DOVER — Plenty of words were spoken at City Hall on Tuesday night either supporting the construction of a roundabout on Independence Boulevard in Bicentennial Village or opposing it.
When it came down to it, Rep. Sean Lynn, a Democrat whose 31st Legislative District includes the neighborhood in west Dover, had the last — and loudest — say.
While no formal action was taken by members of the Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee at the meeting regarding the roundabout’s future, there were strong feelings presented on both sides.
Rep. Lynn told committee members that if plans for the traffic calming measures on Independence Boulevard were to change, that he would pull funding for the project from the Community Transportation Fund (CTF) from the city.
The fund provides money for individual state legislators to make transportation improvements in their districts.
“I’ll make it simple — that I won’t fund any other alternative other than what the (Delaware Department of Transportation) engineers have proposed,” Rep. Lynn said. “So unless this council funds what the DelDOT engineers have proposed, I simply won’t give you the CTF dollars to do it.
“So if you want something else, you’ll have to pay for it, because the engineers have spoken.”
About 5,000 vehicles each day are estimated to travel on Independence Boulevard.
City council approved the construction of the roundabout on May 9, 2016, in hope of slowing and possibly lessening traffic along Independence Boulevard, which is the main road through Bicentennial Village and runs from Walker Road to Del. 8.
However, retired DelDOT traffic engineer C. David Jamison spearheaded a proposal to rescind the council action.
His final recommendation is to have the city simply install a radar speed sign for around $5,000 on Independence Boulevard that would address a “speeding” problem “and enable expenditure of Community Transportation Funds on the city’s more serious transportation issues that require attention.”
The construction of the roundabout would cost around $122,000.
A road alignment with West Green Blade Drive and Independence Boulevard is also part of the project, but has not been approved yet by council, and is estimated to cost an additional $54,000.
Mr. Jamison was dumbfounded when no action was taken following presentations by he and retired Air Force Col. Thomas J. Dixx, who spoke in favor of the roundabout.
Both Mr. Jamison and Mr. Dixx are residents of Bicentennial Village.
“I thought they would have a vote and let the community decide,” he said. “That’s all I was asking for. I could go with either way, but let the community decide and don’t let the threat of not getting the money from the representative influence your thinking.”
Mr. Jamison said he believed there were several misleading figures that led to the decision of designing a roundabout.
It had been previously presented at a Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee meeting on April 26, 2016, that 15 accidents had occurred on Independence Boulevard between 2013 and 2016.
But a Freedom of Information Act request by Mr. Jamison showed that those crashes actually took place at the road’s intersection with Del. 8, and at the entrances to the Greentree and Olde Oak shopping centers, which is not where the roundabout will be built.
As for speeding, Mr. Jamison said studies showed that the average speed among motorists on Independence Boulevard (25 mph) was 29.1 mph.
“This whole thing is about the use of public funds,” he said. “The money for the roundabout could be better spent elsewhere, such as fixing potholes or making sidewalk repairs.”
Mr. Dixx was appointed to a committee by Mayor Robin R. Christiansen to work with DelDOT and Rep. Lynn to try to solve the traffic problems on Independence Boulevard.
He disagreed with nearly all of Mr. Jamison’s arguments against the project and said the roundabout simply makes sense.
“The major problem with the radar sign is that it’s passive,” said Mr. Dixx. “The driver can totally ignore the sign. The State Traffic Calming Manual does not call the radar speed sign successful. It clearly states that police enforcing is required.
“Roundabouts generally reduce deadly accidents, according to the Federal Highway Administration.”
Rep. Lynn said drivers often use Independence Boulevard to avoid congestion on Saulsbury Road, which is located about a half-mile to the east of Bicentennial Village.
“Dover (police department) has told us what the traffic patterns are and as the city grows, it’s only going to get worse,” Rep. Lynn said. “I think the council needs to stick with its original decision and allow this project to go through unabated.”
Gary Johnston, a resident of Bicentennial Village, didn’t like Rep. Lynn’s threat at the end of the discussion regarding the roundabout.
“I don’t think it’s right to be threatened with public money that it’s not even his money,” Mr. Johnston said. “Basically, he was saying, ‘If you don’t do what I want you get nothing.’”
City Councilman James L. Hutchison Sr. was in favor of a calmer solution.
“I ride up and down State Street every single day and don’t tell me radar speed signs do not work, because they do,” he said. “So it costs $5,000 (for a radar sign), but that’s a hell of a lot cheaper than the other (alternative).
“And if it doesn’t work, then we have a traffic study that says a roundabout is another alternative. You don’t have to jump to the big one first. If we put up the radar signs and they work, who loses?”
Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.