Roundabout, realignment on way to Dover’s Independence Boulevard

 

DOVER — Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Thomas Dix, a resident of Bicentennial Village in Dover, said a roundabout to slow down traffic on Independence Boulevard has divided the neighborhood into factions over the past couple of years.

Now, Col. Dix said, after Dover City Council voted unanimously to approve a road alignment with West Green Blade Drive and Independence Boulevard at a meeting at City Hall on Monday night, maybe the feuding can finally come to an end.

The road alignment is part of the roundabout project that was originally approved by city council on May 9, 2016. However, council inadvertently failed to take action on the subsequent road realignment, at that time calling it a “glitch.”

Now, it appears that no matter which side of the issues a resident is on, a decision has been made and a roundabout (estimated to cost $122,000) and road realignment ($54,000) will be built on Independence Boulevard, the main road through Bicentennial Village that runs from Walker Road to Del. 8.

The project will be paid with money from the Community Transportation Funds from Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover, and Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover.

“It was only by accident that the realignment was left out on a previous motion before city council, based on a full recommendation of the project by the Safety, Advisory and Transportation Committee after an open public hearing,” Dover City Councilman Brian Lewis said.

“My understanding is that Independence Boulevard has been and continues to be a dangerous road. I have been told our own Dover Police Department has conducted a traffic study and has done a number of metro counts of vehicles showing 17,000 cars pass through a week on Independence Boulevard and 5,000 cars pass through a week on Bicentennial Boulevard, that feed into Independence Boulevard.”

Col. Dix said he was impressed with the push that Rep. Lynn made when it came to public safety in his neighborhood when he was made aware of the rising numbers of vehicles and speeding traffic.

“Sean Lynn wrote a letter that said, ‘We don’t experiment with public safety,’ and I was really impressed by that,” Col. Dix said.

Rep. Lynn chose not to comment when asked about the project on Wednesday.

Jim Stewart, a resident of the neighborhood, agrees with Col. Dix about the friction that developed in the area due to the roundabout issue.

Mr. Stewart indicated he was caught in the middle when he attended meetings with the Bicentennial Village Civic Association and said “it was like living between the Hatfields and the McCoys, with bricks flying in both directions.”

Col. Dix said it was a long road that took several meetings at Legislative Hall with Rep. Lynn, other city leaders, the Delaware Department of Transportation, and also many gatherings with the Bicentennial Village Civic Association.

“We went through about a year of meetings and finally DelDOT rendered their opinion that we should have a roundabout and intersection realignment as traffic-calming measures on Independence Boulevard,” said Col Dix.

He said his studies indicated the installation of a roundabout would cause a minus-14 mph reduction in speed on the road, while the realigned intersection would cause a minus-11 mph reduction.

He added that blinking radar light signs lead to only a minus-3.5 mph reduction in speed and the signs only work in one direction.

Col. Dix also believes an undersized 35-foot wide roundabout on Mifflin Road in west Dover led many in the community to misunderstand them.

“They hated the idea of the roundabout because of the Mifflin Road traffic circle, which is 35-feet wide,” he said. “This one will be between 70- to 80-feet-wide, which is more than twice as large as Mifflin.

“Roundabouts have also been proven to reduce accidents.”

City council did not take any action regarding retired DelDOT traffic engineer David Jamison’s presentation at a meeting of council’s Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee on Feb. 28, when he said a radar-traffic sign would be a much more cost-effective method at calming traffic on Independence Boulevard.

Mr. Jamison’s proposal to install a radar-traffic sign would have cost around $5,000. At that meeting, City Councilman James Hutchison said the idea might be worth trying before investing so much in a roundabout.

Mr. Jamison attended Monday night’s city council meeting and was disappointed in the outcome.

“I feel the public was really left out of the process and the council should reconsider their actions and schedule a public hearing meeting to allow input from those residents who have overwhelmingly been against the proposed traffic calming measures,” Mr. Jamison said.

He has filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union, saying, “At a city council meeting, the council approved a two-part proposed traffic calming project on Independence Boulevard in Dover, which the impacted community had voted against it in a survey 60 to 1.

“The council had previously (May 2016) approved one part (a roundabout) but not the other (an intersection realignment). The meeting was done without any public input.”

Col. Dix said he hopes that once people can see the roundabout and the intersection realignment, and how they will work together, they will be able to understand how much safer it is after all.

“At some of the meetings there were people who were very vocal and very disruptive,” he said. “They were handing out flyers and saying they wanted this and that and that it all sounded like an insurrection.

“When you look back at it, it was almost childish the way we argued about this, bickering in front of city council. Some of that probably could have been avoided.”

Councilman Lewis believes the correct decision was reached at Monday’s meeting.

“In the end we must rely on our professional experts like DelDOT to recommend solutions regarding dangerous roads in the city of Dover,” he said. “DelDOT representatives have previously testified on this matter and we are listening.

“Clearly, I believe safety should be our No. 1 concern in city government.”

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

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