Bethany Streetscape and Route 26 project cleared for season

Local drivers have gotten used to seeing orange traffic cones this winter, but the days are getting longer, so the lane closures are getting shorter.

In downtown Bethany Beach, “All our construction work will be done this Friday,” May 23, said Jeff Niezgoda, planning supervisor with the Delaware Department of Transportation, so both sides of Garfield Parkway should be open and completely passable in time for Memorial Day weekend.

“We can’t be out there past Memorial Day. That was the agreement. We reached out to the town leaders, and they polled the adjacent business community, resident community, and the majority vote was” to break for summer, he said.

In the Streetscape project — more than a dozen years in the making, and involving sidewalk and curb improvements, traffic calming elements, new lighting and parking reconfigurations — only one spot remains to be completed. DelDOT will return mid-October to finish the eastern tip of Garfield Parkway, the circle next to the bathhouse and lifeguard station.

Two major challenges affected the project, on and off the busy road.

First, DelDOT was “really trying not to interfere with the day-to-day business operations,” he said. “Even though you maintain access to their businesses, the implication is that the businesses are difficult to get to — that comes with any location.”

At the Town’s request, the construction start was delayed until October of 2013, but a cold, wet winter delayed roadwork statewide.

Adding to the time the work was the roadway itself, which had to be closed unexpectedly near Route 1. Though they were planning to just mill and overlay the top layer of pavement in the 200 block of Garfield Parkway, workers discovered cracks in the lower levels of concrete, and the asphalt showed cracks mirroring the decay underneath. If the road was just milled as planned, the cracks would reappear by next year.

“Rather than … just put a Band-Aid on top of it, the determination was made just get in there and re-do that base,” Niezgoda said. “We could have done the cheap route and the easy route.”

He said the Town made a good decision to fix the entire road.

“This project, in the long term, will have a tremendous long-term impact to the community. It’s made it a safer community for pedestrians, and it’s given it a visual attractiveness with the Streetscape.”

Anyone wanting more information on the project should contact the Town, Niezgoda recommended. “They’re the ones that are driving the projects. We’re here just to provide the professional and technical support,” he said.

An add-on project on N. Pennsylvania Avenue, from Garfield to Central Boulevard, was also expected to be completed by Memorial Day. Traffic still had access as crews relocated utilities underground, and improved sidewalks and lighting.

Leading up to the unofficial start of the summer season, parking meters and paystations have returned, accepting cash. Smartphone payments will soon be accepted through the app. Those wishing to use the new system must register with ParkMobile, online or through the app, and provide a description of their car and credit card information for payment. From there, they can pay directly through the app for that particular vehicle, even receiving notifications before their time expires.

Road to the beach

Just a mile away from where the Bethany Beach project ends, the rest of Route 26 has its own construction project.

Construction officially began on the Route 26 Mainline Improvements Project this January, although utilities companies have been flitting along the 4-mile stretch for more than a year to move pipes and poles away from the roadway.

The expansion of Route 26 from Clarksville to Ocean View will include a shared turn lane to help prevent traffic back-ups; shoulders for bicycle traffic; and sidewalks from Ocean View to Millville.

May 14 was supposed to see the last of the daytime lane closures, although some cleanup work was required beyond that. Nighttime lane closures will be permitted all summer, until mid-October, lasting from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following morning, Monday nights to Friday mornings. These are needed to begin installing new storm drainpipe and drainage inlets near the Millville Volunteer Fire Company fire hall.

Flaggers and law enforcement personnel will direct motorists through the intersection of Route 26 and Old Mill Road, near the Giant and Food Lion grocery stores. The existing curb will be removed between there and Cedar Drive.

During the day on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., lane shifts and shoulder closures are allowed, as long as two lanes of traffic are maintained.

Yet, from 6 a.m. Friday mornings until 6 p.m. Monday nights, there can be no lane closures, shoulder closures or lane shifts.

Also, in the coming week, excavation will continue for storm water management ponds in Clarksville. No lane closures are anticipated due to that work.

Prior to the start of the Mainline project, in an effort to improve travel during the work, DelDOT has upgraded an “alternate route” — a series of back roads intended to relieve pressure from Route 26 if needed. Although flaggers may direct alternating lanes of Route 26 traffic, detours will only ever be required in early 2015, when the project will replace two bridge culverts.

Residents and businesses with questions are being encouraged to contact Ken Cimino at any time at (302) 616-2621, or or at 17 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 2, in Ocean View. He was hired specifically to handle public concerns.