Del. 1 overpass at Bowers Beach Road opens

DOVER — Speed demons and impatient travelers rejoice. Drivers can now travel from the Christiana Mall to the Milton area without encountering any traffic signals.

The Delaware Department of Transportation opened the new realignment Monday afternoon for Del. 1 northbound at Bowers Beach Road. Southbound access followed by Monday evening.

The opening means drivers can now hop off Del. 1 and onto Bowers Beach Road, while those simply passing by can continue through the Little Heaven area without stopping.

Since starting construction in November 2015, DelDOT has shifted Del. 1 and built an overpass by the now-demolished Jehu Reed House in Little Heaven. Drivers hoping to access the small town of Bowers (and the accompanying beaches) or one of the developments in the area can take the new Exit 88 off Del. 1, enabling what officials hope is smoother flow of traffic.

That’s sure to be good news for many, especially come the summer and the horde of beachgoers who make their way down to Sussex County.

“We are expecting significant improvements as motorists going north and south can now travel more than 71 miles from the Route 16 intersection outside of Milton to Christiana Mall without any signalized intersections,” DelDOT spokesman C.R. McLeod wrote in an email.

“This has been a long-time bottleneck and the goal of the overpass is to remove this bottleneck while also improving safety and allowing residents of the local communities to move east and west without having to cross over (Del.) Route 1.”

Motorists turning north off Bowers Beach Road can take a service road and then merge onto Del. 1, while those heading south will cross through an intersection under the bridge and turn left onto an expansion of Clapham Road, which connects to Del. 1.

“The work hasn’t been a major headache for most people, but it’s caused a few problems for homeowners and businesses in the work zone,” Rep. Charles Postles, a Milford Republican whose district contains the project site, said in a statement.

“It’s been more than three years since ground was broken and I think it is safe to say that everyone is eager to see it completed.”

Although Del. 1 travelers will avoid traffic lights completely, drivers going from Bowers Beach Road to Del. 1 southbound aren’t so lucky. Separating Bowers Beach Road from Clapham Road, and thus the main way south from the town, are two intersections controlled by traffic lights.

Those lights have been a major headache for some, Bowers Councilman Bob McDevitt said.

According to Mr. McDevitt, the lights turn green for just a few seconds before becoming red again. As a result, heading south from Bowers has been a “nightmare” for several months, with drivers often having to sit at traffic lights for five minutes or more, he said.

Still, he’s hopeful the opening of the Del. 1 southbound overpass will help by greatly reducing traffic on Clapham Road.

The project isn’t completely finished, as northbound access to Clapham Road currently requires a detour, but DelDOT is hopeful travel will be quicker and easier as a result of the overpass opening.

The Little Heaven project is one of several changes DelDOT has made to Del. 1 in southern Kent County over the past four years.

Those improvements are a boon to many, including the DE Turf, the facility’s executive director said.

“I give kudos to DelDOT’s traffic management team who have provided an exceptional service to the DE Turf to ensure minimal impact to visitors coming to our facility on tournament weekends. We worked closely with DelDOT to ensure we were prepared each weekend,” Chris Giacomucci wrote in an email.

“We are grateful for the opening of the South Frederica overpass. Our new entrance provides easy access to and from the complex. We get a lot of feedback from visitors, but traffic has not been one of them.”

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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