Proposed service road could spark growth at Dover Mall

TrafficDoverMall-MClery (Lede)

Vehicles head south in front of the Dover Mall on U.S. 13 in Dover. A proposed service road off the Scarborough Road interchange is hoped to ease traffic problems in North Dover and promote expansion of the mall. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — The owners of the Dover Mall are hoping a service road extension off the Scarborough Road interchange running parallel and just west of Del. 1 would give the shopping center an opportunity to “triple in size” in the coming years.

Attorney John Paradee, of the Baird, Mandalas, Brockstedt law firm in Dover, is representing Western Development, the owners of the Dover Mall, in trying to make the proposed Dover Mall Service Road in north Dover a reality.

Mr. Paradee made a presentation to the Dover City Council’s Council Committee of the Whole Meeting in late June to try to get the project moved higher up on the Dover/Kent County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s list of priorities.

If it doesn’t happen soon, Mr. Paradee cautioned that anchor stores such as Sears could soon be leaving the mall.

Mr. Paradee said “the Dover Mall owns approximately 88 acres to the east, behind them, and they were proposing to expand to triple the current size of the mall; however, they cannot without the traffic infrastructure.”

He added that “other users in the area would continue to suffer severe stress if efforts are not made to improve the infrastructure system.”

Since a 2007 U.S. 13 corridor study was performed, continuing growth and development has strained the existing roadway infrastructure on U.S. 13 in north Dover.

Mr. Paradee told Dover City Council members there are a number of significant users in the area, including a few institutions of higher learning, a NASCAR track, a retail mall and special events to the west, such as the Firefly Music Festival.

Matter of priority

“It’s consistent with the MPO’s North Dover Study, which was completed in 2009,” said Rich Vetter, executive director of the Dover/Kent County MPO.

Mr. Vetter said the access road project is ranked No. 9 in the MPO’s prioritization process and that seven of the other eight projects have allocated funds in DelDOT’s Capital Transportation Program, either for design, right-of-way acquisition or construction. The proposed mall access road project

A southeast view of the Dover International Speedway from the Dover Mall. Officials hope a service road behind the mall would also help Dover Downs, the speedway and events such as the Firefly Music Festival. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

A southeast view of the Dover International Speedway from the Dover Mall. Officials hope a service road behind the mall would also help Dover Downs, the speedway and events such as the Firefly Music Festival. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

does not have any funding.

Ann Marie Townshend, director of the city’s Planning and Inspections department, believes a service road off Del. 1 that would serve the Dover Mall and Dover Downs is a good idea.

“I think it’s an important road,” she said. “I think it’s going to help the development behind the mall and I think it will help with events like Firefly and all of those things. Plus, it will take some of the traffic off Route 13, so I think it is important.”

Ms. Townshend said it all depends on where the city’s priorities lie as to if the service road will get moved up the list.

“I think ultimately council is going to have to decide where it fits in the priority of things because council has also said in the past that it would like a service road that would connect Garrison Oak (Technology Park) to the Route 8/Route 1 interchange,” she said. “It’s a matter of where does it rate in comparison to that and I think that’s a discussion that council needs to have.”

Mr. Paradee said that once the Dover Mall Service Road is built at the Scarborough Road interchange, it would ultimately result in the construction of an east/west connector road that will run between the Dover Mall and Dover Downs to U.S. 13.

According to Mr. Paradee, discussions regarding the project began with the Delaware Department of Transportation and the General Assembly two years ago about how to proceed forward.

In last year’s Bond Bill, the General Assembly authorized DelDOT to conduct three studies, including a feasibility study, a toll study and a wetlands delineation to determine whether the project could move forward. The feasibility study was recently completed.

A northwest view of the back of the Dover Mall from the Dover International Speedway. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

A northwest view of the back of the Dover Mall from the Dover International Speedway. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Mr. Paradee said construction costs on the Dover Mall Service Road are estimated to be around $15 million and that the project would involve a service road and ramps and would not include a lot of overpass work.

He added that additional tolls for access to the service road would be around 50 cents and would pay for the entire design and construction of the improvements. Tolls would be placed on the north and south sides of the road.

Mr. Paradee said “after spending a lot of money and studying [the service road] with many experts, the conclusion was that the road modification being discussed was feasible and would relieve congestion, improve circulation and enhance traffic safety,” and would “foster and accommodate continued economic growth and development in the corridor.”

However, Mr. Paradee said the project needs to be moved up quickly on the Dover/Kent County MPO’s priority list. He said it is currently about two-thirds of the way down.

He requested that the city support elevating the priority of the project due to “its value compared to the funds required.”

A ‘win-win situation’

Dover City Manager Scott Koenig said there are no negatives to the service road proposal from the city’s standpoint “especially if construction costs could be recovered through a new user-based toll.”

Mr. Koenig said the city has met with different developers around a dozen times over the last decade to talk about expansion of the Dover Mall. He said there has been a general complaint regarding the direction that the mall seemed to be going.

“If this [service road] would ignite the next round of investment in the mall, as well as the potential for spin-off businesses or additional

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What do you think about a service road that would link Del. 1 with the Dover Mall? Do you think it’s a good idea that would help with expansion of business in Dover and ease traffic in the area? Send a Letter to the Editor to newsroom@newszap.com or drop us a line to Delaware State News.110 Galaxy Drive, Dover, DE 19901. You can also share your thoughts at DelawareStateNews.net or on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/DelawareStateNews.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?
What do you think about a service road that would link Del. 1 with the Dover Mall? Do you think it’s a good idea that would help with expansion of business in Dover and ease traffic in the area?
Send a Letter to the Editor to newsroom@newszap.com or drop us a line to Delaware State News.110 Galaxy Drive, Dover, DE 19901. You can also share your thoughts at DelawareStateNews.net or on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/DelawareStateNews.

developments, it is feasible and worthwhile,” Mr. Koenig said.

City Councilman William Hare said the project is long overdue. He said “Christiana Mall ran into this same situation years ago because the mall wanted to expand and it was difficult to exit [Del. 1] into the mall and a lot of changes were made it that area.”

Mr. Hare added that he has suggested to people coming north from the beach to stop at the Dover Mall but they felt it was easier to drive up to Christiana for easier access.

City Councilman Fred Neil recommended authorizing Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen to present a letter at the July 6 meeting of the Dover/Kent County MPO requesting that the proposed Dover Mall Service Road be elevated on its transportation prioritization list.

Mayor Christiansen also serves as the vice chairman of the Dover/Kent County MPO.

Mr. Christiansen is all for the Dover Mall Service Road, noting that the project is something that should have probably, in hindsight, should have taken place years ago.

“I think it will be a win-win situation for everybody,” he said. “It will be not only a boost to the Dover Mall and Dover Downs, but it will also help relieve some of the congestion on Route 13 there.

“It’s also an economic development tool because once they’re able to open up that back area [of the mall] they’ll be able to bring more stores to the area. That should also bring a lot of jobs to Dover and that’s what we’re looking for.”

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

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