Sussex deserves better than D-rated future
Cape Gazette sustains an ongoing dialogue with the community about transportation, land use and congestion concerns through extensive reporting, editorials and letters to the editor. These are the top issues discussed in the communities we cover.
Sussex County is zoned for development, growth is projected for at least the next 10-15 years, congestion is a real problem and increasing, and while road improvements are coming, growth and development continue to outpace those improvements.
A recent discussion at a Sussex Planning & Zoning Commission meeting centered around collaboration between the county and Delaware’s Department of Transportation in advance of approvals for proposed communities. DelDOT, in its review of plans, rates affected roads with a grading system: A is free flowing and the best; E and F are failing or flat-out failed. Commissioners were told that by national standards, levels C and D are acceptable for road planning.
The D rating means that a roadway is approaching unstable traffic flows where speed slightly decreases as traffic volume increases, and that motorist freedom to maneuver is much more limited than in roads rated A, B or C. Before approval of plans is granted by DelDOT, it requires improvements be made to, at the very least, maintain the threshold of existing service.
Based on the D rating definition, most people in eastern Sussex would probably agree that our roads have already reached the E and F rating - not a report card to be taped to the refrigerator.
DelDOT has scheduled $1 billion worth of improvements over the next six years in Sussex and is requiring developers to also invest in improvements as it deems necessary. But if all this is going to do is get us up to - at best - a D rating on our roads when those improvements are complete, how will additional growth in that same time affect the overall system?
It’s time for DelDOT to start talking about the next billion it will spend in Sussex so that the future it projects is better than a mediocre - at best - D rating.