Letters to the Editor: Dec. 3, 2010

Reader offers insight into planned bypass

Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to Gov. Jack Markell, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), the Delaware Department of Agriculture, state Sen. George Bunting and state Reps. Gerald Hocker and John Atkins, and was forward to the Coastal Point for publication.

I was involved with the Millsboro-South Area Working Group for the Route 113 North/South Study for over three years and would like to offer the following comments concerning one of the options that was favored. I am opposed to the Blue Route (Eastern Bypass) for the following reasons:

(1) This option will have severe environmental consequences. The northern section of the “Blue Route” (Eastern Bypass) will cross several areas of important ecological significance. Not only does a major bridge have to be constructed across the Indian River, but it crosses two other virgin watersheds of Peppers Creek and Vines Creek. These areas are relatively pristine but would be severely degraded by the construction of a highway. The number of wetlands taken is misleading since these watersheds will be totally disrupted to a degree far greater than the footprint of a highway.

(2) The areas that this corridor goes through are still being actively farmed, and the highway would effectively separate one side from another, causing total disruption in the current agricultural practices. It would further fragment an already fragile economic situation and promote growth in areas that are not adjacent to existing towns.

(3) The Indian River School District would be negatively impacted by a highway of this magnitude – the Indian River High School is adjacent to a major proposed interchange.

(4) A long established African-American community exists adjacent to the existing Frankford Elementary School. This community and its social fabric would be bisected by the highway. There is no unified voice of opposition, since most of the residents are not even aware of this plan.

(5) The entire Eastern Bypass would have to be constructed in its entirety before it could be used, as opposed to upgrading existing Route 113 as time and money allow. This would cause an already congested traffic problem to get worse by not preserving the existing corridor until, if and when, funds would be available to construct the bypass.

(6) The cost estimate in 2010 dollars is approximately $839 million for this bypass. This astronomical price is part of an estimate of what it would cost to construct three new bridges (the Indian River section is over twice the length of the Indian River Inlet Bridge). In addition, two major railway overpasses will have to be constructed, which will add considerable expense. This money could be used to upgrade many miles of existing highway.

(7) The State of Delaware already has a dedicated corridor in the existing Route 113 with plenty of room to expand. By choosing the Eastern Bypass, this approach will allow the existing Route 113 to continue to be further degraded due to strip development and poor land-use planning. In time, it will be thoroughly congested and will no longer function as a viable transportation corridor. Now is the time to protect and preserve what we have, rather than letting these valuable corridors degrade.

(8) Confusing traffic analyses have been presented which question whether the Eastern Bypass will be the choice of traffic that continues on to the south. This could leave existing Route 113 with heavy traffic congestion.

(9) Individual property owners in the area proposed for the new highway have not been directly notified that their properties may be targeted for such use, despite repeated assurances from the Project Team that this would happen. This lack of notification, plus limited media exposure, has caused the property owners to be unaware of these plans and kept them from participating in the public input meetings that have been conducted.

(10) It has been stated that this project is 20-plus years away, but landowners would have their properties and businesses placed in a corridor preservation program that will have no money to compensate them for the “highest and best use” of their property within a reasonable time. If there are no funds to purchase the needed property now, then this is a case of gross injustice of the power of eminent domain.

(11) It has been voiced that the Blue Route (Eastern Bypass) will have excess capacity in the future, since it will be an entirely new corridor. The old expression that “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” is a valid point in this concept. The decision has been made to leave the Milford area without any improvements and the remaining road improvements to use the existing right-of-way. The towns of Georgetown and Selbyville have favored a “modified on-alignment” approach and any anticipated excess capacity will be negated by the northern and southern ends of this bypass. This will lead to Delaware’s own “Road to Nowhere” which is a gross misappropriation of federal and state tax dollars.

(12) The Blue Route impacts the Frankford-Dagsboro Sanitary Sewer District by bisecting its spray irrigation fields. This could have severe impacts on the future expansion of the district.

