Milford City Council discussed several upcoming DelDOT projects, including a request to the state agency to re-investigate the possibility of a bypass connecting Route 113 and Route 1 in order to alleviate traffic. Other projects included the Northeast Front Street TAP project, changes to the Route 113 and 14 intersections as well as an update on the Mispillion drawbridge.
“The first project is the DelDOT contract for the Northeast Front Street TAP project and the matching funds,” City Manager Mark Whitfield said. “This actually came in well under what we had budgeted which was $800,000. DelDOT has stuck to their percentage which is 20 percent which brings our total to $429,000. So, this will be a financial windfall, I guess, so I would recommend council approve the mayor signing this agreement.”
Council voted unanimously with several commenting it was always good to authorize a savings for the city. The Northeast Front Street TAP project will install pedestrian and bicycle lanes along that street as well as streetscaping and traffic signal improvements. Following that vote, Whitfield presented another DelDOT agreement that would permit the agency to make improvements to the intersection at Route 113 and Route 14. According to Whitfield, this project will be at no cost to the city, but the municipality had to agree to the changes. This was also approved unanimously.
“This is mostly for council information,” Whitfield explained. “But this has to do with the notification that DelDOT will begin working on the Mispillion drawbridge later this month and commencing sometime in December.” A detour pattern will be provided prior to the bridge closure, but will likely have motorists using Southeast Front Street to North Walnut to Northeast Front Street. Traffic may also be rerouted to Cedar Beach Road or Northeast Front Street to Silicato Parkway.
City Planner Rob Pierce presented a memo created for Mayor Archie Campbell’s signature to request that DelDOT re-engage in a study of the US 113 North-South Bypass project.
“In the early 2000s, the State of Delaware Department of Transportation engineers initiated a Route 1 North-South study to identify a limited access roadway from the Maryland State Line the Route 1 interchange just north of Milford,” Pierce said. “The purpose of the study was to identify, select and protect the limited access alignment to meet existing and future traffic demands spelled out by the Federal Highway Administration.” Pierce stated that a link was provided in the board packet, available online, to a website with information on the study conducted in 2007.
The purpose of the earlier study was to identify, select and protect the limited access alignment to meet future and existing traffic demands. The study looked at four separate geographic areas, including Milford, Ellendale, Georgetown and Millsboro. The working group from Milford met seven times between 2004 and 2007, gathering significant input from the public.
However, in 2007, Senate Bill 155 prohibited DelDOT from proceeding with the project in the Lincoln-Milford area. This was the result of significant resistance in the Lincoln area which led DelDOT to approve legislation reading that DelDOT shall be “prohibited from proceeding with the US 113 South/North Improvements Project in the Lincoln and Milford area as proposed by the Department’s Capital Transportation Program.” The bill did authorize DelDOT to continue working to achieve local consensus for an acceptable alignment corridor for the Milford/Lincoln project area. Then-Transportation Secretary Carol Ann Wicks stated that “there is no community consensus for a compromise alternative. Therefore, DelDOT will not be continuing the US 113 North/South Study in the Milford/Lincoln area.”
“However, the other geographic areas identified in the overall plan have moved forward,” Pierce said. “So, staff is recommending city council authorize the mayor to sign a letter to send to DelDOT to renew the North-South study. It Is not committing to any particular alignment or recommendation, but the congestion on the Route 113 corridor is only going to get worse and as the areas continue to develop, it’s going to be more difficult to come up with a cost-effective, reasonable alternative that benefits the community.”
Councilman Mike Boyle pointed out that a project of this magnitude would require significant road construction. Pierce explained that there had been several alternatives proposed that would help allow through traffic to avoid red lights in town and access Route 1 from Route 113, thereby reducing congestion.
“From staff’s perspective, one of our concerns is that everything is south of Milford to the Maryland line that is now being addressed,” Whitfield said. “But there is absolutely no plan from South Milford to North Milford and that’s what we are getting at. We don’t know what the plan is, but we really need to take a look at it. This also came up in my meeting with Carlisle Fire Company in their attempts at responding as during some periods it is really congested. So, looking at their ability to even get to the fire company is really tough and it’s not going to get better. It is only going to continue to get worse and with no plan on the horizon, we believe it’s worth it to council to at least reach out to DelDOT.”
Pierce explained that there had been a plan to reconfigure the highway that would eliminate some of the red lights but that the planning effort began over 20 years ago with no construction since the plan was proposed. He stated that this would all be long range planning, with nothing happening for up to 15 or 20 years as there would need to be funding, design and environmental impact studies completed.
“It seems strange that the legislature would actually pass a bill saying you’re not allowed to do this,” Councilman Boyle said. “Has there been a change of heart somewhere in the legislature or would we run into the same problem.”
Pierce stated that there could be a similar problem with the legislature, but that staff was making the recommendation for DelDOT to re-initiate the study, hoping that they could get political support for the project. Councilman Brian Baer suggested tying the request with the new business park and Pierce explained that it was possible that could be part of the discussion.
“To Mark’s point and to Rob’s point, our current traffic situation based on our current population and growth, we already know coming on is not going to get better,” Councilman Jason James said. “If we don’t at least tell them to study this and that we need action, we’re just kidding ourselves, especially if everything gets addressed north and south of us. I don’t see a downside to urging DelDOT. I think we need to do that. And Rob, it makes me take a deep breath when he says it could be 15 years or so before anything is even done. So, we need to urge them to see if they can expedite.”
Councilman Andy Fulton pointed out that this was only a study and that DelDOT would be coming up with plans that council could then review to see if it was viable for the community.
“We’re saying let them study it, let them find alternatives because traffic on 113 is getting worse and worse,” Councilman Fulton said. “You just can’t get places. I avoid the beach in the summer now completely because of the traffic. I don’t want to avoid traffic on 113 for the same reason, so I think a study is warranted and I think it’s a great idea.”
Councilman Boyle agreed, stating that it did not hurt to look into it.
“Like Rob says, it will probably be 20 years before you put a shovel in the ground at the earliest,” Councilman Boyle said. “We have the two biggest growth areas in the south and west. Now is probably a good time to take a look and make some preliminary plans while there is still time and land. If it’s the desire of the state legislature, there will be money.”
Council voted unanimously for Mayor Campbell to sign the letter and send it to DelDOT.
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