County council reviews DelDot's plan

County Administrator Dave Baker brought to the Sussex County Council’s attention at their Aug. 21 meeting the Delaware Department of Transportation’s five-year capital improvement transportation plan and a planned Sept. 6 meeting regarding the final draft of that plan. The meeting, which is open to the public, is set for 6 to 9 p.m. at Delaware Technical and Community College’s Georgetown campus.

The public, as well as county and municipal leaders, is being encouraged to participate in the development of the state’s future transportation program by attending the two public meetings to be held in September, in Georgetown and in Dover. During the meetings, citizens and transportation officials will review the final Capital Transportation Program (CTP) for the 2008-2013 fiscal years, and DelDOT will accept comment.

Baker said on Tuesday that transportation is particularly important to Sussex County, calling it “integral to our economy.” He said the final draft of the five-year plan was “consistent with the county land-use plan.”

Recommended improvements under the plan would include improvements to alternate routes for Routes 24 and 26, which Baker labeled as particularly important for evacuation purposes and east-west traffic flow. He also mentioned proposed improvements to Burbage Road as an alternative for Route 26, with recommendations for construction of shoulders and turn lanes, and repaving, and noted that, with the planned revamp of Route 26, outlying roads will used more heavily.

Baker’s report also noted planned improvements to area bridges, with the Indian River Inlet Bridge deemed a “critical emergency transportation services link.” The new bridge, he said, will be 1,000 feet tall, with its piers located out of the water, where current piers have been undermined. Without the bridge, he added, transport of patients will take 45 minutes of additional time between Bethany Beach and Beebe Medical Center in Lewes.

Also on the list of recommended improvements are a number of local roads that serve as alternate routes for major thoroughfares. There, the recommendations are for paving, shoulders and turn lanes, and the marking of bike and pedestrian lanes. Baker noted that police had reported difficulty particularly on Double Bridges Road, where the narrow shoulders cause problems with officers pulling over drivers, as well as traffic safety concerns. Another example he mentioned was Piney Neck Road in Dagsboro.

Baker mentioned tentative plans for a north-south highway, noting the need for a limited access highway in the county, though he allowed that it will be many years before actually the project sees construction begin. He said that with work to dualize Maryland Routes 404 and 113, a north-south highway would help alleviate traffic on Delaware Route 113 and Route 1.

On that subject, Councilman George Cole (R-4th) asked for an update on Delaware’s plans for Route 404 where it meets the Maryland highway. Maryland officials recently opened the new, wider bridge near the states’ border, but Cole said he felt dualizing Route 404 in Delaware might be an even higher priority than a north-south highway.

“It would be an easy thing to do,” he said of improving the major east-west route.

Also mentioned Tuesday was Fred Hudson Road, where flooding has been an ongoing problem. Baker called it a major thoroughfare for Cedar Neck residents, as well as a bypass around Bethany Beach.

Baker also talked about work to develop better transportation alternatives in Sussex County, noting a greater need for options beyond cars on roadways, such as expanded bus service, additional park-and-ride facilities and maybe even light rail service. He said such options would help employees who are commuting or who have non-standard work hours.

Delays in previously planned improvements also got some of Baker’s attention on Aug. 21 – most notably the delays to the planned revamp of Route 26, which he labeled as a “high priority.” Baker said county engineers were coordinating with DelDOT so that planned sewer work does not create additional delays for residents. “Delays by DelDOT on that project would mean additional delays for the sewer project at Millville,” he noted.

“We are the fastest growing county in the state,” Baker concluded, “and tourism creates additional demands on the transportation system. We are asking that the state attempt to find additional revenues for roadway improvements in Sussex County.”

County officials have until the Sept. 6 meeting in Georgetown to complete their comments for the state agency. Members of the public can give their input directly to DelDOT prior to the meeting or that night.

DelDOT will hold the first public participation meeting on the Delaware Capital Transportation Program on Wednesday, Sept. 5, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Delaware Technical and Community College’s Terry Campus, 100 Campus Drive in Dover, and the second on Thursday, Sept. 6, from 6 to 9 p.m., at Delaware Technical and Community College’s Owens Campus, Arts & Science Center, Owens Campus Theater, in Georgetown. The public is being encouraged to attend and provide input on the plan.