Millsboro connector road top priority in DelDOT U.S. 113 corridor improvement plan

 

GEORGETOWN – Years in the making, a U.S. 113 Corridor Improvement Plan in Sussex County is on the table and set to move forward.

Years down the road, State Rep. Ruth Briggs hopes to experience it behind the wheel.

“I hope I am able to drive it when it is all complete. I am very excited about this,” said Rep. Briggs King, R-Georgetown.

County and state elected officials joined Governor John Carney and Delaware Department of Transportation representatives Nov. 7 for the announcement of the U.S. 113 Corridor Improvement Plan at DelDOT’s South District Meeting Room in Georgetown.

In total, the corridor improvement plan is projected to cost $544 million encompassing 17 projects. Fourteen projects include grade-separated intersections with some overpasses designed to eliminate intersection lights and enhance traffic flow and mobility as well as safety. Federal funding is expected to cover approximately 80 percent of the cost.

From start to finish, the entire project is projected timetable will be spaced out over two decades. Projects encompass intersections from Ellendale south to north Millsboro. Prioritized projects and costs will be spread out over a 20-year period, according to DelDOT’s Rob McCleary, chief engineer of the project.

Gov. Carney noted this project is “long in the making and will be longer in construction to again advance and cultivate the quality of life around these wonderful towns in this part of our state. What drives economic development is quality of life. And traffic can have a negative impact on quality of life.”

All projects are in design. DelDOT is working to begin delivering them over the next few years. “Obviously, we can’t deliver it all at once,” said Mr. McCleary. “But we can bite it off in chunks.”

Topping DelDOT’s priority list: 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.

“That is a segment of highway that the public has told us strongly that we can’t deliver fast enough,” said Mr. McCleary. “That one is our top priority followed by (Del) 18/404.”

This Millsboro connector bypass replaced DelDOT’s initial Blue Alternative Route proposal that entailed a 16-mile eastern bypass of Millsboro, Dagsboro and Frankford tying into U.S. 113 north of Selbyville. The Blue Route, which was projected to cost more than $800 million, triggered immense opposition and backlash from residents and downstate elected officials.

“I remember very plainly being in Gov. Markell’s office when you proposed the Blue Route,” said State Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View. “It is completely different than what the residents had said. This is something we asked them to go back and do. This is what we want. We need to get behind this and we need to see that it is going happen because we need it yesterday not tomorrow. Hopefully, all Sussex County legislators will get behind this. This is what we asked for. I think they did a great job.”

“This is what we wanted down here,” said State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown. “It is a testament that DelDOT actually listened to the public concerns, taking the feedback from those workshops all of those years ago and developing a plan that really addressed all of the needs. Now that we have this on paper our towns as well can start making plans around that, as opposed to waiting.”

The SR 24 connector and grade separation, initially unveiled by DelDOT in a February 2017 update on the U.S. 113 Millsboro North/South Study: Millsboro South-Area, carries a projected cost of $85 million, plus $32 million for right-of-way acquisition.

Other high-priority projects currently under design: grade separations in Georgetown at U.S. 113/Del. 404 and Del. 18 and U.S. 113/U.S. 9 and U.S. 113/Del. 16 in Ellendale. DelDOT will be scheduling public hearings.

Projects will undoubtedly impact traffic, residents and land-owners through right of way acquisition. There were references to no pain, no gain

“There is going to be some short-term pain for a long-term gain. This is a long-term preservation plan,” said DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan. “We’re really looking forward to this and delivering this.”

Rep. Briggs echoed that, noting sometimes the net gain is well worth the pain.

State Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, supports the project but waved a caution flag.

“I do fully support this.  But I do know that when the plans become fully known there will be some people who are hurt, or who will feel they are going to be hurt,” he said. “I would urge everyone to understand that at some point we are going to hit the true crisis. We have to plan for long range and I think this does that job. Having said that I would suggest that myself and all of my fellow legislators will keep watch over this to make sure that the needs of the local citizens who live here take at least equal and hopefully precedence over just moving tourists from one place to another. That is probably the single biggest concern that I have heard.”

“We continually hear challenges where some folks will say, ‘Well, this is for tourist traffic.’ It is not,” Rep. Briggs said. “I have been watching since we’ve been here the constant stream of traffic on U.S. 113. It’s commercial. It’s our industry and it is our people that need to move around, too. We’re not building for today. We are building for the future and we are already behind.”

“Now we’ve got something on paper that we can live with,” said State Rep. Dave Wilson, R-Lincoln. “Tourism is tourism but at the same time we have to find a way to move traffic through our state and keep the economy moving.”

Sussex County Council president Michael Vincent, R-Seaford, said county officials do hear a great deal about “traffic, traffic … and traffic.”

“This certainly will help that. I think it is important that everybody realizes that there is going to be pain with this,” said Mr. Vincent. “But I think it is important really that DelDOT and the county work closely together and support each other … and get on the same path. I think the last couple of years we’ve had a very good relationship with the secretary (Cohan) and her staff.”

“It’s great to see a plan in place,” said State Rep. Ron Gray, R-Selbyville. “Let’s go do it.”

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

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