On Monday, June 28, the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) held an informational public workshop on the Route 26 Detour Routes Project. DelDOT officials were on hand to answer questions and to explain the process of both the detour project and subsequent mainline project.
The Route 26 Mainline Project will widen 4 miles of Route 26, from Saint George’s Church in Clarksville to the Assawoman Canal in Ocean View. It will provide Route 26 with two 11-foot travel lanes, as well as a 5-foot shoulder, right-turn lanes at selected intersections and a shared 12-foot center left-turn lane.
The detour routes project is designed to improve back roads around Route 26, so that when the mainline project’s construction begins, traffic will be able to take alternate routes and travel safely.
DelDOT on Monday displayed posters showing in detail the phases of the improvement project from start to finish. The construction contract was awarded to George & Lynch of Dover, Del. Construction is anticipated to begin July 6 and continue year-round — even in the summer months.
The detour project is expected to take two years to complete, as sections of each roadway will be improved one at a time, with full closures planned.
The detour routes to be improved, in order of construction, are: Burbage Road from west of Roxana Road to Windmill Road; Windmill Road from Route 26 to Central Avenue; Central Avenue from Windmill Road to Beaver Dam Road; and Beaver Dam Road from Central Avenue to Muddy Neck Road.
DelDOT officials noted that the purpose of the project is to “improve safety, reduce congestion, delineate existing entrances and improve overall road conditions.” Construction will entail full road closures with detours denoted by signage. The closures will be announced to local media outlets, on changeable message signs and on the DelDOT Web site at least two weeks prior to the closures.
Tom Banez, the project manager for the Route 26 detour route and mainline improvement projects, has been working on Route 26 improvements since 1995.
“The project we’re showing here tonight — the detour routes — it’s linked to the mainline. It’s a project for a project,” explained Banez. “In order to build the improvements that we want to put out on Route 26, we actually have to improve these other roads first, because they are mostly tar-and-chip over sand. They were really, really in bad condition until the county came in to do some sewer work and put in some temporary improvements.”
Continued Banez, “So we’re going to build this detour route so that when we build Route 26 itself, all the traffic that doesn’t want to be in construction has somewhere else to go. It will be a viable alternate route while we’re building Route 26.”
Banez said he expected that construction throughout the summer months for the projected two years will not be much of a problem, as most visitors use the Route 26 corridor. He was optimistic that the detour improvements will help squelch any traffic impact the mainline project might have on traffic.
“While we’re in construction for the mainline, we’re going to have these roads, which we’re going to be working on for the next two years, signed as the alternate route around the construction. So your seasonal traffic that doesn’t really know the ins and outs as well as the local people do, they’ll have that sign route to use and they’ll be able to cruise right around the construction,” he explained. “The locals know all the roads themselves, so they’ll be able to figure it out pretty well themselves.”
Ocean View residents Frank and Colleen Twardzik, who attended the workshop, were pleased with the project.
“We’re glad that it’s actually coming to fruition now, that it’s actually going to be completed now. We realize that it’s going to be a slow process, but from what I see I’m pleased with it. It seems like DelDOT has planned for all the contingencies as far as detours — I’m just excited to get it done,” said Frank Twardzik.
“We are excited,” Colleen Twardzik added.
According to Banez, DelDOT has mostly received a positive response to the project, with little opposition.
“It’s been fairly overwhelmingly positive. Of course, there are some folks that don’t want to see things change, you know. That happens everywhere. But for the most part, predominantly, people realize this needed to happen a long time ago and they want to know, ‘how fast you can get it done,’” he said.
As for the mainline project itself, Banez sid DelDOT hopes to begin construction in the fall of 2012.
“The right-of-way acquisition for the mainline project is 100 percent funded, $44 million. That’s 275 parcels that we’re buying some land from,” Banez explained. “Some of them are total acquisitions. Most of them are strip acquisitions. So that is 100 percent funded for. That started in 2009 and should be done by spring 2012, so just about three years to buy all the property that we need.”
DelDOT plans to buy the land needed for the mainline project, and if the funding is there, to then begin construction. If sufficient funding is not available after right-of-way acquisition is complete, DelDOT will preserve the corridor until construction is fiscally viable.
“The biggest thing is for folks down here to support the projects. We’ve had numerous delays over the years, primarily due to funding issues, which is something that is difficult to control. DelDOT appreciates everyone’s patience, and we’re working as hard as we can to get it done as quickly as we can,” added Banez.
For more information on the project or workshop, contact DelDOT Public Relations at (800) 652-5600 or (302) 760-2080 or visit www.deldot.gov. To receive traffic alerts via DelDOT, visit deldot.gov/mydeldot.ejs.