Kent County Del. 1 project nears completion: Little Heaven-Milford roadwork wrapping up

Construction of the new Del. 1 overpass at Bowers Beach Road is nearing completion. DelDOT officials believe the new interchange will help commuters and travelers speedily and safely travel Del. 1 by cutting out the stoplight and local traffic at the Bowers Beach Road and Bay Road intersection, while at the same time making the small Little Heaven community more accessible for its citizens. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

MILFORD — Since early 2015, the sight of road work taking place on Del. 1 between Little Heaven and Milford has been constant.

But, according to DelDOT, the approximately $114 million improvement project is in the home stretch.

Referred to as the “SR 1 corridor capacity preservation program,” the multi-year, 80 percent federally-funded project included six distinct improvements of varying complexity. Three of these; the Thompsonville Road interchange, rehabilitation of the Milford US 113 ramp and improvements to Carpenters Pit Road are complete.

The large interchange project south of Frederica was opened to motorists late this summer and only has several “punch list items” remaining until it’s considered fully complete.

The remaining two projects, the biggest, are the Little Heaven interchange and the Front Street Milford interchange. Both projects are expected to open to traffic over the next several months, depending on weather conditions.

Charles “C.R.” McLeod, director of community relations for DelDOT, said the large undertaking is part of an ongoing effort to increase the efficiency of Del. 1 as the state’s main highway artery.

“Broadly it’s about bringing Route 1 back to what it was originally designed to be — more of a limited access highway, as opposed to the open access one it has become in a lot of places,” he said.

“Initially we identified the 31-mile section of Route 1 between the Dover Air Force Base and the Nassau Bridge in Sussex County as the main focus for this type of work. The grade separated interchanges in Kent County were the first step to address crossovers and intersections that had really become safety hazards and creators of bottlenecks.”

Little Heaven interchange

At an estimated cost of $40 million on its own, the interchange that will cross over top of Bowers Beach Road and return local traffic to Bay Road in Little Heaven is nearly done, said Mr. McLeod.

“The contractor is working on finishing the bridge deck right now over Bowers Beach Road,” he said. “Since they’re working with temperature sensitive materials, we’re a bit constrained by the weather when it comes to a completion date, but conservatively we’re thinking that we’ll start running traffic through early in 2019. For the most part, we’ve stayed on schedule, but it was a very wet year, which held up work a bit here and there.”

DelDOT officials believe the new interchange will help commuters and travelers speedily and safely travel Del. 1 by cutting out the stoplight and local traffic at the Bowers Beach Road and Bay Road intersection, while at the same time making the small Little Heaven community more accessible for its citizens.

“We think it’ll really open that community back up — folks living there have been at the mercy of traffic for decades when coming and going,” said Mr. McLeod. “Especially heading out on weekends, having to navigate that whole area based on traffic flow has been a headache for them. Now we’re going to have dedicated local service roads where they can go back and fourth without having to get on Route 1, basically separating the community from heavy traffic.”

Since opening the South Frederica interchange late in the summer, Mr. McLeod says DelDOT has already seen traffic improvements.

“It’s made a big difference in managing the traffic going in and out of the DE Turf complex and helping folks in and around Frederica get back and fourth across Route 1,” he said.

Milford interchange

At the groundbreaking ceremony for the Milford interchange back in March, the Milford Police Department noted that there had been at least 138 collisions reported at the intersection of North East Tenth Street and Del. 1 since April 2009. Officials believe the new interchange will help ease the burden on these dangerous intersections.

With an estimated $22 million price tag, the interchange at North East Front Street and Del. 1 will be the last project to be completed. However, Mr. McLeod said motorists likely will be able to use the new on-ramps in the coming months.

“Again, depending on weather, the new ramps from Front Street will open in early 2019,” he said. “They’re practically done already, but there are some guardrails striping and signage to finish. Then, once temperature warms back up in the spring, the bridge deck on the overpass will be poured and final work will be done. We expect the overpass to open sometime in the early summer of 2019.”

For passersby, that particular section of Del. 1 has already taken on an interesting new appearance in the form of stamped lettering on the overpass bearing the city’s name.

“We worked with the city of Milford on planning the project and that’s something that they chose to add on — it really looks fantastic,” said Mr. McLeod. “It’s a nice addition to what would otherwise be your standard, bland overpass and gives it some character.”

What’s next?

Though 2019 will mark the completion of the large Del. 1 corridor improvement, the agency has plenty more on its schedule. Mr. McLeod says their intention is to complete several similar projects farther down in Sussex County.

“Once we finish the Little Heaven and Milford interchanges, we’ll be in good shape in the Kent County corridor for years to come, so we’ll keep working our way down Route 1 to DE-16 and Caveneck Road in Sussex County,” he said.

“The idea has always been to maintain quick, safe travel from the top of the state to the bottom and vice versa, and these projects will help accomplish that.”

For more information about DelDOT’s ongoing projects broken up by county, visit deldot.gov/information/projects/.

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

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