of roadway prone to flooding will reduce the number of times the roadway is closed.
Chris Bason, Center for the Inland Bays executive director, said without knowing the details, he thinks this is a necessary, but temporary, solution to a significant problem.
“The fact is that sea level is coming up fast, and the land is going down,” Bason said in a Dec. 20 email. “Based upon the University of Delaware's intermediate projection for sea level rise, this approach should buy about 20 years until the road starts flooding again like it is now.”
Bason said the 20-year estimate is barring any increased subsidence from the weight of the road or effects from any major storms, which he said are likely over that time period.
Bason said Route 1 is the major north/south corridor for a region exploding in population growth.
“Ensuring we are adapting it to climate change is critical to our economy and safety,” Bason said.
McDougall said the area, located around Route 1’s mile marker 15, is a low point and deemed most susceptible to flooding.
“This section will be monitored, and DelDOT may pursue additional overlays along the other sections in future years based upon the results we see in this section of roadway,” McDougall said.
Warren Jones, a member of the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company and Delaware Volunteer Firefighter’s Association executive manager, said he was pleased DelDOT is raising a portion of Route 1.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “There definitely is a problem. No matter the storm, there’s flooding and sand being brought up onto the road.”
Jones said when Route 1 is closed, it limits the Rehoboth fire company’s availability and it forces fire companies south of the inlet to use hospitals other than Beebe Healthcare or to take a much longer route.
“I would say this is a good starting point,” he said.