A roadmap for future improvements to New Road in Lewes is nearly complete.
Soon, state transportation officials will use the New Road Master Plan to work with developers to ensure the stretch from Nassau to Pilottown Road maintains its existing character in the face of major land-use and transportation changes.
Already planned for New Road are a 292-unit subdivision on the 134-acre Groome Church property at Lynn Road and a 90-unit townhouse project on the 34-acre Brittingham property at Canary Creek.
On the transportation front, the Department of Transportation is planning to build overpasses at Route 16 and Cave Neck Road, and significantly change the traffic pattern at Minos Conaway and the Nassau bridge, including building a road under the bridge to connect to New Road.
DelDOT is also planning to realign Old Orchard Road, which intersects New Road, and change the traffic pattern in the nearby Wescoats Corner area.
To retain the character with hundreds, possibly thousands, of extra vehicles using New Road, the group proposes several features to retain the rural look of the road.
From Nassau Road to Pilottown Road, the plan recommends adding landscaped islands separating traffic. Islands have a natural calming effect and slow drivers to a safer speed, said Jim Klein of Lardner Klein Landscape Architects, a consultant hired to develop the plan.
Other goals include preserving open space through setbacks and floodplain management, and creating community open space. The plan also calls on the Historic Lewes Byway group to work with homeowners associations and developers to coordinate landscaping along New Road frontage.
Many proposals anticipate DelDOT or a developer widening New Road. The goal is to maintain existing 11-foot travel lanes, but add landscaped islands and shoulders where they do not now exist.
The plan also calls for a connected shared-use path along most of the corridor; it’s already included in the plans for the Groome Church and Brittingham properties. With the projects being on opposite sides of the road, the plan anticipates bike and pedestrian crossings near the proposed developments.
Some residents at a June 20 public presentation aired concerns about the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians at the road crossings. Lardner said proposed features, such as islands and a roundabout at Old Orchard Road, should slow drivers down to a safe speed.
He said they could also add flashing beacons to alert drivers of the crossing.
“All of those build on each other for making sure those crossings are safe,” he said.
Lardner said the goal is to eventually lower the speed limit of New Road to 25 mph. When asked when that might occur, DelDOT Byways Coordinator Mike Hahn said it’s critical that traffic calming features are in place first.
“If we can’t get the number of recommendations [in place], then the lowering of the speed limit is much more challenging because you’re randomly going out and changing a number,” he said.
Lardner said the road improvements proposed as part of the Groome and Brittingham projects will go a long way toward slowing traffic. However, he said, drivers will not slow down without altering the way the road looks now.
Gail van Gilder, past chair of the byways committee, said it’s important the public knows the proposed improvements will come together over time, and it may be piecemeal for several years.
“It would be nice to have a list of the unfunded projects so that the community knows what needs to be worked on, and they can be advocated for so they don’t just languish,” she said. “Also, when we say DelDOT is going to widen the road, we need to be clear that they are going to widen it in areas where projects are being developed.”
Work on the master plan began in August 2018. The first draft was presented at a public meeting in November at Cape Henlopen High School. Since then, Lardner has worked to refine the plan based on comments received from the public, stakeholders and elected officials.
The next step is to review comments from the June 20 meeting and make final changes to the plan before presenting it to Lewes Mayor and City Council and Sussex County Council for approval.
To read the 86-page plan, go to www.lardnerklein.com/new-road-corridor-master-plan.html.