Delaware Department of Transportation officials have proposed $284 million in road improvements – including 13 new roundabouts, 12 traffic signals and up to 4 miles of new roads – as part of a Henlopen Transportation Improvement District.
At its Nov. 19 meeting, DelDOT officials presented Sussex County Council with the details of the transportation district, which has been in the planning stages for more than 4 years.
Council has placed the matter on its Tuesday, Dec. 10 agenda to consider scheduling a public hearing in conjunction with DelDOT officials and to outline the next steps to implement it.
DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan and DelDOT Director of Planning Drew Boyce presented the proposed district, which covers 24 square miles and includes 66 miles of roads and 62 intersections.
Cohan first pitched the transportation improvement district to council not long after she was appointed secretary in June 2015.
Growth in the area
A key factor in defining the area for the district is proposed growth, which includes almost 13,000 new housing units and 1.5 million square feet of commercial space expected by 2045.
Major roads in the district include sections of Route 24 and Route 9 and sections or all of Robinsonville, Plantation, Mulberry Knoll, Cedar Grove, Angola, Dorman, Jolyns Way, Webb's Landing, Jimtown, Beaver Dam, Kendale, Wil King, Conley’s Chapel, Hollymount and Camp Arrowhead roads.
Developer fee to be set
Cohan said council will need to set an infrastructure fee to be paid by developers with projects in the district. DelDOT officials recommended a 20 percent to 30 percent fee; DelDOT would cover the remaining costs.
She said county officials would have the final say on the infrastructure fee program, which is based on 12,412 residential units and 1.5 million square feet of commercial space at buildout over the next 25 years.
With a 20 percent developer's contribution, the fee per single-family unit would be $4,200 and multifamily projects would be $3,066 per unit.
Office and commercial projects would be $3.10 per square foot and institutional/industrial projects would be $1.77 per square foot.
At 20 percent, developers would contribute $56.7 million with DelDOT contributing 80 percent, or $226.8 million.
If council sets the fee at 30 percent, developer payments would be $85 million with DelDOT providing $198.5 million. The fee per single-family home would increase to $6,350 with commercial at $4.25 per square foot.
“It's easier to develop in a TID,” Cohan said. “We have had no pushback on either 20 percent or 30 percent. All fees stay local and this levels the playing field.”
Cohan said DelDOT is committed to funding projects in the transportation district. “We are here to put our money where our mouth is,” she said.
Boyce said DelDOT would work with developers, county staff and officials to prioritize development hot spots. “We can get to those quickly and get to the finish line,” he said. “Those projects will float to the top, and move into the six-year capital transportation program.”
Boyce said proposed costs of doing business in the district would be on par with what developers pay for infrastructure. “In the district, it's predictable. They will know what the costs are,” he said.
In addition, Boyce said, developers would save time and money by not needing a transportation impact study because traffic data has already been compiled districtwide.
When asked by council about other costs, Boyce said developers would still be required to fund any roadwork – such as the entrance and interior streets – on a project's property.
Cohan said projects outside the district would proceed as planned and not be affected by work within the district.
Proposed district improvements
Boyce said the goal of improvements is to maintain an overall level-of-service of D at every intersection during weekday peak hours. National level-of-service standards are ranked from A, free-flowing traffic, to F, gridlock and breakdown of the transportation system. D is considered borderline.
Under the proposed plan, most roads in the district would be widened to 11-foot travel lanes with shoulders on both sides.
Recommended road improvements – widening of 7 miles of roads, 12 traffic signals, 13 roundabouts, 4 miles of new connector roads and turn lanes at 15 intersections – are projected to cost $284 million. Cohan said $95 million is in the fiscal year 2021 capital transportation program for the following projects: Minos Conway Road/Route 9 intersection improvements; Route 9 widening; Beaver Dam Road widening and intersection improvements; Plantation Road widening and intersection improvements; Warrington Road-Old Landing Road intersection roundabout; Old Landing Road widening; and Airport Road connector.
Cohan said plans call for sidewalks or shared-use paths on at least one side of all improved roads. In addition, she said, as each project is planned, improvements to the public transportation system would be explored.
An additional 4 miles of new connector roads are proposed, including: Airport Road to Old Landing Road; Mulberry Knoll Road to Cedar Grove Road and onto Route 9; Plantation Road to Mulberry Knoll Road; and upgrading Nassau Commons Boulevard to DelDOT standards.
Boyce said approval of the district does not mean approval of the proposed road work. If the proposal is approved by council, DelDOT will schedule public hearings for individual projects.
A two-lane roundabout is proposed at a realigned Beaver Dam Road-Fisher Road-Dairy Farm Road intersection.
One-lane roundabouts are proposed at: Warrington Road and Old Landing Road; Cedar Grove Road and a new connector road to Route 9; Cedar Grove Road and Mulberry Knoll Road; Cedar Grove Road and Robinsonville Road; Robinsonville Road and Mulberry Knoll extension; Robinsonville Road and Jolyns Way extension; Robinsonville Road and Conley's Chapel Road; and five intersections along Beaver Dam Road, including Indian Mission Road, Hollymount Road, Conley's Chapel Road, Stockley Road and Hopkins Road.
New traffic signals are proposed at the following intersections: Airport Road and Miller Road; Airport Road and Old Landing Road; Old Landing Road and Rehoboth Mall entrance; Airport Road extension and Route 24; Route 24 and Mullberry Knoll Road; Route 24 and Jolyns Way; Plantation Road and Craig Boulevard, a new connector road; Plantation Road and Robinsonville Road; Mulberry Knoll Road extension and Beaver Dam Road; Mulberry Knoll extension and Route 9; Kendale Road and Robinsonville Road; and Kendale Road and Beaver Dam Road.
Two to four lanes with turn lanes, sidewalks and crossings: Route 9 from Nassau Vineyards area to Five Points; Beaver Dam Road; Plantation Road; and Route 24 beyond current widening project.
Proposed new connector roads: Airport Road and Old Landing Road to Route 24; Mulberry Knoll Road to Cedar Grove to Route 9; Postal Lane to Route 24; Plantation Road to Mulberry Knoll Road; and upgrading of Nassau Commons Boulevard to DelDOT standards.
Benefits of a transportation improvement district:
• Cost of road improvements shared equally by developers
• DelDOT contributes a percentage to road improvements
• DelDOT collects more data – such as traffic counts – specific to the district
• Sussex officials have a say in recommending and approving road work
TID by the numbers
24 square miles
66 miles of road
62 intersections, nine with signals
4 miles of new connector roads
7 miles of road widening
12 new traffic signals
13 new roundabouts
15 intersections with new turn lanes
$284 million total cost