Del. 1 overpass in Milford opens

MILFORD — For Emmett Venett, a long-time Woods Haven resident, the brand new Milford Del. 1 overpass is more than just a bridge made of concrete and rebar.

It’s a bridge between the small community he belongs to and Milford to the southeast that will ultimately save residents’ time, hassle and even lives.

The new interchange, celebrated with an opening ceremony on Saturday morning, is designed to take travelers from Route 14 or the NE 10th Street area safely across Del. 1, allowing the communities east of Milford safe passage without fear of accidents or incredible long waits just to cross the street.

The notoriously dangerous intersection had contributed to multiple fatal accidents over the years. At least 138 collisions had been reported to the Milford Police Department at the intersection between April 1, 2009, and March 2018, authorities said when DelDOT broke ground on the project last year.

Each day, approximately 30,000 vehicles travel along Del. 1, according to DelDOT.

Speaking to the dozens of residents and delegates who showed up for the occasion, Mr. Venett — who’s well-known among his neighbors as being a tireless advocate for the project — said the opening was an “emotional day” for him.

“This bridge signifies the reuniting of our community with the city of Milford with which we have alway been a part,” he said. “Our residents had no sway in the decision to close the road to Woods Haven over 10 years ago because we were not technically part of the city.

“Any look at proper regional governmental planning would have had us incorporated when Woods Haven developers broke ground on the project probably 30-40 years ago, but we were a part of Kent County and we could not stop or change the closing of the road.

“Those of us who owned businesses in town traveled two extra miles farther than we did before the closure of eastbound 10th street — crossing Route 1 several times per day. We have experienced many crashes, injuries and even some deaths awaiting this day.”

Calling the new overpass “hugely practical,” Milford resident Mark Reed turned up on Saturday to see the exchange’s first day on duty.

Cutting the ribbon to open the new overpass.

“To some folks it might seem like just a bridge, but to locals it really means a lot,” he said. “It solves a real issue we’ve had for years — I mean, people have died right up the road from here because crossing Rt. 1 is like walking through a shooting range.

“On top of being a life-saver though, it’s going to be really convenient. East/west traffic will be able to cross immediately, and north/south traffic won’t have to slow down. It’ll help all the state’s drivers.

“I know the upgrades DelDOT is making to Rt. 1 are expensive, but these changes are some of those worth-it-at-any-price projects.”

According to DelDOT, the project, coming with a price tag around $22 million, was delivered by contractor Diamond Materials under-budget and ahead of schedule. It was originally slated to open in August.

The federal government bore 80 percent of the cost for the project, with the State of Delaware providing the remaining 20 percent, according to DelDOT.

Particularly excited about the branding DelDOT agreed to let the city of Milford etch onto the overpass, state Rep. Bryan W. Shupe, R-Milford — the city’s former mayor — hopes it will help attract visitors in addition to being a much-needed safety feature.

“It really was a community push to get this done and I’m really happy to see that DelDOT was so receptive to our ideas,” he said. “This is a project that will add safety to our community, and safety to our visitors traveling up and down the state. It will also add some safety for two different roads that lead into Milford High School and Milford Central Academy, providing safe passage for our teachers, students and staff.

“What I was really excited about was the ability to do some branding on this overpass — it allows us to show visitors that Milford is somewhere special and hopefully they see it and look more into our town.”

Perhaps more visually appealing than several of it’s neighboring bridges, this bridge is art, DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan said.

“Not only will this increase safety and reduce congestion, but it’s beautiful,” she said. “Whether it’s the Milford branding on the side or the nice black fencing on the top, it’s really unique.

“So, not only is it infrastructure, it’s art in my opinion.”

According to Ms. Cohan, the overpass is just the latest accomplishment in a string of projects DelDOT has completed with the intention of making Rt. 1 a more “limited access highway.”

It is the seventh grade-separated interchange along the highway that spans much of the state. A motorist can now travel from Christiana Mall to Route 16 — more than 70 miles — without encountering a single traffic light, she noted.

In what’s likely to be the first ride across the bridge of many, a group of bicycle riders gathered at Lifecycle (a bicycle store) in Milford prior to the ribbon-cutting and rode across the fresh asphalt.

Their report: “We love it!”

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

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