DelDOT backs Thompsonville road project despite locals’ concerns

MILFORD — Construction on a long-anticipated road project has begun, but some nearby residents believe the work will make the roadway less safe despite assurances to the contrary from the state Department of Transportation.

DelDOT is working to extend Thompsonville Road past Del. 1 and replace the current intersection with a grade-separated junction, allowing drivers to merge onto Del. 1 from Thompsonville Road through a ramp. The ramps are set to open in the spring.

Del. 1 and Thompsonville Road, near Milford.

Del. 1 and Thompsonville Road, near Milford.

On Monday, the department will shut down the Del. 1/Thompsonville Road intersection and remove the signal that currently controls traffic there. The department says the work is necessary and there is no increased safety risk. However, some people who live nearby or frequently drive through the area believe that in the absence of a light, cars will have trouble merging onto or crossing Del. 1 in the Milford area.

Those fears are unfounded, DelDOT says.

The agency kept an eye on traffic patterns to determine the number of gaps present nearby among cars headed north and south and found the Thompsonville light “has minimal influence in creating gaps in traffic, and its removal will not create a noticeable change in the conditions on Route 1 at Northeast 10th Street or Northeast Front Street” in Milford, spokesman Greg Layton said via email.

About one-third of traffic headed south exits at U.S. 113, while gaps are created northbound from traffic merging south of Milford, he said.

But some remained unconvinced.

In a letter sent to transportation Secretary Jennifer Cohan last week, Rep. Jack Peterman, R-Milford, questioned the light’s removal. He expressed concerns about the daily traffic attempting to cross the road, especially come next summer when an abundance of drivers head south to the beaches.

Rep. Jack Peterman, R-Milford

Rep. Jack Peterman, R-Milford

“This will expose scores of daily commuters, including school buses, to unacceptable risk as they regularly attempt to traverse this busy artery,” he wrote.

It’s a worry shared by others.

Neil Moore, president of Milford-based D & N Bus Service, wonders if the light was ever needed.

Without it, he fears drivers will have to “dart across traffic,” as Del. 1 is busy nearly every minute of every day, he said.

David French, a farmer who lives nearby, thinks the number of trucks that regularly roll through to area farms will face difficulties in crossing the road. Along with several other residents, he has been reaching out to lawmakers and DelDOT with his worries.

But those concerns are unfounded, DelDOT insists. The light is not the sole creator of breaks in traffic, and construction cannot be delayed due to winter’s approach, according to the agency.

“We do not believe that removing the light will cause significant problems,” Mr. Layton said. “Plus, we needed to close Thompsonville Road and remove the light so that we can continue to work on the ramps on the northbound side of the road.”

Others have suggested putting in place a temporary light. Rep. Peterman in his letter called for DelDOT to utilize a signal north of Thompsonville Road at Spring Hill Drive or south at Big Stone Beach Road.

That’s not something DelDOT believes is necessary, although officials are keeping it in consideration.

“We are aware of Rep. Peterman’s request, and we will continue to monitor traffic on Route 1 to determine whether additional traffic control measures are needed,” Mr. Layton said. “We remain open to any traffic control measures that the situation might warrant.”

The overall project, which includes a bridge across Del. 1, will be completed by fall 2016.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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