Dover officials support lowering speed limit on Del. 8

DOVER — At the request of Calvary Baptist Church, a 37,000-square-foot worship facility preparing to build west of Dover High School, the city of Dover is hitting the gas in an effort to slow traffic on Del. 8 from Artis Drive to the high school.

The Utility Committee of the Council Committee of the Whole voted unanimously Tuesday to send an official request and resolution to the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) to lower the speed limit from 50 mph to 35 mph.

Calvary Baptist Church Senior Pastor Bishop W. James Thomas II and Dr. Charles D. Fletcher Jr., chairman of the Calvary Baptist Church Higher Ground Project Committee, had previously asked city officials to initiate a request to lower the speed limit in that area.

Dover City Planner Dave Hugg said “[t]he issue at hand is, as we go west past Dover High School we have two projects involving churches, with one relatively modest in size and one (Calvary) significant in size — 37,000-square-feet with a seating capacity of potentially 900-plus people,”

“That triggers some issues with DelDOT because Route 8 is DelDOT’s road and as we work through the development of those two (church) projects, given DelDOT’s standards and the fact that the speed limit today is 50 mph. It is going to require essentially improving that roadway to state highway standards, ones like you would see on Route 13.

“Mayor Robin Christiansen and I went to a meeting with DelDOT and I will say that they were surprisingly amenable, friendly, cooperative and helpful, and I very much appreciate that, but what they basically said was the city would need to initiate a request to have DelDOT look at the speed limit from Artis Drive inbound into the city.

Mr. Hugg added, “Then, based on that request, they would consider dropping the speed limit to 35 mph for the whole stretch.”
In a letter to Mayor Christiansen from Calvary Baptist Church, church officials said that Del. 8 is classified as a minor arterial and has an AADT (Annual Average Daily Traffic) of 12,100 vehicles.

The Traffic Group conducted a Traffic Impact Study (TIS) that determined that the entrance for the proposed church requires separate right and left-tum lanes based on DelDOT’s standards.

The study predicts 1,022 vehicle trips on a given Sunday morning. A total of 370 vehicle trips could occur during the Sunday morning peak hour.
Calvary Baptist Church’s letter to the mayor stated, “(We) are respectfully requesting that the speed limit be reduced to 35 mph in both directions from the city limits to S. Saulsbury Road. (Del. 8) is a high capacity roadway and is the major east-west route in and out of the city.

“Reduction in the speed limit promotes the health and safety of traveling residents and other members of the general public by providing a reasonable and safe speed limit for (Del. 8) west of S. Saulsbury Road.
“We appreciate your consideration of our request and seek an expeditious response so that we may proceed with this project in a timely manner.”

Mr. Hugg said lowering the speed limit makes sense, especially considering there will be four churches (including United Church, which meets at Dover High on Sunday), Leander Lakes Apartments and the communities of Cannon Mills and Village of Westover all situated around the light in front of Dover High School.

Plus, he said if the speed limit from Artis Drive to Dover High is decreased, all the road standards, improvements and other issues will get “reduced significantly to reflect the lower speed limit.”
City Councilman Ralph Taylor asked Mr. Hugg what the effects would be for residents in neighborhoods off Del. 8 as they try to safely get across and onto the road every day.

Mr. Hugg speculated that a lower speed limit should make the roadway safer and make it easier to get onto.

“What it does is set the character of that roadway,” Mr. Hugg said, of the lower speed limit. “If we want it to continue to be a major arterial road then leaving the speed limit alone and not addressing this creates a road situation that has all the aspects of a major arterial.

“If we agree to the reduction on the speed limit as requested by the church then we’re making a decision that the road should be a less intense highway – that it should look like and act like more of a local street, or a boulevard with the appropriate roadway standards that are required.”
With four churches in that area, Sunday mornings look to be a busy time for traffic.

United Church meets at 9:15 and 11 a.m., Dover Christian at 8 a.m., Destiny Christian Church at 10 a.m., with Calvary Baptist Church expecting to eventually have services at 9:30 a.m.
With the anticipated growth in the western corridor into Dover, Mayor Christiansen threw his support behind the idea to lower the speed limit.

“I went out there and sat the other day for about an hour and traffic naturally begins to reduce their speed anyhow coming around that bend (near Artis Drive), because most people who travel that road on a regular basis anticipate the traffic signal at Leander Lakes and Dover High School,” he said.

“So, I think it’s going to add to the safety of it. I think in the long run it’s a safety issue for both the churches and their eventual access and egress to the properties. I would strongly recommend (decreasing the speed limit).”
Councilman David Anderson had questions about lowering speeds along the road.

“I admit I have concerns about lowering the speed limit because that’s going to increase speeding and ignoring of the law because people aren’t going to slow down,” said Councilman Anderson. “I think there’s a value to the law and respect for the law.”

Councilman Fred Neil didn’t have any problems with having motorists slow down in that area on Del. 8.

“If (the affected area is) less than a half-a-mile, then I don’t think it’s going to change the character of that road all that much,” he said. “You’re coming in and, all of a sudden, you do have to slow down anyway. We can accommodate (the church) and it actually becomes maybe a safer road at that point.

“It will help if DelDOT will put up signs that will indicate (motorists) are going into a slower area. Initially, everybody’s going to ignore it, but I think our police department can probably handle that.”

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