Plans for the new $85 million bypass designed to relieve traffic jams in downtown Millsboro are on track and have not been delayed by closings or restrictions due to the coronavirus.
Construction on the bypass, which will take traffic from Route 113 north, around Millsboro to Route 24, is still scheduled to start in 2023, Mark Whiteside, project engineer for the Delaware Department of Transportation Project Development South, told the Coastal Point.
“The alignment hasn’t changed. It’s the same as it has been,” he said, adding that details are online at https://deldot.gov/projects/index.shtml?dc=details&projectNumber=T201912701.
“The coronavirus didn’t delay it at all. The DelDOT design team has kept moving forward since the virus. The final plans should be approved by the end of summer. That’s when we will begin the right-of-way acquisition phase,” he said.
DelDOT will buy property from owners to make space for the bypass.
The new connector road will give trucks, including tractor-trailers, an alternate route to going through downtown Millsboro, with its quaint shops and restaurants.
“The only way to get on Route 24 now is through Millsboro. We want to lighten congestion, especially during peak hours. One thing really causing congestion is trucks. The quality of traffic flow is very poor in that area. We are building this for safety and to alleviate that congestion. We hope the trucks will use it,” Whiteside told the Coastal Point last July.
The two-lane bypass will have one artery for traffic traveling in each direction, extend for 2.5 miles, and have a 45-mph speed limit.
It will feature ramps and five bridges that engineers promise will be aesthetically pleasing, rising over the Norfolk Southern Railroad line, Millsboro Pond, Gravel Hill Road and areas of water or vegetation.
Known as a cloverleaf, the overpass will have two loops, one in the northeast quadrant and one in southwest quadrant.
“Construction of this bypass won’t affect existing traffic as much as you think, because of the alignment. We are designing a brand new road with no traffic on that road,” Whiteside said.
Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon Hudson this week said town leaders are “hopeful that the North Millsboro Bypass will pull a lot of traffic off Route 24.”
“Hopefully, it will take some traffic away from downtown Millsboro so some restaurants can have more outdoor seating. One question still in the air is can we have a designated truck route?
“There might be federal restrictions that prevent truck routes from being put into place when you’re close to a U.S. highway like 113, so there have been mixed messages in that regard, but it is certainly something the Town would love to see — a designated truck route to allow more passenger cars and trucks downtown,” Hudson said.
Construction will be funded by the federal government and State of Delaware through the 2025 fiscal year, with the majority, or 80 percent, being paid by the federal government.
The environmental document for the project was approved in 2017. DelDOT invited public involvement, hosted workshops, and accepted written and oral comments.
Although there has been discussion about upgrades in that area for years and several variations proposed, Whiteside, when discussing it last year, said this project is definite and designed to accommodate traffic anticipated for the next 20 to 30 years.
“That’s what we design models for. We have a level of service to investigate quality of traffic flow that far into the future. This bypass will be helpful. With that amount of congestion, it’s only going to get worse through the years. We want this to not only be functional but also aesthetically pleasing. We are looking at different ways to do that,” Whiteside said.
“There is $544 million worth of projects in the planning stages,” Whiteside said, adding that those include the Millsboro cloverleaf, a future traffic congestion alleviation project from Ellendale to Millsboro and eventual widening of Route 113.