No single solution for Sussex’s traffic woes
As Sussex County officials work to update the county's comprehensive land-use plan, traffic woes are front and center. Planning and Zoning Commissioner Marty Ross says improving road capacity should be the No. 1 priority of the plan's mobility section.
Ross said capacity is a problem 50 years in the making, and he called for establishing specific road capacity goals within the plan.
"We need increased capacity, or we'll die economically," Ross said. "Quit studying and start doing," he added. "The roads must have a PhD in something, because they have been studied enough."
A comprehensive vision for Sussex's highway system is critical to the new plan. Ross is right on target to insist it's time to improve north-south and east-west corridors, and his insistence on action is a welcome change from years of finger-pointing, when state and county officials blamed each other for traffic backups. At the same time, Sussex County is not going to pave its way out of traffic problems. There's only so much space for roads – Route 1 is already as wide as it can get from Five Points to Dewey Beach.
Besides increased capacity, the comprehensive plan should raise the bar for granting new subdivision requests, especially those seeking increased density in congested areas. The plan should call for developers to not only contribute to road improvements, but also to provide community-based transportation. If residents – many are older retirees – had convenient, on-demand van transportation to appointments, shopping, dinner and the beach, it would significantly reduce traffic on congested Cape Region roads.
Not only older residents would benefit; young people also want solutions that do not involve owning a car. Services such as Lyft and Uber already have ride-sharing, offering a less-expensive, on-demand group ride service.
As Ross said, buses and bicycles may not be the answer to transportation problems, but more roads, alone, are not the answer either.
The comprehensive plan should call for road improvements while also promoting flexible, on-demand ride-sharing solutions that will meet the needs of future residents and also ease traffic congestion.