More than 100 people came to learn more about the State Route 26 Mainline construction project at a public hearing hosted by the Delaware Department of Transportation on Oct. 15.
DelDOT is preparing a nearly-three-year project to widen Route 26 from the Assawoman Canal in Ocean View to St. George’s Church in Clarksville. A new shared center turn lane and 5-foot bike shoulders are designed to alleviate traffic congestion throughout the 4.14-mile-long project area.
The Oct. 15 public hearing was the last major presentation on the project ahead of construction expected to begin in December, complete with maps and lectures. But DelDOT will soon begin hosting monthly public meetings to keep people informed throughout the duration of construction.
“It won’t be painless. The main thing is to keep informed,” said Jill Frey of Century Engineering, the project designers.
Official roadwork is expected to begin in December. The contract for the work has not been formally awarded, but George & Lynch was the apparent low bidder, explained Tom Banez, DelDOT project manager.
All four bids received were lower than the original $29.6 million estimate. Based in Dover, George & Lynch also built the Route 26 Detour Routes Project, revamping back roads that will serve as alternate routes during the duration of the project, though Route 26 will generally have at least one lane open for traffic.
Most people attending the hearing had very individual concerns, reviewing maps and asking, “‘When are they going to be in front of my house?’” explained Banez.
While night work is being permitted and even encouraged for the Route 26 project, to speed up the timetable, DelDOT cannot force the contractor to do it.
Work is scheduled to finish by the summer of 2016, but that timetable is entirely weather-dependent and will change “if we have blizzards every winter and hurricanes every summer,” Frey said.
To push work forward, construction will occur on multiple sections of the road simultaneously, but always with at least a mile between work zones. At any one time, a variety of work may be happening, including utility relocation (which is nearly complete) and sewer work (which will be added from Denton Mills to Clarksville).
Roadwork will begin simultaneously at the curve in Clarksville and for realignment of Cedar Drive.
“By sending the roadway contractor to those areas first, it allows the force main relocation work to occur in Ocean View,” said Banez. “That has to happen before we can do any other work in Ocean View.”
With only two lanes serving as the main east-west link in a major resort community, residents and business owners were concerned about traffic flow.
In summer (May 15 to Sept. 30), no lane closures are allowed from 6 a.m. Fridays to 7 p.m. Mondays. Some lane shifts will be permitted from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday.
“The contractor is allowed to work the entire time. They just cannot have any impact on traffic,” said Frey of the summer construction guidelines.
In the off-season (Oct. 1 to May 14), lane closures are allowed daily, except between 6 and 9 a.m.
Route 26 will only ever close completely, in two locations, for bridge replacements near Lord Baltimore Elementary School and near Millville Town Hall. From January to March of 2015, drivers will need to use a detour to get around those closures.
Pedestrian and bicycle traffic will be allowed throughout. Road signs from Milford to Ocean City, Md., will inform drivers that road work is ahead, that alternate routes are available and that businesses are open.
People are being encouraged to ask questions or share their concerns during construction.
“If people have problems, don’t stand at your front door and look out there. … Pick up the phone and call,” said Sam Bostik, resident engineer for AECOM, which will serve as the project inspection team. “We have people for that purpose. … There are no dumb questions.”
Carol Gordon of Millville attended the hearing to ask about drainage. She said paving done a few years ago raised Route 26 so that more water flowed onto her property.
“We’re like an island. We can’t get out of our house,” said Gordon of wet periods, noting that she had even installed additional drainage there. “I’m really concerned about the water.”
Bill Conway of Century Engineering explained that grates will be installed at key locations, so rainwater should flow off the road without flooding neighboring properties.
Project updates will be available from a variety of sources, from newspapers to DelDOT’s 1320-AM radio station. People can register for email updates or download a smartphone application at www.SR26.deldot.gov. Or, they can contact DelDOT Public Relations at 1-800-652-5600, (302) 760-2080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A semi-permanent construction office will open on Route 26 when construction begins.