Solving Millsboro’s traffic bottleneck: DelDOT hoping ‘yellow’ gets green light

US 113-24 michelle truitt todd oliver

Michelle Truitt, Millsboro’s vice mayor, and Todd Oliver of Whitman, Requardt & Associates LLP discuss design schemes for DelDOT’s proposed options to address traffic congestion in the Millsboro area.

MILLSBORO – Blue has given way to yellow in Delaware Department of Transportation’s scaled-down proposal to enhance traffic flow in Millsboro.

Wednesday, the public got its chance to eye DelDOT’s pitch: widening of U.S. 113 to three lanes north/south through Millsboro and a 2.7-mile bypass connector linking Del. 20/U.S. 113 and Del. 24 that would funnel traffic around Millsboro north of the town.

“I really like connector piece from 113 to 24,” said Millsboro vice-mayor Michelle Truitt. “In conjunction with the widening of the 113 travel lanes I think that would help with the east/west traffic going across from 24 because that is a huge issue. I think both of those together look like they help.”

Coined the “modified yellow” alternative, the latest proposal differs slightly from the one unveiled in April.

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Traffic bottlenecks are common on Del. 24 at the intersection with U.S. 113.

“We think we have a solution that helps with capacity north/south with a third lane on 113 in Millsboro. We think we can do most of the widening toward the median,” said Bryan Behrens, DelDOT project manager. “Then with our 24 connector for 113 to 24 we think we can solve one of the worst bottlenecks in Sussex County and reduce some of the congestion in Millsboro.”

Initial projected cost is a fraction of the $800 million “blue alternative” eastern bypass of Millsboro that DelDOT bagged two years ago following immense public opposition. The limited access eastern bypass would have encompassed Millsboro, Dagsboro and Frankford, tying into U.S. 113 north of Selbyville.

“The old blue alternative was over $800 million, 15 miles long,” said Mr. Behrens. “The options we are showing now are we think under $100 million to include the widening on 113 and the connector road, which itself is only 2.7 miles. They wanted us to stay on alignment, which means on U.S. 113 where it is today but also find a solution for downtown Millsboro.”

As planned, the bypass connector would tie in at Del. 20/U.S. 113 north of Betts Pond, cross Norfolk/Southern tracks and Millsboro Pond and tie into Del. 24 just after Hollyville Road. At Del. 20/U.S. 113, it would be a grade separated intersection with overpasses.

“We think something like this will attract the type of traffic to take that congestion away and get it around Millsboro,” said Mr. Behrens.

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Michael Simmons, right, DelDOT’s Assistant Director, goes over proposed improvements for U.S. 113 and a bypass connector road to enhance traffic flow in and around Millsboro. Looking on is Sussex County Councilman Rob Arlett.

“We’re still trying to accomplish our original goal which is to alleviate the north/south traffic. And what we heard in 2013 is ‘we don’t want a limited access highway like Rt. 1 up in Kent County; just add a third lane to 113.’ We heard that loud and clear,” said DelDOT Assistant Director Michael Simmons. “That is what we are proposing now. We can do that whenever we need to, because we’ve got a wide median there. That property is not going anywhere. Housing development is not going to pop up in that median. So we can kind of do that whenever we need to. And at the same time we can fix intersections, like the intersection at 24 which is a problem. So we’ve got some time to work those into our program.”

Even if the modified yellow proposal is a “go,” it could be many years – possibly 10 – before the entire project is finished, Mr. Behrens said.

During summer months, traffic at the U.S. 113/Del. 24 intersection is frequently backed up north/south and east/west. Congestion problems extend beyond tourist season.

“It is really bad in the morning from 7 to 9-ish and then from 4 to 6 at the end of the day,” said Ms. Truitt. “It is not just a seasonal problem anymore.”

“That is a common thing we hear: downtown Millsboro is just backed up. It’s a major bottleneck,” said Mr. Behrens. “The congestion and everything that happens at 24/113 today we think will be alleviated by the bypass around Millsboro.”

“The idea is to get as much traffic as possible away from that intersection,” Mr. Simmons said.

“It’s a lot smaller project than we were originally proposing with a lot less impact. Some folks will be impacted, but not as many as with the blue alternative,” Mr. Simmons said. “There are still going to be some people that aren’t going to like it, I’m sure. But we’re hoping that most people will say, ‘Thank you for listening.’”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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