Earlier this week, residents of Plantation Lakes spoke to the Millsboro Town Council about their concern regarding the speed along west Route 24 in front of their development.
“I’m not here for myself tonight; it’s more about the kids. We’ve got a situation on our hands right now where we need you guys to help us,” said Pat Dangelantonio, adding that the speed limit of 50 mph is too dangerous for that stretch of road. “It’s just getting to be a concern. I hope you guys can help us. I don’t know what else we can do.”
Neil Dickerson, a Plantation Lakes resident, said that he’s been working with people to try to reduce the speed limit.
“The Thursday before Good Friday, I watched a chicken truck — 50 miles an hour — go right past a school bus with blinking lights. Children cross that street. We don’t want a tragedy to have somebody say, ‘Let’s do it,’” he said.
Dickerson asked the council, as the residents of Plantation Lakes pay taxes to the Town, if there were any other areas within town limits in Delaware that have 50 mph speed limits.
“Are we city residents in Plantation Lakes, paying taxes without the support of Millsboro council?” he asked. “We need you guys now.”
State Rep. John Atkins spoke to the council, saying he had had correspondence with both state Sen. Gerald Hocker and the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) to look into lowering the speed limit.
“It’s probably one of the hardest things to do, is to get DelDOT to lower a speed limit when they don’t have the data to back it up,” he said.
Atkins said that he and Hocker had requested a traffic evaluation, to which DelDOT responded that they had conducted a full study, which showed there had only been three accidents on that stretch of roadway — two caused by wildlife and one caused by a person turning into a private driveway.
In an email provided by Atkins to the council, Tina Shockley, the legislative liaison for DelDOT, stated that a speed survey had been conducted on that section of Route 24 in June 2011.
“This study had the purpose of determining whether the speed limits on Millsboro Highway and Godwin School Road are reasonable and practical. In order to determine this, the Traffic Section performed field observations, collected radar counts and reviewed the location. In addition, crash reports for the last three years were examined as a part of the reevaluation of the speed limits near the Plantation Lakes development,” she said.
“Lowering the speed limit on this section of roadway when drivers are currently driving it at 51 mph could potentially create an unsafe driving condition, where vehicles traveling in this area do not anticipate vehicles traveling at the lowered speed limit of 35 mph.”
“They claim that sometimes lowering the speed limit is actually more unsafe. I don’t know if I buy that or not,” said Atkins, adding that there is no opposition from Hocker or himself when it comes to lowering the speed limit.
Shockley stated that the Traffic Section recommends that no action be taken in changing the speed limit.
“It’s proactive, versus reactive,” said Dickerson. “It seems what DelDOT is saying is, you need an accident to get them to change it. That’s what I’m hearing. So when the first child gets killed up there, I guess we’ll change it. That’s the only thing that gets me bothered by this thing.”
Town Solicitor Mary Schrider-Fox said that, because Route 24 is a State-maintained road, the Town does not have the authority to lower the speed limit without DelDOT approval.
Atkins said that he and Hocker have asked DelDOT to reevaluate the road.
“Maybe meet with them onsite to persuade them,” he said. “We’re trying and will continue to try. I’ve probably only been successful in lowering the speed limit twice… It’s tough to do. It’s easier to get a couple million dollars for a project than to lower the speed limit.”
Mayor Robert Bryan said that, while that Town cannot lower the speed limit, they can request that the Millsboro Police Department monitor the area more closely.
Atkins said he would try to set up a meeting with DelDOT officials, himself, Hocker and Town officials.