Lewes waiting for state to clear railroad right of way

September 25, 2018

Lewes officials are aware empty space left by a defunct railroad track is unsightly, but there isn’t anything they can do about it right now.

Mayor Ted Becker said the state’s contract covered only the removal of the rail and ties from Cape Henlopen State Park to Cool Spring. The ballast and leftover debris will be removed under a contract that has not yet been awarded. 

Becker said the city would like to move forward with a revitalization plan, but nothing can be done until the project is complete. 

Becker and other city officials are slated to meet with Department of Transportation Secretary Jennifer Cohan on Oct. 1 to discuss the next phase of the project. He said he hopes to have more information to share following the meeting.

In a letter sent to DelDOT earlier this year, he said, the city requested the state remove the ballast and leftover debris as soon as possible and replace it with topsoil. The maintenance of the right of way is still the responsibility of the state, but it may be turned over the the city after the project is completed. 

In the meantime, Becker urged people to stop joyriding on the ballast. 

“That is illegal,” he said. “That’s not something we encourage.” 

He said the city is considering placing Jersey barriers on the rail bed to stop vehicles from driving on the track bed. 

Railroad ties are now sitting along Freeman Highway in a large pile. City Manager Ann Marie Townshend said she’s been contacted by several people who are interested in taking them.

“The answer is no,” she said. “If you do, it’s theft of state property.” 

Although the the Lewes to Georgetown Rail to Trail is already built through most of Lewes, rail bed outside the city will eventually be converted to trail too. Work on the stretch from Cape Henlopen State Park across Freeman Highway to American Legion Road will begin this fall.

DelDOT Director of Community Relations C.R. McLeod said the design and construction will be funded by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, but executed by DelDOT. Construction of the $500,000 project will be complete by mid-November. As part of the project, stub paths will be built for future connection to American Legion Road and to Cape Henlopen Drive at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal.  

Work is also set to begin soon to extend the Lewes to Georgetown trail 4.2 miles from Savannah Road, under Route 1 at Nassau and out to Sweetbriar Road. McLeod said preliminary work has started and construction is set to begin in November. The work will be split into two phases, with the first phase ended at Minos Conaway Road. A separate contract will extend to Sweet Briar Road.