More than 20 years of debate over Route 1

DelDOT recommendations included Five Points interchange and limited-access road
April 5, 2024

Many of the traffic issues residents face today along the Route 1 corridor were the same ones people were complaining about more than 20 years ago.

During the early 2000s, Delaware Department of Transportation conducted a study, formed a public advisory committee and held public workshops on an extensive plan to alleviate traffic issues then and into the future along Route 1 from Five Points to Rehoboth Beach. The Route 1 Land Use Transportation Study was released in 2003.

The recommendations included a grade-separated interchange at Five Points and a limited-access parkway west of Route 1 to separate through traffic and local traffic. Obviously, none of those projects came to fruition.

Although the idea of a limited-access parkway has faded from memory, a Five Points interchange is still a hot discussion topic. Since that study was released, DelDOT has embarked on a mission to replace all signalized intersections along the Route 1 corridor from Dover to Lewes with grade-separated interchanges. Three are planned for the Cape Region at Route 16, which is under construction, Cave Neck Road and Minos Conaway Road.

That mission will continue along the Route 113 corridor as well.

In 2008, DelDOT came out with detailed plans about a grade-separated interchange at Five Points. The project was suspended because officials said they could not garner enough public support for any of the proposed designs.

However, DelDOT was not done with the corridor and formed the Five Points Working Group in 2017. Made up of residents, business people, DelDOT and Sussex County representatives, and elected officials, the group developed a list of 78 recommendations; more than half have been realized.

Zoning changes everything

For more than 50 years, the only major commercial development along Route 1 was the Midway Shopping Center, which dates back to 1954. The land along the roadway was farmland. All that changed dramatically when the county added commercial zoning to the corridor from Five Points to Dewey Beach. When Sussex County ran sewer lines along the corridor, development skyrocketed.

That paved the way for the outlets. In May 1990, the first 13 stores opened, and over a succession of years and owners, three outlets were eventually developed – Seaside Ocean Outlets, Ocean Outlets and Rehoboth Outlet Center.  All were consolidated under one ownership in 1996 when Charter Oaks Partners purchased the outlets. Tanger Factory Outlet Centers then purchased the outlets in December 2003.

Public weighs in

During the Route 1 land-use study, DelDOT solicited suggestions from the public and county officials.

Suggestions included the grade-separated interchange; service roads; separate local and through traffic; an overhead road parallel to Route 1; grade separations at Route 9, Route 24 and Rehoboth Avenue; Route 1 as a limited-access road; use of the median for another lane; coordination of Route 1 traffic signals; pedestrian overpass from Camelot to what was then the Kmart shopping center; continuous sidewalks along Route 1; overpasses at Dewey Beach and the outlets; Plantation Road/Postal Lane/Cedar Grove Road intersection improvements; removal of the traffic signal at Tanger Outlet 1 near Midway; left-turn off Route 1 to Home Depot to be signalized; improved signage for better directions to Rehoboth; limit buses to 25 mph; and pedestrian tunnels.

Priority projects

After all suggestions and comments were received, DelDOT planners created priority projects.

Short-term solutions included: a revised plan for signal coordination; increasing the turning lane length at the Plantation Road-Route 24 intersection; realigning Wescoats Road with Old Orchard Road as a four-way intersection; upgrade of Robinsonville Road and Cedar Grove Road with 11-foot travel lanes and 5-foot shoulders; better signage at the Route 113-Route 1 split recommending alternative beach routes; and conducting a park-and-ride usage planning study.

Some of those solutions were designed and completed as projects.

The Lewes Transit Center and park-and-ride near Five Points was completed in May 2017; improvements have been made to the Plantation Road-Route 24 intersection; an Old Orchard Road-Wescoats Road realignment project is underway with utility relocations. The project, which includes a new Savannah Road intersection, is scheduled to be completed in 2026.

Mid-term solutions: continuous sidewalks on both sides of Route 1 and a signalized four-way intersection at Plantation Road-Postal Lane-Cedar Grove Road. Both of those projects have been completed.

Long-term solutions: grade-separated interchange at Five Points; controlled-access parkway west of Route 1; and widening of Route 24 to four lanes in the study area.

The Route 24 project is currently undergoing Phase 2 as widening and intersection upgrades are taking place from Route 1 to Love Creek Bridge. Route 1 now has a continuous sidewalk on both sides of the highway.

More studies

The report noted that DelDOT officials said at least four major studies would have been required to complete the project development phase of the recommendations, including a detailed plan to develop a grade-separated interchange; a determination of the final alignment for the controlled-access parkway from Five Points to Route 24; a determination of final alignment of the parkway from Route 24 east; and an examination of opportunities for implementing bicycle and pedestrian upgrades along Route 1.


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