Millsboro connector top priority in U.S. 113 corridor plan

GEORGETOWN — Years in the making, a U.S. 113 Corridor Improvement Plan in Sussex County is on the table and set to move forward.

Years down the road, State Rep. Ruth Briggs King said she hopes to experience it behind the wheel.

“I hope I am able to drive it when it is all complete. I am very excited about this,” said Rep. Briggs King, R-Georgetown.

County and state elected officials joined Gov. John Carney and Delaware Department of Transportation representatives earlier this month for the announcement of the U.S. 113 Corridor Improvement Plan at DelDOT’s South District Meeting Room in Georgetown.

In total, the corridor improvement plan is projected to cost $544 million encompassing 17 projects. Fourteen projects include grade-separated intersections with some overpasses designed to eliminate intersection lights and enhance traffic flow and mobility as well as safety. Federal funding is expected to cover approximately 80 percent of the cost.

From start to finish, the work is projected to be spaced out over two decades and encompass intersections from Ellendale to Millsboro, according to DelDOT’s Rob McCleary, chief engineer of the project.

Gov. Carney said this project is “long in the making and will be longer in construction to again advance and cultivate the quality of life around these wonderful towns in this part of our state. What drives economic development is quality of life. And traffic can have a negative impact on quality of life.”

Topping DelDOT’s priority list of the work that needs to be done is a 2.7-mile bypass connector linking Del. 20/U.S. 113 and Del. 24 that would funnel traffic around Millsboro north of the town.

“That is a segment of highway that the public has told us strongly that we can’t deliver fast enough,” said Mr. McCleary. “That one is our top priority followed by (Del) 18/404.”

This Millsboro connector bypass replaced DelDOT’s initial Blue Alternative Route proposal that entailed a 16-mile eastern bypass of Millsboro, Dagsboro and Frankford tying into U.S. 113 north of Selbyville. The Blue Route, which was projected to cost more than $800 million, triggered immense opposition and backlash from residents and downstate elected officials.

“I remember very plainly being in Gov. Markell’s office when you proposed the Blue Route,” said State Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View. “It is completely different than what the residents had said. This is something we asked them to go back and do. This is what we want. We need to get behind this and we need to see that it is going happen because we need it yesterday not tomorrow. Hopefully, all Sussex County legislators will get behind this. This is what we asked for. I think they did a great job.”

State Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, said, “This is what we wanted down here. It is a testament that DelDOT actually listened to the public concerns, taking the feedback from those workshops all of those years ago and developing a plan that really addressed all of the needs. Now that we have this on paper our towns as well can start making plans around that, as opposed to waiting.”

The SR 24 connector and grade separation, initially unveiled by DelDOT in a February update on the U.S. 113 Millsboro North/South Study: Millsboro South-Area, carries a projected cost of $85 million, plus $32 million for right-of-way acquisition.

Other high-priority projects currently under design are grade separations in Georgetown at U.S. 113/Del. 404 and Del. 18 and U.S. 113/U.S. 9 and U.S. 113/Del. 16 in Ellendale. DelDOT will be scheduling public hearings on the work.

Projects will undoubtedly impact traffic, residents and land-owners through right of way acquisition and officials acknowledged that situation.

“There is going to be some short-term pain for a long-term gain. This is a long-term preservation plan,” said DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan. “We’re really looking forward to this and delivering this.”

State Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, supports the project but waved a caution flag.

“I do fully support this. But I do know that when the plans become fully known there will be some people who are hurt, or who will feel they are going to be hurt,” he said. “I would urge everyone to understand that at some point we are going to hit the true crisis. We have to plan for long range and I think this does that job. Having said that I would suggest that myself and all of my fellow legislators will keep watch over this to make sure that the needs of the local citizens who live here take at least equal and hopefully precedence over just moving tourists from one place to another. That is probably the single biggest concern that I have heard.”

Sussex County Council president Michael Vincent, R-Seaford, said county officials do hear a great deal about “traffic, traffic … and traffic.”

“This certainly will help that. I think it is important that everybody realizes that there is going to be pain with this,” said Mr. Vincent. “But I think it is important really that DelDOT and the county work closely together and support each other … and get on the same path. I think the last couple of years we’ve had a very good relationship with the secretary (Cohan) and her staff.”

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