Traffic jams in Millsboro: Feasibility study for a 3rd bridge requested

MILLSBORO — Traffic congestion, typically a hot topic in Millsboro, has spurred an idea to explore the possibility of another bridge spanning the Indian River.

State Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro, plans to seek General Assembly approval, requesting Delaware’s Department of Transportation investigate the possibility of a third bridge.

“I am going to put in a resolution when we get in there in March, just asking DelDOT to study it,” Rep. Collins said. “Right now, if a person wants to go from one side of the river to the other, they only have the choice of the Indian River Inlet Bridge or the one right through the heart of Millsboro.”

“We know how bad the beach traffic is,” Rep. Collins said. “But when you get into Millsboro with two lights, the light at State Street and the one out at US 113, my guess is … when traffic is heavy, traffic can’t be moving more than five miles per hour – if that. And that is today. What’s it going to be in 20 years?”

At the Jan. 28 Millsboro town meeting, council approved a formal request for Rep. Collins to take to Dover.

Rep. Rich Collins

“I think it sounds like a great idea,” said Millsboro Councilman Tim Hodges.

This recent pitch comes amid DelDOT’s proposed multi-pronged solution to ease Millsboro’s traffic woes: a cloverleaf bypass and connector road linking US 113/SR 20 to SR 24 just west of the Mountaire Farms plant, widening northbound and southbound US 113 to three lanes for several miles plus several other upgrades.

DelDOT’s plans were up for public scrutiny last October at a meeting facilitated by Rep. Collins.

The 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 US 113 north of Selbyville. The Blue Alternative, which was projected to cost more than $800 million, met immense opposition and backlash from residents and downstate elected officials, and was ultimately ditched.

In design, the bypass Rt. 24 connector is scheduled to be completed in 2025-26. Approximately 70 properties will be impacted by potential right-of-way acquisition, DelDOT officials announced at the Oct. 25 meeting.

Short-term plans include road widening and turn lane options at US 113/Rt. 24 in the area of the Wawa convenience store, which frequently experiences bottleneck congestion.

With construction and right of way acquisition, the projected cost of the SR 24 bypass connector and grade separation is $128 million. US 113 widening north and south of Rt. 24 and access management is projected to be $25 million, with $5 million for the US 113/Rt. 24 short-term improvements.

“Of course, the big deal is always how many people are you going to displace: How many houses, businesses or homes?” Rep. Collins said.

The 150th General Assembly is scheduled to be back in session March 5.

“I am hoping that this is just a way to get the process moving to see if we can’t come up with something,” said Rep. Collins. “It’s the same process that George Bunting used when he was senator to eventually get the new Indian River Inlet Bridge built. He put in a resolution to study to the concept. And that led to discussions and eventually they got around to building the bridge.”

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