County council discusses Capital Transportation, byway


The Sussex County Council was given an overview of the Sussex County 2016-2021 Capital Transportation Program Request earlier this week.

Each year the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) develops a six-year Capital Transportation Plan (CTP) that identifies anticipated capital investments. Each year DelDOT requests the county provide program request information for its planning purposes.

County Administrator Todd Lawson said it is a way for the County to highlight what it believe needs to be addressed, as well as a way for DelDOT to seek federal funding for projects that are federally funded or are eligible.

Chip Guy, chief public information officer for the county, said much of the draft CTP request is the same as previous years.

Guy said the county’s transportation priorities include SR 1 improvements, bicycle/walking paths, and east-west improvements, including SR 24 and SR 26.

The CTP fiscal year 2015 budget included approximately $20.9 million in State and federal funding for improvements for east-west corridors within the county. Guy said that State Routes 24 and 26 are two of the County’s primary east-west corridors.

“It is important to note that the SR 26 project in the Bethany, Millville, Ocean View area is moving forward. Look for that within the coming year or so to come off of our list as that project nears completion,” said Guy.

Local roads are where the majority of the changes occurred, said Guy, noting it was mostly based on council comments. Upgrades include making bicycle and pedestrian lanes, and illuminating key intersections.

Guy said there was a request to address the flooding and extending the bike on Fred Hudson Road. Double Bridges Road is also part of the request.

“We had a constituent raise a concern about the narrow nature of that road and lack of shoulders,” he said. Noting they suggested a dedicated bike path for the roadway.

For Fenwick, Councilman Vance Phillips raised a concern with respect to Lighthouse Road, and possibility of a grad-separated bike and pedestrian path at the viaduct.

The town of Millsboro requested help with regard to paving Mitchell St.

“The Town has had difficulty getting State or other funds in order to rehab that street,” said Guy.

Intersection signal timing at Atlantic Avenue at Central Avenue, and West Avenue in Ocean View are part of the request as well.

As for transportation alternatives, Guy said the requests remained much the same as in previous years. The request looked at expanding mass transit options from Wilmington to the beach, which would lessen the burden on highways.

“We’re looking for these improvements so we can continue to serve our population well and to safely accommodate the millions of visitors,” said Cole. “That’s the key. We get millions of visitors.”

Cole said he’d like extra emphasis on pedestrian concerns.

“What’s starting to bother me is the State seems to be encouraging pedestrians to interact with traffic on roads that are high risk,” he said. “I don’t believe we should be encouraging the pedestrian right of ways… Those signs encouraging pedestrians to step out in front of traffic… They have them up in north Bethany where the speed is 50 miles per hour on a four-lane highway.”

Cole requested that council seek that the Delaware Legislature consider changing state law so that pedestrians do not have the right of way on any roadway exceeding 25 miles per hour.

“It’s the most illogical thing I’ve ever seen,” he said.

“That’s a good idea, George,” said councilman Sam Wilson. “I agree with you 100 percent.”

Lawson, said that the CTP was probably not the right vehicle to seek a change in the law. But he added that language could be added to the document expressing the concern for safety with the increase use by pedestrians.

“I’ve brought it up in the past and I don’t think anybody is listening in Dover,” said Cole. “Maybe we need to see if there’s a way we can bring some sanity to it because in coastal Sussex County we got a problem with pedestrians and traffic. They don’t mix too well.”

A public hearing on the CTP will be held on Sept. 25, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the DelDOT South District Office in Georgetown.

Council also heard a presentation on the Nanticoke Heritage Byway, part of the National Scenic Byways Program. Consultant Andy Nicol said the grassroots effort is not driven by bureaucracy or government, and is focused on preserving and enhancing select roads throughout the country.

Currently, there are 150 designated byways in 46 states. The national program has two designations — all-American and national scenic byway. There are six designated byways in the state of Delaware, including the Lewes Byway and the Delaware Bayshore.

The Nanticoke Heritage Byway, formerly known as the Western Sussex Byway, measures 39.8 miles long, extending from the Hearn and Rawlings Mill in the north to Trap Pond State Park in the South.

Nicol said intrinsic resources on the byway include the Seaford Museum Woodland Ferry and Bethel Memorial Park.

“[We’ve listed] several key resources that focus on recreational activities… but also have a lot of cultural and historic resources that we’re going to try to market to travelers,” he said.

The goal, said Nicol, is to minimizing impact on locals and travelers.

“We don’t want the byway to impact anything as it stands today.”

Nicol said there have been numerous steering committee meetings and public workshops that have been well attended.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of people showing up to these meetings… it has been a wonderful group.”

As for action items, Nicol said that in the short term, streetscape enhancement, development of boat launches, and adjusting the hours of tourist facilities to be more accommodating along the byway are goals.

“We want to work with local business community to accommodate our target [visitors],” said Nicol.

In the long term, they plan to monitor traffic calming issues previously addressed in Bethel, develop bike lanes and trails, as well as develop signage throughout that shares the story of the region.

Councilman Phillips asked if there could be some language that outlines that property rights would be protected for the property owners who have land along the byway.

“The highway itself doesn’t infringe on property rights,” said Dan Parsons, historic preservation planner for the county.

“Let me assure you that this does not infringe on anyone’s property rights,” said Ann Gravatt, byway program coordinator for DelDOT.

Phillips also said the byway travels through a highly agricultural area, and that he has concerns about how the travel could impact daily activities.

“Visitors are going to be seeing these types of activities… For people who are not used to seeing that, it’s a novel thing,” responded Gravatt. “To a visitor that’s very unique. We want to showcase that.”

In other County news:

• Employee of the Third Quarter is Alan Scott Baker, who works in County’s Dewey Beach maintenance location. Baker, who started working for the County in 2007, was nominated by his superior for his high level of professionalism. The nomination letter stated that Baker is, “respectful and mindful of others.”

• Hal Godwin, deputy county commissioner, presented council with the Wetlands Advisory Committee report. Godwin said the committee would meet on Sept. 25 before sending the report to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, before it goes to the Delaware State Legislature.

Godwin requested that council review the report and give comments at the next meeting.

• Sussex County property taxes are due Sept. 30. To view account information and make payments is available on the County’s website, at http://www.sussexcountyde.gov/property-tax-portal-tutorial.