Major growth proposed along Route 16

DelDOT, Coastal Corridors committee explore road projects to maintain capacity
January 17, 2023

It comes as no surprise that traffic along Route 16 is increasing, but what is shocking is the amount of development proposed along the corridor in Ellendale and Milton.

If all proposed housing projects come to fruition, the population of Ellendale will increase from its current 500 to more than 5,500 over the next five to 10 years with more than 1,800 residential units in the planning stages. Ellendale currently has just over 200 dwelling units in town limits.

And in Milton, two proposed projects with more than 2,000 residential units would more than double the current population of 3,428. Milton currently has 1,314 dwelling units.

During a Jan. 9 Delaware Department of Transportation Coastal Corridors Study Committee meeting at Mariner Middle School in Milton, committee members and the public were informed about proposed development along the Route 16 corridor and what its impact will be on the roadway.

State transportation officials have launched the Coastal Corridors Study to compile data and gather input from officials and the public on two of the major east-west roads in Sussex County, Route 16 and Route 404/9, and the local roads connecting to them. Committee members include town officials, emergency services personnel, business people, school officials and other stakeholders.

The two roads are the main east-west routes for travel to the beach resort areas in and around Lewes, Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach.

The goals of the study are to identify short-, medium- and long-term traffic solutions for the east-west corridors between Route 113 and Route 1, and to educate and inform local stakeholders on traffic issues and seek feedback and preferences on proposed solutions.

Whitman, Requardt and Associates consultant Steve Harr said road improvement projects could range from big-picture expensive ones such as a grade-separated interchange to smaller projects such as adding turn lanes and four-way stop intersections.

To enhance safe travel and improve traffic flow, DelDOT officials have proposed two major projects, including a grade-separated interchange at the Route 113-Route 16 intersection in Ellendale and a roundabout at the Route 16-Route 30 intersection near Milton, with preliminary engineering underway and construction proposed in 2025. There is no timeline yet for the Route 113 interchange project.

About Route 16

Harr said the average daily traffic along Route 16 varies between 5,000 and 8,000 vehicles, with an increase to more than 10,000 vehicles per day during the summer season. He said it's estimated those traffic counts will increase to 15,000 vehicles per day by 2050.

Harr said 60% of all Route 16 traffic is pass-through, with 30% turning off Route 30 heading to Route 9 and the Long Neck area. The other 10% turns off on other side roads and into the Town of Milton.

WRA consultant Leah Kacanda said the corridor can't remain as it is and handle the proposed growth. “Safety and capacity are our goals here. Whereas the Five Points Working Group is dealing with existing issues, we are ahead of the game a little bit,” she said.

The consultants were asked about widening Route 16 to four lanes. Harr said typically the traffic count for four-lane roads is 20,000 vehicles per day. “Here, 15,000 is the worst-case scenario, so we are near the borderline. Four lanes are not needed, but we will study all options, and with so much development planned, it might add up to tell a different story,” he said.

Jennifer Cinelli-Miller, DelDOT's planner for Sussex County, said this year begins another cycle in DelDOT's capital transportation program. Proposed projects throughout the state are ranked and placed in order in the CTP. “And every two years, they move up the line,” she said.

Ellendale-area projects

All seeking annexation or already annexed into Ellendale:

• The Enclave at Starwood, 192 acres along Route 113, with 697 housing units and 367,350 square feet of commercial space. Status: Through state's Preliminary Land Use Service process.

• Newdale Acres, 141 acres in south Ellendale, with 296 units. Status: Annexation is approved and construction scheduled to begin soon.

• Garey Farm, North Old State Road, with 491 units, including 119 single-family homes, 264 multifamily units and 108 duplexes/townhomes. Status: Through the PLUS process and under Sussex County review.

• Ingram Village, north of Route 16, ongoing construction with a total of 373 housing units.

Milton-area projects

• Milton Village, 138 acres at the Route 16-Route 30 intersection, with 696 residential units, a 35,000-square-foot assisted-living facility, an 80,000-square-foot medical office building and a 210,000-square-foot shopping center. Status: Phase 1, including 269 apartments, has been approved by Sussex County.

• The Granary at Draper Farm, 452 acres off Sand Hill Road and Route 30, with 1,350 residential units, including 875 single-family homes, 475 multifamily units and a 60,000-square-foot shopping center built over 20 years. Status: Master plan approved by Milton Town Council.

• Not mentioned during the meeting is another project that is underway on a 26-acre parcel at the Route 16-Country Road intersection in town limits. The subdivision called Cypress Grove will have 240 units – 144 multifamily units and 96 townhomes – in 14 apartment-style buildings.

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