DelDOT project to upgrade Del. 1 median safety underway

SMYRNA — A year’s worth of construction to increase median safety protection on Del. 1 is about three weeks complete.

By December 2019, the 11.5-mile stretch of divided highway from Smyrna north to Odessa will fully include a high tension cable barrier between northbound and soutbound lanes.

Contracted work began on Dec. 17 in the Duck Creek area near the northern Kent/southern New Castle County line.

Last July, five family members from New Jersey died in the area when their northbound minivan was struck by a careening heavy duty truck that crossed over from the southbound side near Pine Tree Road in the vicinity of Odessa. A passenger in the minivan survived, along with the Ford F-350 driver.

The project has been evolving since 2017 and “was not in response to any single crash,” said Delaware Department of Transportation Director of Community Relations Charles “C.R.” McLeod last week.

Another 12 miles of highway median improvements south toward Dover is planned after the ongoing work, with the start date to be determined. Overall “the majority of guardrail will be high tension cable barrier and this first phase of work over the course of 2019 will be installing a total of 17 miles on Del. 1.”

A 730-day contract was awarded to JJID of Bear, which bid $8,545,513.09 on Oct. 23, 2018. J. Fletcher Creamer and Son of Hackensack, N.J. also bid $10,398,385. The engineer’s estimated cost was $6,375,075. Construction will occur in segments under an on-call contract. Full details are available online at

“The purpose of this contract is to install guardrail, guardrail end treatments, high tension cable barrier, and high tension cable barrier end treatments,” DelDOT reported in a final tabulation of bids from first offering on Sept. 18, 2018.

Since 2015, the Delaware Strategic Highway Safety Plan: Toward Zero Deaths has “aimed to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries on Delaware’s roadways through a multi-agency approach that utilizes education, enforcement, engineering and emergency medical services.”

Since the multi-fatality accident in July, DelDOT said no interim safety measures have been added.

“The standard practice based upon national guidance is that a median width of 60 feet such as Del. 1 has does not typically necessitate any additional barrier.” Mr. McLeod said.

“We are adding this barrier as an additional safety measure as roadway departure crashes are one of our strategic safety emphasis areas, and over the past several years, DelDOT has been installing a high-tension cable barrier system along Del. 1 in all identified high-risk areas (around curves, smaller width medians, high traffic volumes, and high crash areas).

“Beyond installing additional median barrier along our freeways, other programs being implemented related to roadway departure crashes include high friction surface treatments, rumble strips, safety edge, and updated horizontal curve warning signs.”

DelDOT engineers “determine the best type of median solution for every segment of roadway, and we use different applications based upon the specific conditions of the road,” Mr. McLeod said.

Reducing fatal crashes

The use of a high tension cable barrier in recent years “has proven to be effective at reducing fatal crashes by vehicles crossing the median into oncoming traffic,” Mr. McLeod said.

DelDOT also plans to place median barriers on U.S. 95 at the Delaware/Pennsylvania state line to about half a mile south of Harvey Road. It will include about 2.5 miles of currently unprotected median.

This spring, DelDOT, Office of Highway Safety and Delaware State Police will start 2020 Strategic Highway Safety Program development and review crash data in spring 2020. The 2020 SHSP is set to be adopted in September 2020.

A rumble trip open-end contract involves 223 miles of center line installed and 133 miles of edge line installed, along with upcoming testing of new, quieter rumble strip design, according to DelDOT.

Delaware used a data-driven process and screening to install 34,500 square feet of high friction surface treatments at over 25 locations through 2017.

Also, “DelDOT is currently evaluating the durability of the (state) locations with High Friction Surface Treatments and pending those findings, will award a new open-end contract for installation.”

From 2015 to 2017, there were 133, 120 and 118 traffic fatalities, respectively, missing Delaware SHSP goals of 105, 102 and 99. Goals were 96. 93 and 90 from 2018 to 2020.

Median barrier options

In a Median Barrier Program presentation, the Delaware Department of Transportation explained potential options, advantages and disadvantages:

• Concrete barrier (rigid)

Pro – less maintenance required when struck and can be used in very narrow medians.

Con – Least forgiving upon impact and most expensive to install.

• Steel guardrail (semi-rigid)

Pro – Less expensive to install compared to concrete barrier, more forgiving upon impact compared to concrete barrier and can be used in narrow medians and for protection of fixed objects.

Con – More expensive to install compared to cable barrier and less forgiving upon impact compared to cable barrier.

• High tension cable barrier

Pro – Less expensive to install than steel guardrail (typically), more forgiving upon impact (reducting the potential for injury or fatality) and easer to maintain compared to steel guardrail and concrete barrier.

Con – Used in wider medians due to the greater deflection on impact; not typically used for protection of fixed objects.

Median barrier additions

According to the Delaware Department of Transportation, locations where median barrier has been installed in recent years include:

• Del. 1 – 4.2 miles of high tension cable barrier from Del. 299 to Del. 896 – constructed in 2009.

• U.S. 495 – 0.85 miles of high tension cable barrier from U.S. 95 to U.S. 13 – constructed in 2013.

• Del. 1 – 2.3 miles of high tension cable barrier from Roth Bridge to U.S. 13 – constructed in 2014.

• U.S. 95 – 1.2 miles of steel guardrail from north of the Rest Area to north of Del. 273 – constructed in summer 2017.

• Del. 273 – 1.3 miles of steel guardrail in the vicinity of Stafford Way/White Clay Center Drive – constructed in summer 2017.


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