Millville wants lower speed limit near park

Millville contains a road that is 0.3 miles long, bends sharply in an L-shaped curve and has a new playground coming that will soon attract pedestrians, cyclists and more cars.

And, inexplicably, tiny Dukes Drive has an un-posted speed limit of 50 mph.

The Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) had recently approached the Town with a proposal to reduce the speed limit to 30 mph. The Millville Town Council approved that on Aug. 9, but the council wants the speed limit to be even lower.

A speed limit change can occur in two ways on state-owned roads. In this case, DelDOT recommended the change but needs Town approval, because 30 mph isn’t official until signs are posted, and the Town pays for signage. But a town can also commission its own traffic studies and use that data to request that DelDOT change the speed limit.

DelDOT’s default speed limits are based on the type of road, said Town Solicitor Seth Thompson. Rural two-lane roadways are automatically 50 mph, and at present, only a few houses and farmland are located on the narrow road. But DelDOT’s default speed for “residential districts” is 25 mph, Thompson said. DelDOT’s traffic data, field tests and crash data moved the agency to request a reduction for Dukes Drive.

With a playground coming, some council members said they would even be happy with a 20 mph limit. (Only school zones have a 20 mph limit, and only when children are present.)

Dukes Drive is an L-shaped road that sticks south off of Route 26, curves sharply at a less-than-90-degree angle, then heads west to meet Windmill Avenue. Part of it borders a chunk of unincorporated land that is trapped in the middle of town limits. Millville’s portion is surrounded by four zones — mostly agricultural and residential, plus a bit of commercial by Route 26.

“The speed traveled at or above by 85 percent of motorists … has been found to be the best guide toward posting a reasonable and practical speed limit,” according to a Traffic Studies Section email. In this case, most drivers were traveling 30 mph.

Council Member Valerie Faden said she found it odd that DelDOT would set speed limits based on how fast people drive.

“The ultimate authority rests in DelDOT’s hands,” Thompson said.

But Millville will make its case, with council members wondering why DelDOT didn’t consider 25 mph, which they said is consistent with town zoning — especially if a park, where children are a key audience, is coming.

AECOM’s Kyle Gulbronson suggested DelDOT could simply concur with the Town’s recommendation for 25 mph, without additional traffic studies.

In the meantime, the council has approved the new 30 mph limit but will also ask DelDOT’s rationale for that speed and will lobby for an even lower speed limit.

Councilman Steve Small voted against the resolution, emphasizing his desire for a 20 mph limit. But the other four council members voted to lower the speed limit to 30 mph, at least for now.

“To me, it doesn’t end at 30,” Gordon said. “To me, we’re going from 50 to 30, with a possibility of 25.”

Because the road curves sharply without a stop sign, DelDOT also recommended installing several chevrons to delineate the curve, as well as speed advisory (not speed limit) signs encouraging drivers to slow 5 or 10 mph when nearing the curve in either direction.

In other Millville Town Council news:

• Nancy Maupai was appointed and sworn into the Board of Adjustment. She previously served on the BOA around 2006 to 2009, she told the council.

• A Shade Above was approved for its final site plan at 35722 Atlantic Avenue, which involves replacing the vacant residence with a new retail building for window design services.

The town council’s next workshop will be Tuesday, Aug. 23, at 7 p.m.