OV discusses possible fixes for Woodland Avenue extended

After receiving concerned correspondence from residents, the Town of Ocean View held a workshop in order to discuss possible solutions to safety concerns.

“This particular topic arose as a result of a series of complaints that I and others received a few months ago about excessive speeds on Woodland Avenue Extended,” said Mayor Walter Curran at the Sept. 11 workshop. “The Town Council discussed this at our July meeting and it was decided to reach out to those inhabitants most directly affected, solicit their opinions and hold this meeting tonight.”

On Aug. 18, the Town sent letters to 127 homeowners who use Woodland Avenue Extended to enter and exit their homes on a regular basis. The letters included surveys asking residents to state if they were for or against turning the street into a one-way thoroughfare. Additionally, the survey asked for other suggestions that could potentially resolve the speeding problems.

Sixty-four surveys were returned to the Town, five stating they would support making the street one-way, while the other 59 responders were opposed to the idea.

“Many folks offered alternative solutions,” said Curran. “I think it is safe to say that, given both the volume of responses and the logical reasons offered against the one-way concept, that idea is now off the table. That will probably save a lot of angst…”

Kercher Engineering, the Town’s engineer also provided the Town with a traffic study as to how the street would be affected if it were turned into a one-way.

Traffic counts were taken between Thursday, Aug. 21and Thursday, Aug. 28. The Average Daily Traffic (ADT) volume on Woodland Avenue between Central Avenue and West Avenue is around 3,600 vehicles per day with an approximate traffic split of 55/45 percent directional split in traffic flow, or about 1,980 vehicles traveling eastbound and 1,620 vehicles traveling westbound in a 24-hour period.

Curran said a daily speed study was conducted by the hour, from Aug. 29 through Sept. 4.

“The vast majority of speeds clocked were in the 25 to 29 miles per hour [range]. Those were 2,830. In the 30 to 34 miles per hour there was 1,081. In the 35 to 39 miles per hour there were 60,” he said. “Yes, it’s speeding, but quite frankly it’s nowhere near what we had anticipated.”

Resident Kathy Vengazo said the study might be more meaningful if it had been done in July when the tourist season is at its heaviest.

“I’ve heard our residents out there in the roadway actually screaming ‘slow down,’ because cars go through there [so fast]. The Bear Trap bus goes through there taking people up to the beach. When you have a bus and a passenger car, and somebody speeding, you’re waiting for a disaster to happen.”

Resident Paula Howard suggesting having the Bear Trap vans take a different route, avoiding the roadway altogether.

Curran, who used to be the president of the community’s HOA said that he would discuss it with the current board.

“I will discuss it with them and have them look at that as part of the possible solution, but it’s nowhere near the whole solution.”

The report also noted that the daily volumes, which are higher on weekdays, are representative of an area that has more year-round residency than seasonal.

“Changing the traffic pattern on Woodland Avenue to one-way will have more of an impact on the local year-round residents,” wrote Project Engineer Stephen Raign of Kercher Engineering in the study.

Resident Richard Nippes suggested that the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) take over ownership of the road to help motorists be more invested in the road.

“I’d be willing to bet that the vast majority of the cars that come down Woodland Avenue are non-taxpaying residents. In my opinion, Woodland Avenue has become a thoroughfare,” he said. “This road should be a state road — that DelDOT should assume control over it. Therefore everyone who traveled it would have skin in the game.”

Mike Somers, senior transportation planner for DelDOT said the department could take over the road, but had not been asked to do so.

“If the Town wants to work with the department about assuming the responsibility that’s not impossible. There would be warrants that have to be met, the roads has to be to certain standard but it’s been done before.”

Resident Greg Neuner said that he has a love-hate relationship with the road.

“I love it because it’s a way to stay off of 26 during the busy tourist season. It gets me to where I need to go and avoid a lot of traffic. I hate it because I’m scared to death that I’m going to come around that curve and hit a bicyclist,” he said, asking if it would be possible to have the bicyclists travel on the sidewalks. “I think whatever improvements might be down the line, a bicycle lane ought to be part of that.”

Fred Nunley, president of the Briarcliffe homeowners association commented that there has been an enforcement issue on the road, which has caused some of the issues.

“There has been, in the past law enforcement attempting to write tickets. We have noticed that that has diminished. That might be a labor force issue or what have you, but it’s not as robust as it used to be. We would like that to be reinstated,” he said. Adding, “the Town, to address some part of this problem approximately three years ago decided to put up some signage that said ‘no trucks’ on Woodland Avenue.

“There has been absolutely no enforcement of ‘no trucks’ on Woodland Avenue. What I get from that, if you put the sign up, it must’ve been an intention to enforce it. If there wasn’t an intention to enforce it the sign shouldn’t have been there.”

Curran said that police enforcement had actually been stepped up on Woodland to try and address residents’ concerns, however they are unable to police the road at all times.

Nippes said one of his neighbors saw an 18-wheeler traveling on the road the morning of the workshop.

“That road is not built to handle 18-wheelers,” he said. “There was a police officer there and that truck was not pulled over. Now, I don’t think he was in the wrong because if he came off of West there are no signs saying ‘no trucks allowed.’… They’re dangerous… The weight of them could damage that particular type of road.”

Rob West, who owns a farm on the road, and said the reason the 18-wheeler was on Woodland was because they were harvesting corn.

“I’m sorry, but we still have some farmland around here in town,” he said.

One resident stated that the tractor-trailer that had traversed Woodland that morning was not for farming, but marked as a US Foods truck.

“There are other tractor-trailers on Woodland,” she said.

Nippes said that a truck restriction on the road would obviously make allowances for trucks making deliveries; the concern is trucks using the road as a shortcut.

Neuner also said he would support lowering the speed limit to 20 mph. Dan Verona of Briarcliffe also suggested the speed limit be lowered on the roadway.

“In dealing with residential traffic, in Delaware Code, the speed limit is 25 miles per hour. DelDOT doesn’t post below that anywhere,” Somers said noting the rare exception would be in parks or something similar. “It’s very unusual.”

Somers went on to say that lowering a speed limit would not necessarily improve safety.

“If you get hit by a car that is going 20, 25, you’re less likely to get killed than if you got hit by a car going 45. But if you’re driving safely, and speeding is the only consideration, then it’s not inherently less safe.”

Verona also said he believes there is a correlation between lane width and speed.

“Generally speaking, as the road gets wider capacity increases even if it’s not a separate lane. If you have a 9-foot road, and you make it into a standard 12-foot lane, then speeds are going to increase naturally,” responded Somer. “Inversely, then you would also expect the speeds to go down. One of the [measures] of traffic calming is to narrow traffic lanes.”

Other solutions suggested by residents included putting a four-way stop at Woodland and West Avenues, installing a four-way stop at both Briarcliffe and Mitchell Estates, and speed restrictors, such as speed bumps.

Councilman Bob Lawless addressed the nearly 40 attendees, as the councilman who suggested the one-way.

“The purpose was to cause what has happened tonight to occur,” he said. “No one had any thoughts or input… I did this to get people here tonight to come up with creative thoughtful ideas that you’ve come up with. I thank you so much for coming out and sharing them with us.

“The idea that we five on council are the repository of all wisdom and can make good decisions without your input is insane. We need you.”

Curran invited those who attended the workshop along with all other town residents to the town’s Oct. 14 meeting, where the council hopes to make a decision on the town’s next step.

“There are issues out there that will drag out the long-term perfect solution, there’s no question about that,” he said. “We will have a decision for this specific problem. It may not be the most perfect decision but I guarantee you it will help.”