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Sussex must take control of vital infrastructure

August 27, 2019

Years ago, Sussex County and Delaware Department of Transportation officials established an agreement that requires developers to contribute to improvements to maintain traffic flow on roads and intersections.

Both DelDOT and county officials insist they are complying with the agreement, but anyone who travels Cape Region roads is well aware many local intersections are now failing – the level of service the agreement was supposed to avoid.

Both sides may say they are following the agreement, but the outcome is clear: Traffic in the Cape Region has far outpaced investment in road infrastructure, and there is no indication that a proposed update to the agreement – a document the public has yet to see  – will bring growth and road infrastructure into balance. DelDOT is now promising $1 billion in infrastructure for Sussex over the next six years, but this only demonstrates how far behind the county is on road infrastructure.

Current plans may improve some failing intersections, but new growth will quickly force other roads and intersections to fail. One obvious example is planned upgrades to provide two lanes both ways on Route 24, from just west of Route 1 to the Love Creek bridge.

This is an expensive project, and the westbound lanes will still funnel into one lane to cross the bridge. 

Isn’t this a bottleneck in the making? 

With new townhouses going up just west of the bridge, does anyone doubt a wider bridge is needed? Must we wait for a fatality before a new bridge reaches DelDOT’s planners? Will the townhouse developer contribute to a new bridge?

These unknowns demonstrate the current process – developers seeking approval from county officials and then negotiating privately with DelDOT – does not work.

If Sussex officials want better control over infrastructure, they must enact an adequate public facilities ordinance, as Kent County did more than a decade ago. This ordinance would give council the final say over developer contributions to needed infrastructure when new developments are built.

 

  • Editorials are considered by the editorial board and written by Dennis Forney, publisher emeritus, and Laura Ritter, news editor, with occasional contributions from other board members: Trish Vernon, CoPublisher and Editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; Nick Roth, sports editor; and Chris Rausch, CoPublisher and General Manager.