What started as a drawing on a napkin has developed into a major project at one of the most frustrating and failed intersections in the Cape Region.
At an Aug. 6 workshop at Cape Henlopen High School, Delaware Department of Transportation officials rolled out the preferred option for road improvements on a section of Plantation Road and a two-lane roundabout at what local motorists call Malfunction Junction – the intersection at Plantation Road, Beaver Dam Road and Route 9.
Work on Phase 1 of the $20 million project is expected to begin in January 2022, with all four phases scheduled to be completed by April 2024.
“We are getting a lot of positive feedback on this plan,” said Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, as he looked over display boards at the workshop. “This started with a concept with me and [Rep.] Pete Schwartzkopf on the back of a cocktail napkin.”
At the workshop, DelDOT officials presented data showing the intersection is failing, resulting in major delays. The average daily traffic count on Plantation Road is 11,000 vehicles with a 25 percent increase during summer months. DelDOT officials say projections show traffic will increase 40 percent by 2040. There were 36 crashes at the intersection from 2014 to 2016.
Although right of way still has to be purchased along Plantation Road, a 13-acre parcel for the roundabout is owned by the state. The roundabout option was selected by DelDOT officials with public input following a Feb. 15, 2018 workshop.
Work on Plantation Road
The section of Plantation Road from Robinsonville Road to the roundabout will be widened to four travel lanes with a sidewalk on the southbound side and a shared-use path on the northbound lanes.
DelDOT consultant Todd Oliver, with Whitman Requardt Associates, said improvements are also planned for the remaining section of Plantation Road to Route 24. “An evaluation will be made if that needs to be two, three or four lanes,” he said.
Oliver said minor changes can still be made to the plan based on public input on the project presented at the workshop.
Changes in traffic patterns
• Plantation Road will not intersect with Beaver Dam Road with all traffic diverted to the roundabout.
• Henlopen Landing residents will get relief from traffic in their development because the through-access road from Salt Marsh Boulevard to Beaver Dam Road and Church Road will be eliminated. Henlopen Landing residents will have the option to use the roundabout or the existing traffic signal at Salt Marsh Boulevard and Plantation Road for access.
• Church Road will no longer connect to Beaver Dam Road, eliminating use of the road as a bypass of the intersection. Access for the four properties in that area will be only from Route 9.
• Motorists turning from southbound Route 1 to Plantation Road or Route 9 will use a new road adjacent to Best Ace. The existing traffic signal on Route 9 will remain, and intersection improvements will be made. To reach Plantation Road, motorists will cross Route 9 at the traffic signal to the roundabout. Motorists will also access Beaver Dam Road using the roundabout.
• A second left-turn lane will be added westbound at the Route 9 traffic signal.
Work in four phases
Phase 1, January 2022 to March 2023 – Widening southbound lanes on Plantation Road with a 10-foot-wide shared-use path. It will also include widening of the northbound lanes with a sidewalk. Robinsonville Road to Cedar Grove Road will be closed with a detour in place.
Phase 2, April to September 2023 – Construction of the roundabout on the vacant parcel adjacent to Henlopen Landing.
Phase 3, October to December 2023 – Tie in the three existing roads to the roundabout. This phase will cause detours, Oliver said. Beaver Dam Road and Salt Marsh Boulevard, Route 9, and Plantation Road and the two north entrances to Lowe's will be closed. Oliver said detour routes are being planned.
Phase 4 work, January to April 2024, – Road milling and final paving.
Route 24 project upcoming
Improvements are scheduled to begin in spring 2020 on a major project to widen Route 24 from Route 1 to the Love Creek bridge with improvements at the Plantation Road-Warrington Road-Route 24 intersection.