In the name of pedestrian safety, accessibility and beautification, a consultant working for Rehoboth Beach has recommended a 26 percent reduction of parking spaces in the area of Baltimore and Wilmington avenues.
Rossi Group, a consultant hired by the Delaware Department of Transportation, has been working with the city for months on a plan to improve pedestrian access and maneuverability on Baltimore and Wilmington avenues, and the first couple of blocks off Rehoboth Avenue of First and Second streets. Nearly two months ago, a task force created by the city to work with Rossi Group submitted guidelines for Rossi to follow when coming up with a concept on how to achieve those goals.
During a meeting July 28, the first since the guidelines were submitted, Alexis Morris, a senior planner for Rossi Group, went over a concept that achieves the city’s goals, but also reduces the number of parking spots from 331 to 246 in the designated area. As shown, there would actually be 87 removed, but there would also be two gained on South Second Street, between Delaware and Wilmington avenues.
As shown, First Street would see the largest percentage of parking spots removed - 44 down to 14, including all the parking spots on the first block of North First Street.
Mayor Stan Mills began the discussion by saying the meeting was an information gathering session and that the task force would discuss the concept at the next meeting after everyone had time to digest the information. However, he acknowledged that a lot of additional space was being consumed under the concept.
Task force member Patty Hoffman, owner of Stitch-Stash on the second block of North First Street, said she knows the discussion is coming, but she also wanted to make sure everyone saw the First Street reductions.
That’s a lot, she said.
There could be a reduction of vehicular parking spots, but under the proposed concept there would be an increase in scooter and bicycle parking. Along Baltimore and Wilmington, the number of scooters spots would more than double – 42 to 88.
There was a brief discussion on putting a number to the increase in bicycle parking, but that number was not specifically provided. Using the images provided by Rossi, Mills estimated the number of bicycle parking spots could quadruple over the amount currently provided.
As proposed, there are bump outs and curb expansions at street intersections. Morris said these improvements help the city achieve their goals, but she said they also present a challenge because it decreases the maneuverability of vehicles.
Task force member Howard Menaker suggested bringing in the police and fire departments at the task force’s next meeting to get their take on the improvements.
The concept also included rough schematics of what limited access zones and pavilions could look like on the east ends of Baltimore and Wilmington avenues. These are designed to bring people off the Boardwalk, said Morris.
To achieve wider pedestrian lanes on the east end of Baltimore and Wilmington, Rossi’s concept showed travel lanes that stay the same width from the Boardwalk to First Street, with sidewalks widening at the Boardwalk end. Currently, the sidewalks are the same width, with the vehicular travel lanes tapered – wider by the Boardwalk, narrower by First Street.
Dr. Michael Trahos, not a member of the task force but a property owner on Wilmington Avenue and North First Street, said he had concerns with the narrowing of the travel lanes at the east end of Wilmington and the bump outs at the corners. As evidence, Trahos provided pictures showing three food delivery trucks taking up the entire east end of the street now. He said the bump outs at intersections would make bottlenecking worse.
At the request of the task force, but against a recommendation by Rossi Group, the city is also looking into the possibility of putting the utilities underground within the designated area. The city has hired engineering firm JMT to work with Delmarva Power to through this process.
The concept includes transformer boxes on the ground, but those are not final, said Morris, adding that work is outside the scope of Rossi’s contract.
Kevin Williams, Rehoboth Beach Public Works director, said JMT is in the data collecting stage of the underground process. He said he expects a recommendation in the next few months.
The task force’s next meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 4. It will be held virtually and can be found at cityofrehoboth.civicweb.net.