DelDOT's Route 1 Plans
NOTE: Sussex Beat is a log of news briefs and commentary by Kerin Magill, editor of Sussex County Online, with contributions from Sussex County Online users.
Fenwick Island residents are getting a look at what could be a new look for their "Main Street."
Fenwick's main thorofare, Route 1 (Coastal Highway), is also the major north-south route along the Delaware-Maryland coast.
The town had asked the state highway department to see what can be done to make it more pedestrian friendly and generally safer. A lack of sidewalks along much of Route 1, combined with heavy summer traffic, currently make walking from one place to another in Fenwick Island a hazardous activity.
Department of Transportation representatives brought drawings and maps to an open house at Fenwick town hall on Friday, Aug. 16, 2002, to show residents what they've come up with.
The proposed plan includes sidewalks on both sides of the highway from the Maryland line to Fenwick Island's northern border, as well as trees and other landscaping in the medians.
With pedestrian safety of paramount concern, the plan also includes "pedestrian refuges" in the medians at several key intersections, including Cannon Street, Georgetown Street and Indian Street.
Improvements will also be made at two particularly busy Route 1 intersections, Route 54 (Lighthouse Road) and Fenwick Island Road just to the south. The Route 54 and Maryland Avenue intersections with Route 1 were singled out as having "high vehicle-pedestrian conflicts," according to the renderings presented at the open house.
Another improvement in the proposal is a "turnabout" at the north end of town. Not to be confused with a "roundabout" or traffic circle, the planned turnabout would create both a visual entrance to the town and a slight curve in the road.
DelDOT Planning Supervisor Bobbi Geier referred to the turnabout as a "traffic calming device," designed to let drivers know they are leaving the relatively open highway and entering the more congested town, where the speed limit drops from 50 mph to 35 mph.
The design drawings show a large sandcastle-type sculpture or a lighthouse theme in the middle of the turnabout. Townspeople seemed to prefer the lighthouse theme, Geier said -- perhaps because the Fenwick Island lighthouse is a well-loved landmark in the town.
Geier said DelDOT is employing similar strategies across the state. "We're just starting to implement a lot of traffic calming devices," she said.
Unlike most of Delaware's other beach towns, Fenwick Island doesn't have a boardwalk or other focal point, and all of its commercial activity is either on Route 1 or Route 54. In addition to making it easier and safer for people to walk from place to place, the DelDOT design adds a bit of character to the roadway with trees and decorative light fixtures.
Bunting Avenue resident Mary Pat Kyle expressed the opinion that the planned improvements won't do anything to reduce traffic through the town. Geier responded that the hope is that the eventual conversion of Route 113 into a limited access highway will take some of the traffic heading toward Ocean City, Md. away from Route 1.
Kyle was unconvinced. "We all know that everyone in Ocean City goes to Rehoboth Beach for dinner and everyone in Rehoboth Beach goes to Ocean City for dinner. That's a fact."
Geier said preliminary cost estimates for the project should be available by late September. The DelDOT open house continues Saturday, Aug. 17, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in front of Fenwick town hall.
Although this year's extreme drought has not yet threatened Sussex County's underground water supplies, Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner asked Sussex Countians to voluntarily reduce their water use on Thursday, Aug. 15.
Gov. Minner said the poor condition of crops in Sussex County is an indication that the drought, while not affecting the underground aquifers that supply water for Sussex Countians, could begin to if the drought doesn't ease up.
"We can see by the farm fields we drive by every day that the lack of rain is affecting all areas of the state, not just above the canal," Gov. Minner said. "Eventually this may have an effect on the underground wells and aquifers downstate relies on for water supply, so please conserve."
Gov. Minner described the current drought as the worst in our lifetimes.
"We are now in a drought so severe that it is described as occurring just once every 100 years," Gov. Minner said.
Gov. Minner imposed additional water restrictions on northern New Castle County, which was already under mandatory restrictions because of historically low water levels in the Brandywine Creek.
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