(13) I was the sole representative on the working group who represented the area from the Indian River south to Selbyville that was east of existing Route 113. Since the Blue Route’s northern approach was shifted farther north to accommodate the Mountaire Poultry Plant’s concerns, there was not a representative on the Millsboro-South working group for this area. Furthermore, some of this area is in the geographic region of the Georgetown Working Group, and no one from that group had a chance to comment on this selection. This omission violates the spirit of the whole process.

I feel that the best solution to the traffic problems is to use the existing right of way of Route 113, which in most cases is large enough for a “modified limited-access highway” and service roads. Large sections of this roadway are still viable, and the environmental, agricultural and sociological effects are already established. Going into virgin areas with massive road projects creates a host of secondary effects that no one is taking into account.

Since Georgetown and Selbyville have expressed support for a “modified on-alignment” approach, there is no reason this will not work for the rest of the corridor. The towns of Frankford and Dagsboro have no development west of Route 113, and their Comprehensive Plans can be changed to allow the towns to grow together, east of the current highway. Connections to Route 24 and Route 26 have been planned for in the on-alignment concept, which would address those traffic needs and would not change the scope of this project.

Highway projects take the path of least resistance and tend to target environmental, agricultural and rural areas because they have no voice in opposition. In this era of dwindling environmental, financial and agricultural assets, it would be prudent to protect these resources.

The Feasibility Study of July 2001 recognized the benefit of upgrading the existing corridor in terms of cost, timely implementation and environmental impacts. This study also endorsed this concept as supporting the Livable Delaware initiative and the long-range transportation goals of DelDOT.

Jim Bennett

AARP wants Medicare commitments honored

On Jan. 1, 2011, doctors who treat Medicare patients are scheduled to absorb a 25 percent pay cut – a cut that threatens the ability of seniors to see their physicians and receive the care they need. It is up to Congress to stop this pay cut and ensure that doctors are not driven out of Medicare.

On behalf of the almost 170,000 AARP members in Delaware and all seniors who have earned their Medicare benefits by working hard and paying into the system, I am calling on Congress to take responsibility and act to ensure that older Americans have access to the doctors they trust.

AARP is not alone in believing that the Medicare payment system is broken and requires a permanent fix. But it isn’t the flawed physician payment system that concerns so many of our members here in the First State and elsewhere. It is, rather, the prospect of suddenly being without a physician.

As the New Year approaches, there is one resolution that Medicare patients would like to see made by Congress: honor the commitment to Medicare patients and the physicians who care for them.

George Meldrum
AARP Executive Council
Lucretia Young
AARP State Director

Readers don’t agree that park will help town

As home owners in South Bethany since 1981, our family, including the nine grandchildren, have wonderful memories of our summer vacations there. The younger element never seem to get enough time in the water, or just lying on the sand, walking or biking in the early morning, and returning to the house in time for dinner. At no time have they ever requested going anywhere other than the beach, unless they wanted to go shopping in Bethany or Rehoboth. That’s what a trip to the ocean is all about, and what a wonderful playground it presents.

Why would anyone want to disturb (destroy) what we have come to enjoy so much, by downing trees, and a “ballpark estimate of 10 trees” is somewhat laughable. How often do developers give an extremely low estimate, and then advise that, oops, their estimate was indeed low and more clearing is required.

And what impact would the proposed playground location have on police-force efforts to get to the ocean highway, in emergency situations, having to drive right by the playground at great speed? Are we going to have to fence the area, to protect the children, and what would a fenced area do to the environment? Ugh!

And how many of the year-round residents (a population of less than 500) have young children that would use the playground? I think we would all agree that summer visitors are coming to the area to spend their time at the biggest and best playground area – the ocean! Let’s not muddy the waters by adding a playground that would in all probability get little use, destroy a truly “quiet resort” area for the local residents, and no doubt add on additional taxes for all of South Bethany residents.

June and Jim Cotter
South Bethany