As plans proceed for three overpasses on Route 1 in the Cape Region, state transportation officials also plan nine short-term median projects at eight Route 1 intersections along a 9-mile stretch from Primehook Road to Tulip Drive near Lewes.
Delaware Department of Transportation officials told Sussex County Council at its May 21 meeting the projects will start this summer and be completed within 18 months.
The short-term projects are designed to improve traffic flow and provide safer access to Route 1 by restricting turns, closing some median crossovers and improving signs and roadway markings, said Mark Luszcz, DelDOT’s chief traffic engineer.
DelDOT officials met with council to discuss the fiscal year 2019 six-year capital transportation program and look to the FY 2021 program.
Josh Thomas, DelDOT transportation planning supervisor, said under new House Bill 66, the capital transportation process has been changed from every year to every two years.
“It doesn’t change scheduling of projects. It will be two years rolled into one document,” he said.
“We skip a year but will not lose any projects,” said Jennifer Cinelli, DelDOT transportation planner.
DelDOT uses a formula to prioritize projects once they are listed on the plan.
One of the major short-term projects will be a right-turn-only restriction at the Cave Neck Road intersection. Motorists on Cave Neck Road who want to go north on Route 1 will no longer be able to make a left turn. Instead, Luszcz said, vehicles will be directed to turn right, head south and make a U-turn at a crossover or use another route to bypass the intersection.
“That crossover is a free-for-all now,” Luszcz said.
Councilman I.G. Burton suggested DelDOT officials look at lengthening the stack-up lane for the first crossover south of the intersection.
Other plans include an improved acceleration lane for motorists heading south from Minos Conaway Road; closing the median at Reynolds Road; prohibiting a left turn onto Route 1 from Eagle Crest Road and from Oyster Rocks Road, and prohibiting through traffic at the intersection; and work at Nassau Road and Tulip Drive.
“These are some safety improvements until we can get the major projects done,” Cinelli said.
Signal at Cave Neck?
Councilman John Rieley asked whether a temporary traffic signal at the Cave Neck Road-Route 1 intersection would help traffic flow.
Luszcz said DelDOT officials considered a signal until a proposed overpass could be constructed, but it was ruled out.
He said data show traffic signals on high-speed roads lead to more crashes and more crashes with injuries.
Using the light at Route 16 as an example, Rieley asked whether signals help to break up traffic and provide gaps. “There is only so much traffic that can fit on two lanes,” Luszcz replied.
He said on Route 1, data show 30 percent to 50 percent of traffic – depending on the time of day – splits off at Route 113 in Milford.
He said traffic counts increase south of the Route 16 light; the average hourly count in the summer is 1,700 vehicles north of the signal and 3,400 vehicles at Five Points. “We don't see a dramatic change with or without the signal at Route 16,” Luszcz said.
DelDOT officials presented council with several new projects that could be added to the FY2021 capital transportation program. Projects include intersection improvements at Route 9 and Minos Conaway Road near Lewes; Cave Neck Road, Hudson Road and Sweetbriar Road near Milton; Old Landing Road and Airport Road near Rehoboth Beach; Dairy Farm Road, Beaver Dam Road and Fisher Road near Lewes; and Old Landing Road and Warrington Road near Rehoboth Beach.
In addition, an extension of Airport Road with access to Route 24 near Rehoboth Beach is proposed.
Thomas said other projects proposed by Sussex County officials could be included on the list.
Once the projects are placed in the program, the scope of work, timelines and cost projections can be developed. He said the projects would be presented during a public workshop in September.
Work in other areas
Rieley asked DelDOT officials about projects in the south coastal area of the county. “People are always asking me about a master plan for the area,” he said. “It's not just the Lewes-Rehoboth area that has growth.”
“We waited so long because of lack of funding we have reached a crisis situation in that area,” Cinelli said. “Now that financing has stabilized, we are taking care of the backlog.”
She said people in the Lewes area tell officials they feel barricaded during the weekends and can't get out on roads in the summer.
DelDOT officials said they would go with Rieley to address questions from his constituents about roadwork in the south coastal area.
Rieley suggested that DelDOT officials look seriously at a Route 9 to Route 24 bypass while open land is still available. Thomas said the proposal is one of the major recommendations from the Five Points Working Group.
“It's an old concept with renewed support,” Thomas said.