After receiving harsh public feedback on a Route 113 bypass proposed in 2013, Department of Transportation officials have come back with a new plan.
Officials now plan to convert most of the north-south artery from Milford to the Maryland state line into a limited-access highway. A 20-year plan, unveiled Nov. 7 in Georgetown, details 17 projects and 14 grade-separated intersections.
“If you’re familiar with the improvements we’re doing on Route 1, it’s going to be very similar to that – there will be bridges, overpasses, ramps, that type of thing,” said Rob McCleary, DelDOT’s chief engineer of the project.
McCleary said the top priority is a Route 24 connector to bypass downtown Millsboro.
“That is a segment of highway the public has told us strongly that we can’t deliver that fast enough,” he said.
The segment follows the same path as proposed in previous plans, connecting Route 113 at Route 20 north of Millsboro to Route 24 east of Millsboro Pond. DelDOT estimates the cost to be about $85 million for construction and $43 million for right-of-way purchase.
“It’s in design, and we’re working to deliver over the next few years,” McCleary said.
All 17 projects have been divided into three priority lists, with the most highly trafficked intersections receiving the highest priority. Each project will have a specific workshop for public input.
The first workshop will be held late this year or early next year regarding the Route 113/Route 404 intersection, where officials plan to build a $30 million overpass.
The Federal Highway Administration will pick up the tab for 80 percent of the cost for all projects, with the state covering the rest.
The idea for a north-south limited-access highway dates back to December 2000, when the Senate passed a resolution calling on DelDOT to build a highway as an alternative to Routes 13 and 113.
“One of the reasons for this proposal was the success of the then-recently completed Route 1, and legislators wanted to pursue a similar limited-access highway project that would shadow the current Route 113,” said C.R. McLeod, DelDOT’s community relations director.
In 2013, DelDOT officials offered five proposed options for a Route 113 bypass. The preferred alternative, at 16.5 miles long, would have been an eastern bypass of Millsboro, Dagsboro and Frankford with on-alignment improvements on Route 113 through Selbyville. The cost at the time was estimated at $840 million.
In 2015, officials scaled back the plan after strong opposition to the cost and proposed alignment. At the time, the plan added a third lane and intersection improvements along Route 113 in Millsboro, and officials said Route 113 would not be a limited-access road as earlier proposed.
After analyzing the latest plan, Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, said he was pleased DelDOT listened to the residents and decided to go back to the drawing board.
“All of our constituents were very dissatisfied,” he said. “This is what we wanted. We need to get behind this, and we need to see that it’s going to happen because we needed it yesterday, not tomorrow.”
Hocker urged all Sussex County legislators to get behind the plan. All legislators in attendance at the Nov. 7 presentation spoke in favor of the project.
“We continually hear people say this is all for tourists, but it’s not,” said Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown. “This is for our industry and our people who need to move around too. We’re not building for today; we’re building for the future, and we are already behind.”
Gov. John Carney said a project of this magnitude can have great positive effects for Sussex County’s economy.
“What often drives economic development is quality of life, and traffic has a very negative impact on quality of life,” he said. “So fixing some of these problems and addressing the issue of traffic will enhance the quality of life so many of us enjoy in Sussex County.”
Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, agreed, saying local elected officials can use the plan as a road map for the future.
“Now that we have this on paper, our towns can start making plans around it,” he said. “Now they know where they can approve commercial and residential developments so it will fit into this new transportation network.”
Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, urged his fellow legislators to keep tabs on the project to ensure it meets the needs of local residents.
“The local citizens who live here should take at least equal – and hopefully precedence – over moving tourists from one place to another,” he said.
• Overpass at Route 113/Route 16 in Ellendale
• Overpass at Route 113/Route 404/Route 18 in Georgetown
• Overpass at Route 113/Route 9 in Georgetown
• Overpass at Route 113/Route 20 with bypass around Millsboro to Route 24
• Overpass at Route 113/Route 24 in Millsboro
• Route 113 widening from Hardscrabble Road north of Millsboro to Dagsboro Road south of Millsboro
• Route 113 access management from Robbins Road to VFW Road south of Ellendale
• Overpass at Route 113/Redden Road north of Georgetown
• Overpass at Route 113/Wilson Road in Georgetown
• Overpass at Route 113/Arrow Safety Road south of Georgetown
• Overpass at Route 113/South Bedford Street south of Georgetown
• Overpass at Route 113/Speedway Road/Kruger Road south of Georgetown
• Overpass at Route 113/Staytonville Road/Fleatown Road south of Milford
• Overpass and frontage road at Route 113/McColley’s Chapel Road/Old State Road north of Ellendale
• Overpass at Route 113/Governor Stockley Road north of Millsboro
• Overpass at Route 113/Avenue of Honor north of Millsboro
• Corridor capacity preservation between Dagsboro and Maryland state line