Route 113 bypass project back in focus

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell put the brakes on the proposed Route 113 bypass project last year following extensive news coverage by this paper and The News Journal — but that doesn’t mean improvements for Route 113 are dead.

The Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) announced earlier this week that a meeting between DelDOT Secretary Shailen Bhatt and Sussex County legislators resulted in the opinion that DelDOT should “immediately resume planning work on two sections while continuing to discuss the southern portion of the previously planned project.”

The local legislators included state Sens. Joseph Booth and George Bunting, and Reps. Harvey Kenton, David Wilson, John Atkins and Gerald Hocker. This is the group, by the way, that met with DelDOT and the governor’s office before to stop the project, after reports about “reservation agreements” emerged, where the state was paying developers to not develop land that might be used for a portion of the route.

Following the governor’s report on the proposed project, Markell squashed it immediately, saying that he wanted to see a real concensus between Sussex lawmakers and DelDOT before the project would come back to life.

Well, it would seem that part of the project is coming back to life.

“DelDOT will resume planning work on the Ellendale and Georgetown portions and continue discussions regarding Millsboro and south,” said Bhatt. “This project has the potential to reshape economic development, traffic management and highway safety in southern Delaware, and I look forward to working with Sussex County lawmakers to achieve a succesful implementation for the people of the state.”

Of course, one of the major problems with the original proposed project was the way the bypass would cut through family farms and property. The Sussex group of legislators have met with some of the local farmers over the past year, so that would appear to be an issue that will also be overseen by the lawmakers.

“All the misunderstandings between the Sussex County legislators and the governor have been worked out,” said Hocker. “I felt good about the meeting, and about the new leadership of our secretary.”

This seems positive, but it will certainly bear watching.