DE Turf, DelDOT announce plan for surge traffic

FREDERICA — DE Turf Sports Complex’s staff unveiled on Wednesday a temporary traffic plan for Del. 1 during the facility’s first year of operation.

Bill Strickland, chairman of the board of the Kent County Regional Sports Complex, outlined the plan for emergency responders, elected officials and members of the public at Frederica Fire Hall.

“We’ve been meeting with the Delaware State Police and DelDOT’s safety and traffic control to come up with a plan that does two things: it doesn’t put local folks out — or at least minimizes that — and ensures the safety of the community and the safety of people coming to and from the DE Turf,” he said.

Chris Giacomucci, executive director of DE Turf, noted that the plan selected is a temporary one that will serve the surge in traffic that will accompany events at the complex – several of which are already anticipating 4,000 attendees.

“The plan is for the 2017 season until the south Frederica overpass opens up,” he said.

Workers spread concrete at DE Turf on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DelDOT officials on hand noted the overpass is currently on schedule for completion in spring 2018. Michael Rivera, special events manager, DelDOT Traffic Safety Section, provided the specifics of the temporary plan.

“After consultation with the state police, we feel that the only way to safely manage the traffic during these times is to essentially close all of the crossovers from the venue south to the Thompsonville interchange,” he said. “This will force people to go south, use the interchange to turn around and come back north.”

Road construction on Del. 1 in front of DE Turf on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Mr. Rivera said that by operating this way during events, left turns, U-turns and cross traffic will be eliminated, and thus safety can be maintained during times of what he referred to as “peak ingress.”

“For those that live in this corridor already know that during a beach weekend it’s very difficult to make left turns,” he said.

Structured for minimum inconvenience, he said, the change at the crossovers will only be enacted from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. on event days to start – unless it’s determined later that more time is needed. DelDOT plans to block the crossovers with cones and provide instruction to motorists with signage. They also plan initially to make some exceptions for local traffic.

“Every crossover from the north Frederica interchange, exit 86, all the way down to the Thompsonville interchange, exit 79, will be closed,” he said.

Heavy construction equipment on Del. 1 in front of DE Turf on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“But, we’re going to attempt to make accommodations for northbound traffic to turn left on Tub Mill Pond Road or Milford Neck Road as an avenue for residents who live there and the seafood restaurant.”

Local emergency responders raised several questions at the meeting about reduced access for their vehicles, but DelDOT officials and state police officials reassured them that they’d be able to grant access when needed.

Officials noted that signs will be posted several days prior to events to alert local traffic to the upcoming change, and a list of events will also be available at deturf.com so the traffic changes can be anticipated.

Coming soon

DE Turf officials took the opportunity during the meeting to note that the complex is on the cusp of completion.

“The complex is literally 99% done and will soon be applying for its certificate of occupancy,” said Mr. Strickland.

A worker smoothes concrete in front of the stadium at DE Turf on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Slated for an April 1 opening, Mr. Giacomucci noted that their first contracted event is set for April 14. DE Turf has 14 competitive events on the schedule for 2017, with more likely to come.

At least three of the events are expected to draw crowds as large as 4,000. Mr. Giacomucci said that local hotels and vendors are already making arrangements with visitors.

Levy Court Commissioners Eric Buckson and Terry Pepper, County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange, Sen. Colin Bonini and Rep. Charles Postles Jr., all of whom represent the area the complex is located in, attended the meeting as well.

They all signaled their general support for the complex and encouraged members of the public with concerns about the proposed plan to contact them.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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