We need a special task force on road problems

October 27, 2017

This past spring and summer witnessed a significant worsening of the ongoing traffic problems in coastal Delaware. Increase in beach and tourist season vehicle arrivals provided for jammed roadways, particularly Route 1 and routes 24 and 9. The five-mile stretch of Route 1 from Five Points to Rehoboth creeped along between the 14 stop lights providing for access and turns as well as pedestrian crossings. Any known alternative (escape) routes have also become overcrowded. In fact, in my view the area is close to or has reached a significant peak in gridlock exposure unless a major effort to alleviate this is begun now.

It is outlandish and inexcusable that decades of ignoring the highway requirements needed to support population growth have led to this situation. While the state, DelDOT, has watched, Sussex County Council has welcomed land development proposals with open arms, indicating all along that infrastructure improvements were not their responsibility. Miles of existing country roads have continued to support significantly increased vehicular traffic caused by new community development with minimum associated roadway change. Over and over, traffic impact reports gathered with development requests under review have proven to fall short. Just in the past several months, articles in the Gazette and elsewhere have focused on roadway needs, for example, in both the current draft comprehensive plan update and the annual five-year capital transportation program, as well as specific areas of attention such as the widening of New Road, correcting of the Five Points intersection of Route 1 and Route 9/Savannah Road, the turnoff from Route 1 to enter New Road near the Nassau bridge, the widening of both crowded east-west corridors Route 24 and Route 9, and the intersection of Kings Highway/Dartmouth Drive and Route 1. These are all critical current needs.

Interestingly, a significant traffic improvement project has been underway along Route 1 north of the beach area to Milford and beyond to eliminate traffic stop delays by replacing intersections with overpasses. Traffic on the new overpasses is very light, yet unbelievably this program has carried a higher priority than the now critical Cape Region situation. This is resulting in faster and more even flow of traffic down Route 1 to the beginning of the beach backup, adding to the gridlock encountered farther down to Rehoboth and beyond.

I am convinced that the situation here is so dire that the now highest priority is to create a special task force to identify needs, costs and timelines, and other related elements to produce a broad, strong and approved state and local solution forward to begin as soon as possible. We cannot wait another year, two years, etc. Responsibilities need to be defined, and the public needs to be involved and informed throughout the process. DelDOT officials, county council members, and other relevant stakeholders would be members of the new group. Consideration might also be given to the possibility of placing some form of moratorium on new building approvals in the county until corrective improvement is underway. This has been done in other areas in the country where growth has pushed ahead of infrastructure provision. I ask that those charged with producing the corrections needed in the current system take up this request for immediate action. A good example of what can be accomplished is the creation of the exceptional regional bike and pedestrian trail system through the amassing of the attention of key participants and resources now achieved and enjoyed by many. The same outcome can be realized for roadway transportation upgrades.

William Brown

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