Railroad work through Millsboro to cause detour

MILLSBORO — Traffic flow though the busy downtown arterial heart of Millsboro is on track for an early October detour to accommodate Delmarva Central Railroad’s upgrade at the Main Street and Washington Street crossings on Del. 24.

Millsboro town council Monday night approved a request to allow a 24/7 work schedule following a presentation by William Conway, senior vice president for Century Engineering, which is Delaware Department of Transportation’s consultant for rail projects.

Council voted 7-0 in approving the request 24-hour contractor work, which is expected to reduce project timeline from 14 days to 8 to 10.

As planned, the upgrade project, in the making for about a year and a half, includes:

•Replacement of existing at-grade railroad crossing surface with new hot-mix surface;

•Replacement of existing railroad warning signals with new warning signals that feature shorter gates;

•Installation of an ADA-compliant sidewalk across tracks on the south side of Main Street;

•Removal of an existing sidewalk in the median;

•Additional inlets to reduce water ponding at the crossing;

Project plans include new rail and light replacement.

“The idea now is the gates will cover the entire road, but instead of one long gate that causes maintenance trouble, we’re going to split it into two smaller gates,” said Mr. Conway. “And the idea is not to have pedestrians in the median.”

Town councilman/Millsboro Fire Company member Larry Gum applauded the elimination of the median sidewalk.

“That island is a no man’s land for pedestrians. I think it is a great idea to move that,” said Mr. Gum. “I think this is a project long overdue.”

Mr. Gum added that the long crossing arms to be replaced have created issues for the fire department in the past. “I’ll be glad to see those go away,” he said.

Thursday, Oct. 1 is penciled in for the project start date. The expectation is the project will be completed in about eight days. Council’s approval for 24/7 work allows 10 to 12 days, if needed.

“We feel we can get it accomplished in eight days,” Mr. Conway said. “We just completed a project in Middletown, a similar type project that was very successful. It was completed in about 10 days.”

Closure of both crossings will impact Del. 24 traffic eastbound on Main Street and westbound on Washington Street. Separate detour plans have been mapped out to redirect traffic flow from both busy streets. Signage will be posted to alert motorists of the detours and alternate routes.

Delmarva Central Railroad will reimburse the Millsboro Police Department for traffic control, where needed.

“I am glad to hear that it sounds like we are going to have law enforcement, and certainly we will be glad to coordinate with that,” said Millsboro Police chief Brian Calloway. “The concerns that I have is some trucks may not be aware of the detour, so the first few days of that will be coordinating that as well.”

Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon Hudson noted the town’s long-term plans for that downtown district and surrounding area, which includes several sidewalk projects. Sidewalk installation on the north side of Washington Street in the area of the rail crossing could be included.

“We can look at different alternatives. Long-term, is there is a vision to cross to the north?” said Mr. Conway. “We can send some alternatives to the town to show that.”

Mr. Conway said what Century Engineering and DelDOT have “strived to do over the past several years is working with the railroad to get the improvements that work for everyone.”

The issue is expected to be addressed at council’s September meeting.

The Delmarva Central Railroad Company, a subsidiary of Carload Express Inc., operates 188 miles of rail line in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.

DCR is managed locally from offices in Harrington, Delaware. Freight operations are based out of Harrington, Dover, Seaford and Delmar.