County DelDOT MOU approval

Sussex County officials sign off on the revision of the County's memorandum-of-understanding with DelDOT over land-use coordination on Sept. 22.

The Sussex County, on Tuesday, Oct. 27, approved the Henlopen Transportation Improvement District (TID), a first-of-its-kind plan for the county that is designed to tie new development to infrastructure investment and enhance overall mobility in the region.

The council, at its regular weekly meeting Tuesday, unanimously adopted a more-than-two-year effort to establish a dedicated TID in eastern Sussex, which has seen increasing traffic counts in the past two decades, spawned by an influx of new year-round residents and seasonal visitors. It is the first TID in Sussex County, and becomes the fourth such district in the state.

A TID is a defined geographic area where land use and transportation needs are planned in detail in advance. Instead of focusing solely on the area surrounding proposed development for infrastructure needs, officials said, the TID allows for a comprehensive approach about how development will affect traffic in the wider area in the future.

A determined fee for development contributions to the infrastructure ensures road work happens as development happens and equitably distributes the cost of improvements, they said. Three TIDs are already utilized by DelDOT, all in southern New Castle County, with others under development in Kent County.

“We know that this has been a lengthy process and DelDOT has invested nearly $1 million in its own resources into this proposal because we strongly believe it will provide a blueprint for development and infrastructure improvements for at least the next 25 years,” DelDOT Secretary of Transportation Jennifer Cohan said. “We are also hopeful that as the Henlopen TID succeeds in its purpose, additional areas in Sussex will be considered for TIDs.”

Under the Henlopen TID proposal, the special district would include a roughly 24-square-mile area, largely from the area of Route 9 near the Five Points intersection and along Route 1 to the Route 24 corridor down to Herring Creek, including 66 miles of roadway and 62 intersections.

In the zone, fees attached to new residential and commercial construction would be collected by the County through the permitting process and released to DelDOT as road projects are needed. Developers would know the costs upfront and, in turn, would not be subject to, in most cases, performing costly, time-consuming traffic impact studies (TIS) for projects, as DelDOT will have in hand existing traffic data, models and comprehensive overview of the district, officials said.

Planners project 12 new traffic signals, 13 roundabouts and 15 intersections with turn lanes, and 4 miles of new road connections — all totaling nearly $284 million — will be necessary within the TID to keep pace with current and future development. Dedicated TID funding would cover up to 25 percent of that cost.

In the end, officials said, the Henlopen TID will represent a win-win for the public and the development community, allowing for a more equitable share in the cost to make road improvements — rather than being borne entirely by state taxpayers — while potentially saving developers time and money as they advance their projects.

Sussex County officials said the adoption of the Henlopen TID represents yet another significant corner being turned in the relationship between the County and State when it comes to land use and transportation planning. Just last month, the County approved an updated memorandum of understanding (MOU) with DelDOT to improve coordination, broaden information sharing, and better define roles in the land-use process.

“When it comes to development decisions and road planning, what the County does, what DelDOT does, it’s all part of the same equation,” County Council President Michael H. Vincent said. “We have to work together, for our constituents, to come up with the best solutions to the challenges before us that so our community thrives, and so our residents can enjoy the highest quality of life. I think the Henlopen TID is a tremendous step forward to keeping our transportation network safe and free-flowing, and it’s one our residents and visitors, I’m sure, will appreciate down the road and in the years ahead.”

For more information on the Henlopen TID, visit https://sussexcountyde.gov/sussex-county-deldot-initiatives; to learn about TIDs in general, visit https://deldot.gov/Programs/transportation-improvement-districts/index.shtml.