Dover’s list of road priorities remains same

The city of Dover is looking to make improvements to the Loockerman Street/Forest Street intersection, where it hopes to eventually place a roundabout. The city hopes the project will help spur redevelopment activities in the Downtown Development District, while also improving traffic circulation and safety. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

DOVER — The city of Dover’s road improvement priorities did not change from last year — but that doesn’t mean they’re any less important. They’re just awaiting approval and funding.

City Planner Dave Hugg discussed the transportation priorities at the Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee at the Council Meeting of the Whole on Sept. 24 before they are approved by City Council President William “Bill” Hare and sent on to Gov. John Carney and Delaware Department of Transportation Secretary Jennifer Cohan.

“Once each year, the city sends to the governor and secretary of transportation and to the Dover/Kent MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) our priority list of road projects that we want included in the city transportation plan for the upcoming year,” Mr. Hugg said.

“The planning office prepares this list based on a review of development activity, the status of the projects themselves and discussions including folks that might be at public works and (other city offices).

“The list that you have before you is essentially last year’s priority list. There’s not been a lot of actions or activities that have changed the priorities.”

No. 1 on the city’s transportation priority list is to build a connecting road and direct access to Del. 1 to/from the Garrison Oak Business and Technology Center (GOBTC). Dover City Council said it desires that DelDOT provide a direct access to Del. 1 via a connector to White Oak Road.

While the state discourages growth east of Del. 1, the GOBTC tract is acknowledged by both the city of Dover and the state of Delaware as the only large-scale developable land east of Del. 1 in the city of Dover.

A June 2017 study of the project (the Garrison Oak Traffic Study), determined that constructing a connector road was not justified as of 2018, based on the current uses and development in the park.

However, an alignment study to determine the feasibility and location of a future road connection is justified given current and potential development interests. The park is considered by the city to be an important economic development asset for Dover and Kent County. Officials say utilization of the GOBTC is restricted by the lack of good access to Del. 1.

As additional development takes place in the business park, its priority for construction will be revised, according to Mr. Hugg.

“You’ll notice that No. 1 at the top is the Garrison Oak Connector, made even more important by some of the things that are going on out there now in the development proposals,” he said. “So, we would recommend the committee recommend for council approval and that the council president ultimately signs a letter that sends this list to the secretary of transportation.”

Priorities No. 2 through 5

Upgrades to the Kenton Road corridor, including Del. 8 east and west, are No. 2 on the priority list. The Kenton Road project includes road improvements and sidewalks to improve traffic flow and bicycle/pedestrian safety.

City officials said it is critical to improve the approach to the city from the northwest where new residential areas both within and outside the city are being built. This segment also lacks sidewalks.

The Del. 8 corridor study identified several improvements along the road that would improve safety, better manage access, reduce congestion and provide improved traffic flow. While improvements complementary to this corridor (POW-MIA Parkway and Senator Bikeway, for example) address north/south movements, continued development on the west side of the city impacts the capacity and operation of this roadway.

Remaining at No. 3 on the priority list is an upgrade to the College Road corridor from Kenton Road to McKee Road. The College Road project includes road improvements and sidewalks in the heavily traveled College Road corridor. It is a key east-west linkage from northwest residential areas to commercial corridors and Delaware State University.

Recent development in this area includes apartments and a rehabilitation hospital near the College Road/McKee Road intersection. Potential improvements in this project include new pavement sections, sidewalks, shoulders, a closed drainage system, bicycle lanes, lighting and other improvements.

“Some of my colleagues agreed with (improvements to) the Kenton Road and College Road corridors, which are important elements for safety,” City Councilman David Anderson said. “I think they’re vital as well.”

Making a more attractive gateway into Dover from west of the city is still a priority at No. 4 on the list. The city is looking to make improvements to the Loockerman Street/Forest Street intersection, where it hopes to eventually place a roundabout. The city hopes the project will help spur redevelopment activities in the Downtown Development District, while also improving traffic circulation and safety.

It was identified as a needed improvement through the Restoring Central Dover study and the Westside Redevelopment study conducted in 2001. It is also complementary to the recommendations of the Capital Gateway Study addressing the Forest Street/Del. 8 corridor.

“I will tell you that DelDOT has looked at a couple of the projects,” Mr. Hugg said. “They have agreed to take a further look at the Forest Street/Loockerman Street corridor project. We had some discussions with them about some components of that project.

“It was a risk that if we made significant changes at this point, that project might fall off the priority list. So what we asked was to (keep) the project alive and leave it on the list, but to go back and take a hard look at the proposed solution.”

The city is also looking at sidewalks within the walk zone of the new Dover High School as it is No. 5 on the priority list. Officials said critical gaps in the sidewalk system near the high school remain, including along Mifflin Road and along Del. 8 on the south side from Mifflin Road west.

The project also addresses the continuation of the Senator Bikeway bike trail and the recommendations from the Capital Gateway study. The city is concerned about public safety in this area and believes it deserves to be included in the CTP and funded as early as possible.

A shift in priorities

The city’s priority list of projects from six to 11 also remained the same, though Councilman Anderson made a motion to move one of them up from No. 11 to No. 6 – improvements to the Kings Highway/U.S. 13 intersection. His motion carried.

