Route 26 detours project to start next fall


At a town council work session on Tuesday, Oct. 28, Ocean View’s town council and residents heard an update from Tom Banez, project manager for the state’s Route 26 Improvement Project.

The project encompasses 4 miles of Route 26, from the Assawoman Canal in Ocean View to 400 feet west of St George’s Church in Clarksville, and now has an expected start date of fall 2011, after several delays from the original timeline of a 2008 start – thanks, at least in part, to shortfalls in the state’s transportation budget.

Banez reported that the Route 26 Detour Routes project still has to be completed before the main Route 26 project can begin, to allow for adequate detour routes during the main Route 26 project.

On the detours project, he said, DelDOT is “far along,” with the right-of-way acquisition process and design nearly completed. The construction on the detours project is now set to begin in the fall of 2009 with utility relocation and clearing and grubbing. Actual road construction for the detours is expected to start in the spring of 2010.

The detours project involves 5 miles of four separate roadways: Burbage Road from Route 17 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.

Construction of the improved detour routes is expected to be completed around the summer of 2011 and is fully funded.

Banex said that, after those roads are completed, the Route 26 project – pending funding approval – will start, with the estimated goal for utility location to begin in the fall of 2011. The project will move from east to west, so Ocean View will be the first town affected.

The Route 26 improvement project will be done in four phases and will take about four years to complete, Banez said.

The first phase will be from Assawoman Canal through Woodland Avenue; the second from Woodland toward Windmill; the third from Windmill to Route 17; and the fourth from Route 17 to the Clarksville intersection near St. George’s Church.

During construction, two bridges will also be replaced. Banez said that, during that phase of construction – most likely in the winter of 2013 – Route 26 will be closed to through-traffic.

“We are in the semi-final stages of that design, or about 70 percent,” said Banez. He said DelDOT has received funding for right-of-way acquisition on the Route 26 Mainline project, and their real estate section is currently working on purchasing 275 parcels that will be affected by the construction – a process Banez said will take about two and a half years. Funding for the construction phase is still pending.

“Our main priority is to preserve the corridor on Route 26,” said Banez. “We all know DelDOT is having financial difficulties, but, hopefully, that money will come and we will be able to jump right in.”

Mayor Gordon Wood asked Banez if the entrance to Savannah’s Landing could be looked at sooner than the existing timeline for the Route 26 project. He asked if something “not inconsistent” with existing plan for the final project could be discussed. “What can we do now?” he asked.

Banez said that DelDOT could still look into additional paving or reconfigure strips of the project but that once they got into utility poles and easements on property, it would become “a whole new ballgame.”

Councilman Perry Mitchell asked if the traffic lights at West and Central avenues could be changed to a blinking pattern in the off-season. Banez said he could certainly bring it to the attention of DelDOT’s traffic section.

Mitchell then asked for another explanation of the detour routes project.

“We will improve roadway south of Route 26 so traffic will have legitimate routes around the construction,” answered Banez.

Banez also tried to clear up any confusion regarding just how the roadway improvements of both projects would affect drivers.

“They are just alternate routes,” he said of the roads included in the detours project. “You can certainly choose to drive around the construction,” he emphasized, adding, “We are not going to close Route 26 for four years.”

He also assured residents that construction teams are well aware and kept abreast of impending storms. He said getting contractors and workers out of the way in the case of an evacuation would not be an issue.

Police Chief Ken McLaughlin asked about pedestrian walkways and crosswalks that are to be added during the improvements. Banez said all signalized intersections would get them. The chief also asked about the business community and how they would be affected. He asked if there could be special meetings that would include them in the process.

“We will have a construction working group with representatives from all up and down Route 26 and will keep the lines of communication open,” promised Banez.

Banez also noted that Route 26 will have sidewalks and bike paths when improvements to it are completed. There will be a 5-foot shoulder on the detour routes, to allow for bike paths, but those roads will not have sidewalks constructed. The finished Route 26 will have three vehicular travel lanes, with the center lane being a left-turn lane.

At the end of his presentation, Banez was asked by resident Mike Rogers about the appropriateness of using West Avenue as a route for dump trucks and delivery trucks to travel through the town. Rogers is one of many residents who have been vocal in their opposition to the town’s proposed new public works building. Its proposed location might create a need for such deliveries to go along West Avenue.

“While you are here, talking about safety and pedestrians, I just wanted to ask what you thought about that — if you thought it was appropriate,” Rogers said.

“If you are talking about delivery trucks, maybe. But tractor trailers, obviously not… But I know it’s a loaded question,” admitted Banez, before finally answering, “It probably isn’t.”

According to DelDOT, the need for improvements to Route 26 (Atlantic Avenue) stems from record growth, which has resulted in traffic congestion, safety concerns and operational issues. The proposed improvements are the result of a DelDOT planning study conducted from 1999 to 2001, recommendations received from the public at numerous public workshops and advisory committee meetings.

Intermediate improvements need to be made to the detour roads in order to accommodate traffic that will be using those roads as alternate routes during the SR26/Atlantic Avenue Mainline Project.

Wood said a schedule for the projects will be uploaded onto the town’s Web site for the public’s reference. In the meantime, schedules and more information are available on DelDOT’s Web site at http://www.deldot.gov/information/projects.