Senator Bikeway project draws closer to reality

DOVER — The long-awaited Senator Bikeway project is about a year away from beginning construction on Phase I, which will be built on the north side of Del. 8 stretching from Saulsbury Road to West Street.

Jonathan Hermes, associated vice president of Century Engineering, believes that once the project finally gets rolling it will be difficult to stop.

The Senator Bikeway, estimated to cost around $3.5 million, will eventually stretch three-and-a-half miles from Dover High School in west Dover all the way to U.S. 13 by Dunkin Donuts. It is planned to be built in several phases.

“A lot of it depends on the funding and the timing,” Mr. Hermes said. “The project starts at Dover High School and runs all the way to Route 13. There are some spots where we’re going to have to get some easements from property owners and talk to them.

“We’re going to be going up around [Central Middle School] and into Silver Lake Park, so some of those connections are going to take a long time. DelDOT is committed to multiple phases, it’s just how much the funding will allow at each time.”

Improving bicycle mobility along Del. 8 has long been a priority for DelDOT and the Kent County/Dover Metropolitan Planning Organization, who are working together on the joint project.

The Senator Bikeway is part of an ongoing effort to revise Dover’s original bicycle and pedestrian transportation plan, which was developed in 1997 and which was incorporated into the city’s comprehensive plan.

The project gets its name from the fact that it will take bicyclists and walkers past three schools in the Capital School District.

“We’ve presented this to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee and the Dover Safety Committee and they recommended [Del. 8] as the No. 1 priority area,” Mr. Hermes said. “This is an area that doesn’t have any accommodations for bikes and they felt it was very dangerous.”

Rich Vetter, executive director of the Kent County/Dover MPO, is excited that the plan is finally inching closer to becoming a reality. A total of $720,000 has been budgeted for Phase I.

“It’s a great project,” he said. “The concept of this has been around for at least a couple of years so it’s good that we have some funding and some public interest in this project. The key is to get the funding set up because it’s been on the city’s radar for a couple of years now.

“The need is recognized, which is the first thing, that people actually recognize that this is something that is warranted.”

Mr. Hermes and Mr. Vetter hosted a meeting at Booker T. Washington Elementary School on Monday to bring the community up to date on the bicycle project.

They also wanted to see what people thought about a proposal to eliminate a parking lot on the north side of the elementary school.

“There’s an existing five-foot sidewalk out there [on Del. 8] that we’re going to be widening to a 10-foot multi-use pathway,” Mr. Hermes said. “Then on the north side, when you get past [Booker T. Washington Elementary], we’re actually proposing putting the bikeway where the parking is located [currently] and having a two-way bike path on the street, keeping the sidewalk where it is.

“We’re trying to get the public’s opinion about removing the parking just on the north side of the school in that two-block area.”

Mr. Hermes said he is aware of how important parking is to the community, especially the closer people get to the downtown area.

“We know that parking’s always a concern and there’s a lot of off-street parking in that area and there’s still the parking on the south street, so we felt there was still enough parking in the area but we want to make sure that we hear from the community first,” he said.

Among the proposed improvements that Mr. Hermes detailed on Monday for Phase I of the Senator Bikeway were:

•Replace existing deteriorated concrete sidewalk with a 10-foot wide proposed bituminous (formerly known as “hot-mix”) multi-use pathway along the north side of (Del. 8) from Saulsbury Road to West Street.

• Replace existing deteriorated concrete sidewalk with a five-foot wide proposed concrete sidewalk, remove parking and install a two-way on-street bicycle boulevard along the north side of Division Street, from Weston Drive to Railroad Avenue.

• Replace existing curb with new curb and gutter where required within the project limits.

• Upgrade existing curb ramps to meet current ADA requirements.

• Assess existing landscaping and install new landscaping where feasible.

From Booker T. Washington Elementary School, the Senator Bikeway is eventually planned to go one block north to Fulton Street, through the Wesley College campus, to Central Middle School and then through Silver Lake Park.

“I think it’s a case that if you build it, they will come,” Mr. Vetter said. “There’s people that bike now, but I think this will improve that situation. It will be a great addition to the city.”

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

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