Growth vs. traffic: Milton gets on the right track

February 9, 2024

No one can dispute the fact that Delaware Department of Transportation is spending money on several multimillion-dollar road projects in Sussex County.

Yet, even with this commitment to spend more than $1 billion over the next five years, residents still complain about congestion.

During the Feb. 6 Sussex County Council meeting, Councilman John Rieley joined in with strong words aimed at DelDOT officials. Rieley said council and staff need to have a heart-to-heart talk with top DelDOT officials regarding the priority of road work in areas with planned development.

He said DelDOT is not keeping pace with the rapid growth in eastern Sussex and is five to 10 years behind development. He pointed to a pair of projects along Route 9 west of Lewes that, if approved, would add more than 2,800 housing units and as much as 547,000 square feet of commercial space to the heavily traveled, two-lane road.

Although projects are planned to eventually widen Route 9 from Route 1 to Dairy Farm Road, construction isn’t likely this decade. Meanwhile, the two projects move through the county land-use process.

“There is a freight train coming down the tracks on Route 9,” Rieley said.

That same freight train is poised to hit the roads in and around Milton, which is on the precipice of a major housing boom. As more land is annexed to accommodate housing projects, the town’s population will likely more than double over the next decade.

Fortunately, Milton officials are trying to get ahead of the curve by entering into an agreement with DelDOT to create a transportation improvement district within town limits and annexation areas.

Milton officials will now have a much clearer picture of the impact of growth on roads with updated traffic data. The district will also provide a mechanism for developers to pay their fair share for road improvements in the district.

While others complain about traffic, Milton town officials are being proactive in addressing the complex traffic-versus-growth issue. In many places in eastern Sussex, the horse has already left the barn in regard to transportation issues. Milton officials are working to corral that horse and keep it in the barn as long as possible.


  • Editorials are considered and written by Cape Gazette Editorial Board members, including Publisher Chris Rausch, Editor Jen Ellingsworth, News Editor Nick Roth and reporters Ron MacArthur and Chris Flood. 

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