By Terry Rogers
On Thursday, August 28 Senator Tom Carper visited the intersection of Route 1 and Tenth Street Street to view the traffic issues residents and visitors face in the areas of Route 1 including New Wharf Road. Senator Carper, who is the Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee in Transportation and Infrastructure, also visited the Christina River Bridge project in New Castle County, as well as the Millville Route 26 project.
“Today, I saw first-hand the economic opportunities and the safety improvements that could be made but are not due to funding uncertainty,” Senator Carper said to city leaders, education professionals and state legislators. “I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol, as well as a broad coalition of businesses, labor, truckers, motorists, transit riders and electric officials to ensure we do what we were sent to Congress to do – govern and lead by example.”
At issue are long-term transportation bills which were approved by the Senate only through the end of May 2015. Without definite funding, many local and state governments are unsure they can upgrade infrastructure and create safer highways.
“We have been telling the people of Woods Haven that we would help them with this problem since the 1970s,” said State Represenative Harvey Kenton. “Here it is 2014 and we still have not done what we promised. I know funding is a key issue, but if we work with the city, the state and the Senator at the federal level, hopefully we can bring this project to fruition.”
State Senator Gary Simpson echoed the sentiments of Representative Kenton, stating that an overpass at the intersection of Route 1 and New Wharf Road has been needed by Milford residents for a long time. He said that creating a grade separated intersection in the location would make the highway safer not only for visitors passing through on the way to the beach, but especially for high school students who must use the intersection.
“We just completed the intersection at Route 30 and Route 1, which opened about three weeks ago,” Senator Simpson said. “I understand that over the past ten years, that intersection cost five lives. We don’t want to wait until this intersection claims five people before we do something. One young person has already lost their life here. We have to make this happen.”
Milford High School Principal, David Carter, said that the biggest issue was safety, explaining that one high school student died as she attempted to cross Route 1.
“You also must remember that many of our students are just learning to drive,” Dr. Carter said. “A lot of these kids have jobs at the outlets and must enter Route 1 in order to get to work. I would hate for one of my students to misjudge the speed of another car and have an accident. I truly think the changes would be a positive move and a positive push.”
Mike Simmons, the Assistant Director of Project Development for DelDOT, said that the proposed project is part of a plan that would create safer crossings from Dover to Milton. DelDOT has completed three overpasses over the past few years. Jim Satterfield. DelDOT Regional Engineer explained that the plan was to take an at-grade intersection, separate the grade and remove conflicts.
“Northeast Front and Northeast Tenth Streets are a little unique as there are already significant development on the east side of Route 1,” Mr. Satterfield said. “Because we would be able to use the service road built for Grotto’s and Royal Farms, it would be easier to make the necessary changes. We also intend to include bike and foot traffic lanes on the bridge to increase mobility for pedestrians and the motoring public.”
Milford’s Mayor Bryan Shupe said that the intersection being discussed has been a major problem for many years. He said that residents of Woods Haven and other areas of the city have been asking for an overpass for quite some time.
“It pleases me that Senator Carper and his office have come to look at the issue,” Mayor Shupe said. “There are a lot of students coming into the facility year round with sports and other activities. The district is also looking toward a referendum in the fall to build a new high school, something the City supports. The land they are looking at is right across the street on the McColley farm and that will create even more traffic problems in the area.”
According to Mr. Satterfield, the project was originally scheduled to be completed in 2016, but funding delays have pushed the project back to 2018. The last round of funding has delayed the ability of DELDOT to purchase right-of-ways necessary for the project, which could mean the overpass would be completed after 2018.
“There is a key word that keeps coming up and that is safety,” Senator Carper said. “We are all about saving lives and we are anxious that the people who live across the street can safely come to Milford. We want to be sure students remain safe, so we need to come up with a way to make this happen.”