State transportation officials are preparing to work on 31 projects in Sussex County in the 2020-26 capital transportation program with a price tag of $1.25 billion. “We are making up for lost time,” said Delaware Department of Transportation Secretary Jennifer Cohan.
Twenty of the 31 projects are planned in eastern Sussex County. Cohan said several projects are suggestions from the Five Points Working Group. “We are happy with the progress this group has made,” she said.
Charles “C.R.” McLeod, director of DelDOT community relations, said all of the projects will be in some phase of development over the seven-year period from preliminary engineering, and rights-of-way acquisition to construction.
The budgeted funds also include road paving, road rehabilitation and bridge maintenance projects, McLeod said.
Obstacles to construction
Cohan said road construction projects would occur much faster in the Cape Region if DelDOT was not forced to halt or restrict work during the tourist season. “It ends up taking us twice as long with restricted construction times,” she said. “We'll need some courageous conversations about that when we do large projects.”
She said work was not halted on the Route 9-Harbeson Road intersection project, and it was completed ahead of schedule.
Another obstacle is the process DelDOT uses to move projects from the conceptual stage to construction.
The secretary said under the leadership of DelDOT chief engineer Shante Hastings, the agency is moving toward doing project design and rights-of-way purchase at the same time, which can save as much as two years getting a project from planning to construction.
Without the change, design and rights-of-way purchase phases take place on separate timelines.
Another obstacle is utility relocation to make way for road work, which can delay projects. Cohan called it DelDOT's biggest challenge. “We can't start construction until utility companies are finished,” Cohan said.
She said the General Assembly has formed a utilities working group to address the issue. “We all need to do more work on the communications side,” Cohan said.
Roundabouts are planned
Several new roundabouts – as many as 10 to 12 – are among upcoming Cape Region projects. “Roundabouts are very appropriate for eastern Sussex County,” Hastings said. “You will see more and more roundabouts because they provide much better intersection control than traffic signals.”
She said when a roundabout was first constructed on Zoar Road near Georgetown, it met with opposition. “Now, it's working great and the public loves it,” Hastings said.
Interconnectivity is another DelDOT initiative, McLeod said. Most projects in Sussex County are approved with one access point that usually connects to a major road such as Route 1 or Route 24.
“We get push back when we promote this, but we still need to focus on building better interconnectivity when we can,” he said.
Cohan said another initiative DelDOT and Sussex County officials have been working on for several years is closer to reality. DelDOT officials are prepared to make a final presentation within two weeks to Sussex County Council on the Henlopen Transportation District, she said.
McLeod said the Lewes Transit Center bus maintenance facility is set to open early in 2020.
He said once that happens, changes will be made to buses to make them more accommodating for people who are carrying items for a day at the beach. “We have to make it easy or it won't work,” he said.
“Getting the facility finished is a key to expanding bus services,” Cohan said.
Projects in the Cape Region include:
• Three grade-separated interchanges on Route 1 north of Lewes at the Route 16, Minos Conaway Road and Cave Neck Road intersections.
• Widening of Route 24 from Route 1 to Mulberry Knoll Road. Another phase is planned to widen the road to Love Creek Bridge.
• Intersection improvements along Route 24 are also planned at Angola Road-Robinsonville Road, Camp Arrowhead Road, Long Neck Road, Mount Joy Road and Bay Farm Road-Autumn Road. “Dualization the whole way is the long-range plan, but these projects will help with capacity now,” DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan said.
• A four-phase project along Plantation Road from Robinsonville Road to Route 9 is scheduled. 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.
• Realignment of Old Orchard Road at Wescoats Corner, with a roundabout planned at the Marsh Road intersection.
• 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.
• An extension of Airport Road to connect with Route 24 in front of Beebe Healthcare's Rehoboth Beach campus.
• Most Route 1 crossovers north of Nassau Bridge will be eliminated as the new grade-separated interchanges are built. In addition, DelDOT plans to modify the Oyster Rocks Road, Hudson Road and Route 5 median crossovers by next summer.
• Route 9 and Minos Conaway intersection improvements.
• Route 9, Kings Highway and Dartmouth Drive road and intersection improvements.
• Dewey Beach pedestrian and Americans With Disabilities sidewalk and street work from Anchor Way to Bayard Avenue.
• Dairy Farm Road and Beaver Dam Road/Fisher Road intersection improvements.
• Beaver Dam Road widening from Route 1 to Dairy Farm Road.
• Road improvements, including widening, along New Road from Nassau Road to Old Orchard Road.
Projects in mid-Sussex include:
• Grade-separated interchanges are also planned at eight Route 113 intersections in central Sussex County between Ellendale and Millsboro. In the project development phase is work at Route 16 in Ellendale and Route 404 in Georgetown. Others will be included in future capital transportation program budgets.
• Intersection improvements at Georgetown East Gateway at Route 9, Sand Hill Road and Airport Road, including realignment
• Park Avenue relocation east of Georgetown
• North Millsboro bypass
DelDOT projects portal: deldot.gov/projects