The Capital Station Shopping Center on U.S. 13 is expected to add additional burdens to traffic in the area. (Delaware State News file photo)

Extensive new commercial development (Capital Station Shopping Center, Lidl grocery store and other commercial facilities) are being constructed or are planned south of the Kings Highway/U.S. 13 intersection, which will add traffic and access burdens on these roads. Because of the multi-use paths to be constructed along with this commercial development, pedestrian and bicyclist safety improvements will be needed as part of the intersection upgrade as well.

Extending Crawford Carroll Avenue to run behind Lowe’s and the PetSmart properties had been listed at No. 6.

“As for No. 6, with the Crawford Carroll extension, personally I’d like to see that dropped in priority,” Councilman Anderson said. “I’ve never really seen it as a great priority, but I think the Kings Highway, which is for some reason down at the bottom, should really be in its place.

“With the information that we have that the state funding might not be there (for many improvements) it might be better to look at the Kings Highway-(U.S.) 13 connection, which is in fact a free flow of traffic and maybe even a safety issue.”

Councilman Anderson noted that the traffic routinely stacks up around the Dunkin franchise located at that intersection.

Mr. Hugg and Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen agreed the intersection does present its share of problems.

“You have a problem at Kings Highway if you’re going eastbound at certain times and that problem is complicated by the lack of a right-turn lane to go south, and the fact that Dunkin Donuts has an entrance and an exit literally in the middle of the intersection,” Mr. Hugg said, “so you get some turning issues.”

Mayor Christiansen said, “These were projects that were weighted by the state as well as their priority of funding and putting them into place. The traffic situation at Kings Highway is exacerbated not only by Dunkin Donuts’ entrance that we allowed to be put there, but it’s also by that (traffic enforcement) camera light (at the intersection). That doesn’t help the situation there.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Hugg said DelDOT had also been rethinking the proposed Crawford Carroll Avenue extension, which was proposed to continue the improved right-of-way of Crawford Carroll Avenue from West Rustic Lane in a southerly direction to the site where HomeGoods and PetSmart are located and then connect to U.S. 13 with a traffic light.

It would provide access between the Delaware State University Learning and Living Commons facility and the main campus as an alternate to using U.S. 13. DelDOT has expressed concern about the feasibility of the original proposal, but Dover requested that service road connections on the west side of U.S. 13 continue to be addressed even if the original design is not achievable.

“DelDOT came back to us and indicated that they were having second thoughts about the Crawford Carrol extension,” Mr. Hugg said. “If you may remember, that roadway was originally intended to come behind Lowe’s, behind the PetSmart shopping center, and then kind of cross and connect to a realignment of the north entrance to the Dover Mall with a new traffic signal.

“DelDOT has been doing some additional work on both the financial and physical feasibility of that particular connection. They’ve indicated that they’d like to take another look at that possible connection, and they asked that we keep that project on our priority list. With the opening of HomeGoods and the kind of configuration of that crossing and the location of the DelState facilities behind it, it makes the original plan a little bit impractical.”

Rounding out the goals

The lower end items on the transportation priority list includes:

7. West Street improvements from North Street to the Transit Center. This project is along the western edge of the Downtown Development District and would improve traffic flow, safety and access to the transit system serving the downtown and the city. It would also provide an opportunity for multi-modal linkages to be improved.

West Street has become an important connection for the DART transit service in the city but has not been improved to reflect the standards necessary to meet this use. Part of these improvements were achieved in 2018 with the completion of a multi-use path along the east side of West Street.

8. U.S. 13 service roads/Scarborough Road. This project would create a service road parallel to U.S. 13 from Leipsic Road to Scarborough Road, and a set of local access roads providing economic benefits to the Dover Mall and a proposed adjacent commercial complex. This project is part of the U.S. 13 Circulation study.

In adherence to the state’s Corridor Capacity Preservation Program, the addition of service roads would decrease traffic on U.S. 13 by having more local traffic use the service roads instead. The project also reflects the corridor’s continued growing role as a destination for commerce, employment and community activities, and its lessened importance as a high-speed through travel route compared to Del. 1.

“From a conceptual standpoint both of those (service road and Crawford Carroll extension) are important to preserve the primary mission of (U.S.) 13, which is a major arterial,” Mr. Hugg said.

9. U.S. 13 sidewalk construction. Construction of multi-use paths along U.S. 13 continues to be a priority. Construction of sidewalks is required when properties are developed or redeveloped, but significant sections of the sidewalk system are either in deteriorated condition or missing.

Examples include Public Safety Boulevard to the Puncheon Run Connector and White Oak Road to College Road. A 2019 sidewalk project being built by DelDOT will complete a sidewalk/path from Townsend Boulevard to Leipsic Road on the east side of U.S. 13.

10. Del. 8/Hazlettville Road connector. This is a north/south access road that was identified in the Del. 8 Concept Plan and Operations study. This connection will encourage economic development and provide transportation alternatives in the heavily traveled corridor. The connector road would incorporate the existing Dover High Drive and extend south on the west side of the Village of Cannon Mills.

Mr. Hugg said that is the city’s current list of priorities and acknowledged they could take years to become reality.

“This is the list that is also included in the draft Comprehensive Plan as the city’s transportation priority list,” he said. “This is the list that we are preparing to send to the governor and the secretary of transportation.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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