DelDOT announces projects big and small for future

Delawareans can anticipate future road projects and chime in on the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT)’s priority schedule.

The annual Capital Transportation Program (CTP) hearings came to Georgetown on Sept. 25 for the state’s six-year CTP for 2021-2026 fiscal years.

Project information was displayed by the Council on Transportation, DelDOOT and local planning agencies.

In order to invest wisely, DelDOT considers seven factors when prioritizing projects. Highest ranked are safety, effectiveness and multi-modal flexibility/access. They also consider the jobs/economic development, public impact, environmental impact and system repairs/preservation.

DelDOT also sought input on the CTP Project Prioritization, as they plant to tweak some of those numbers and replace “system preservation” with “state and local priorities.”

New this year was the announcement that the Capital Transportation Program will be updated every two years, rather than annually.

Because the CTP projects forward six years, “There was really very little change,” from year to year, said Brew Boyce, director of planning. Writing annual updates was not the most efficient use of staff time, he said. That means the public can attend CTP hearings again in September of 2021. The Delaware General Assembly made the change this spring.

Projects near and far

Project ideas come from public input and observations, distilled through a priority process (which DelDOT is currently reworking to incorporate even better data).

“Those that rank high enough get a study,” said Mike Duross, assistant director of planning.

Local paving projects for the next year include: Blueberry Road, Jones Road, Shockley Town Road and Wingate Road in Frankford; McCary Road and Rickards Road near Roxana; Camp Barnes Road near Millville; Bearhole Road, Blueberry Farm Road, Johnson Road/Dickerson Road, New Road and Smithfield Acres Road near Selbyville.

DelDOT has given U.S. Route 113 (DuPont Boulevard) plenty of attention, with at least three major initiatives. To smooth traffic flow, they’ve been planning the addition of overpasses across southern Delaware, working their way south. The new grade-separated intersections at Routes 24, 16 and 18/404 will “eliminate that bottleneck. We always design traffic for 20, 30 years down the road,” said Mark Whiteside a DelDOT project manager.

The North Millsboro bypass construction still anticipated for the 2023 fiscal year. DelDOT is designing a 2.75-mile connector bypass to connect Route 113 to Route 24 northeast of the two existing roads. That is expected to pull a lot of truck traffic from the downtown intersections.

The federal government is paying a large chunk of the $1.5 million engineering/design cost. Delaware has budgeted $15 million for right-of-way acquisition but will only have to pay 20 percent of the $85 million construction cost.

After that, Route 113 itself will be expanded to three lanes through Millsboro. Engineering will begin in the 2022 fiscal year, but construction is more than six years away.

A series of Route 24 safety improvement projects will continue at Mt. Joy Road and Bay Farm Road. Near Rehoboth Beach, DelDOT is also planning to dualize Route 24 for about 1.3 miles, from Route 1 to Beacon Middle School.

The Plantation Road/Route 18 intersection near Lewes will be reconfigured — addressing a common back road for Millsboro-area traffic headed to Lewes. DelDOT is designing an extra lane and traffic circle to help to reduce congestion near the highway, while reducing cut-through traffic in the local neighborhood, explained project manager Edwin Robles.

Fenwick Island and Dewey Beach have both requested pedestrian and ADA improvements. DelDOT has scheduled $800,000 apiece for engineering/design money, split between the 2024 and 2025 fiscal years, followed by right-of-way acquisition ($500,000 for each) in the 2026 fiscal year.

The Sept. 25 hearing also allowed people to see long-range planning for the next several decades. Those long-range elements aren’t projects, but possible future concerns to consider when designing projects.

That includes smart infrastructure that provides better data about real-time traffic conditions; the cybersecurity that must follow; alternatives to driving, including walking, biking or busing; and how to consider “disruptive technologies,” such as how Uber and Lyft could actually put more cars on the road by pulling people from public transit.

This fall, Delaware gained an additional $23 million in Federal Highway Administration funding for infrastructure projects.

“We’ve now received an additional $100 million over the past five years from FHWA’s annual redistribution process,” said Secretary of Transportation Jennifer Cohan.

“We are investing $650 million in infrastructure projects across the state this year — our largest capital program ever — and these additional dollars will help us move additional projects forward that will improve our roads and bridges,” said Gov. John Carney.

Pass the word

Mandated by the Delaware Code, the hearings are designed to ensure that the public has ample opportunity to participate in the planning process. The Council on Transportation includes citizens from each county. Sussex County also submitted its own request list and Transportation Improvement Program (TIPs) for the 2020-2023 fiscal years.

The public can always help to improve road safety and provide project input, officials noted.

Questions, comments or written material can be submitted to DelDOT Office of Community Relations; P.O. Box 778; Dover, DE 19903; or call 1-800-652-5600 (toll-free in Delaware) or (302) 760-2080; or e-mail dotpr@delaware.gov.

Regular project information is also posted online at www.deldot.gov/information/projects.

To report road problems (such as excessive queuing, damaged signs or malfunctioning traffic signals), people should call the 24-hour Traffic Management Center (TMC) hotline at (302) 659-4600 (or dial #77 on Delaware cell phones).

By Laura Walter
Staff Reporter