Traffic, toll revenue down in Delaware during pandemic

The U.S. 113/Del. 24 intersection in Millsboro is typically one of the busiest during the tourist season. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

COVID 19’s impact on travel has impacted traffic count and toll revenue in Delaware.

While traffic counts in Delaware’s northern counties — Kent and New Castle – are down from 2019, some roadways in southern Delaware have experienced a recent increase, according to DelDOT Director of Community Relations C.R. McLeod.

“Traffic trends statewide continue to fluctuate with some Sussex roads seeing increased traffic from summer visitors, but overall traffic is still down,” said Mr. McLeod. “Toll revenue was also down about 7 percent in July compared to 2019.”

Overall, DelDOT absorbed a $54.5 million revenue loss for FY2020, which ended June 30, Mr. McLeod said.

“Currently we have forecast a $24.7 million revenue loss for FY2021. However, that number will continue to be adjusted as we continue through this fiscal year,” said Mr. McLeod.

The coronavirus pandemic’s arrival in mid-March triggered a state of emergency shutdown, encompassing many businesses and restaurants.

Additionally, quarantines and restrictions imposed by the state and those from neighboring states in the Mid-Atlantic region have impacted travel.

In April, Gov. Carney’s seventh modification of his State of Emergency Declaration specifically required out-of-state persons traveling into the state of Delaware to self-quarantine for 14 days.

This past week, Delaware was placed on the quarantine lists of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, because of a spike in the percentage of people testing positive for COVID.

On June 15, Delaware moved from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of Gov. John Carney’s economic reopening plan, with businesses operating at higher maximum occupancy percentages than the initial phase but still not 100 percent.

DelDOT has been tracking specific locations in each county for comparison to 2019.

Based on DelDOT’s August traffic volumes:

• Kent County routes monitored were down 5 to 15% weekdays, and down 5 to 15% weekends;

• Routes in Sussex County monitored were up 5% to down 10% weekdays, and up 10% to down 10% weekends;

• New Castle County routes monitored were down 15% to 25% weekdays and down 5% to 20% weekends.

Random traffic tally

A weeklong traffic count in late July at U.S. 113 and Del. 9 in Georgetown showed daily decreases in 2020 from 2019 in five days monitored. Four days were double-digit decreases from 2019. The largest decrease was Wednesday, July 24, a drop of 22% from a count of 38,645 in 2019 to 30,118 this year.

For Monday, July 22, the traffic count was only down 7% from the date last year – 39,553 to 36,708.

In Kent County, 2019-20 traffic data comparisons on Del. 1 just south of the Dover Toll Plaza showed traffic count decreases of 32% or more from March 22 through May 27, with a high of 76%on April 14.

Traffic counts at the Dover site from late May through July 28 were below 2019, while most were below 20%.

Interestingly, two of the biggest decreases in July were Friday and Saturday, July 3-4, at 29 and 48%, respectively.

“The overall takeaway from this data set is that while traffic numbers have rebounded significantly compared to the spring, we are still seeing a double-digit percentage-wise decrease in traffic when compared to last year,” said Mr. McLeod.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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