One of the first initiatives Delaware Department of Transportation Secretary Jennifer Cohan proposed when she was appointed secretary in January 2015 was a transportation improvement district in Sussex County.
Signing that agreement will be among her final actions, as she is set to retire at the end of October.
At its Oct. 27 meeting, Sussex County Council unanimously approved an agreement between the county and DelDOT to establish the Henlopen Transportation District.
“This is a historical moment for all of us. This is the marriage between land use and transportation,” Cohan said. “We know that this has been a lengthy process and DelDOT has invested nearly $1 million in its own resources into this proposal, because we strongly believe it will provide a blueprint for development and infrastructure improvements for at least the next 25 years.”
The district includes a 24-square-mile area, largely from around Route 9 near the Five Points intersection and along Route 1, to the Route 24 corridor to Herring Creek, including 66 miles of roadway and 62 intersections.
$284 million in road work
In this zone, fees attached to new residential and commercial construction will be collected by the county through the permitting process and released to DelDOT as road projects are needed. Twenty-four percent of the cost will be covered by developers. DelDOT will provide the remaining 76 percent of funds for projects through its six-year capital transportation program.
Developers will know the costs upfront, and in turn will not, in most cases, be subject to performing costly, time-consuming traffic-impact studies for projects, as DelDOT will have in hand existing traffic data, models and comprehensive overview of the district, said Charles “C.R.” McLeod, director of DelDOT community relations.
Planners project 12 new traffic signals, 13 roundabouts and 15 intersections with turn lanes, and four miles of new road connections, totaling nearly $284 million, will be necessary within the district to keep pace with current and future development.
Major roads in the district include sections of Route 24 and Route 9, and sections or all of Robinsonville, Plantation, Mulberry Knoll, Cedar Grove, Angola, Dorman, Jolyns Way, Webb's Landing, Jimtown, Beaver Dam, Kendale, Wil King, Conley’s Chapel, Hollymount and Camp Arrowhead roads.
Proposed growth in the district includes almost 13,000 new housing units and 1.5 million square feet of commercial space by 2045.
County Administrator Todd Lawson said the agreement becomes effective immediately.
“When it comes to development decisions and road planning, what the county does, what DelDOT does, it’s all part of the same equation,” said Council President Mike Vincent. “We have to work together, for our constituents, to come up with the best solutions to the challenges before us so our community thrives, and so our residents can enjoy the highest quality of life. I think the Henlopen TID is a tremendous step forward to keeping our transportation network safe and free-flowing.”
“We are also hopeful that as the Henlopen TID succeeds in its purpose, additional areas in Sussex will be considered for TIDs,” Cohan said.
Councilman John Rieley of Millsboro said the Route 54 corridor in the Ocean View area should be considered for a transportation improvement district. “There are others already in line,” Cohan said. “If it's a priority, let us know and we will start working on it.”
The Henlopen TID will represent a win-win for the public and the development community, allowing for a more equitable share in the cost to make road improvements – rather than being borne entirely by state taxpayers – while potentially saving developers time and money as they advance their projects, McLeod said.
For more information on the Henlopen TID, visit sussexcountyde.gov/sussex-county-deldot-initiatives; to learn about TIDs in general, visit deldot.gov/Programs/transportation-improvement-districts/index.shtml.
What is a TID?
A defined geographic area where land use and transportation is planned in detail in advance. Instead of focusing solely on the area surrounding proposed development for infrastructure needs, the TID allows for a comprehensive approach about how development will impact traffic in this area in the future. A determined fee for development contributions to the infrastructure ensures this work happens as development happens and equitably distributes the cost of improvements. Three districts are in place in southern New Castle County.