West Dover Connector opens today: New road honors POW/MIAs

Antique military vehicles lead the Veteran Parkway Procession on the new POW/MIA Parkway West Dover Corridor on Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Thirty-one months after the groundbreaking and 20 years after it was first pitched as an idea the West Dover Connector is now open for business.

Well, technically drivers can’t use it until 5 p.m. today, but setting that small detail aside, the long-awaited roadway is finally finished.

The road formally christened the POW/MIA Parkway stretches 3.2 miles, providing an easier way for drivers to travel between west Dover and Rodney Village.

One end of the roadway begins at the intersection of North Street and Saulsbury Road by Eden Hill Medical Center. From there, the parkway then stretches south to U.S. Route 13 near Rodney Village with spurs allowing drivers to enter and exit at Wyoming Mill Road and New Burton Road.

The connector includes space for bicyclists and pedestrians with a path running alongside the entire road.

Officials hope the pathway will reduce congestion on other roads and provide a convenient connection between different areas of Dover.

DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan, Gov. John Carney, Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall Long, Sen Tom Carper, Sen. Chris Coons along with President of Delaware Council Paul Davis and other dignitaries cut the ribbon during the new POW/MIA Parkway West Dover Corridor Open Reception on Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

On Friday dozens of people gathered near the Kent County Recreation Center for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Delaware’s governor was in attendance as were all three members of the state’s congressional delegation. Several Delaware Department of Transportation employees and dozens of veterans also attended.

“This is years and years in the making,” Secretary of Transportation Jennifer Cohan said. “It’s pretty rare that, from a transportation standpoint, that you open up a new road and new alignment. And that is a rarity and we’re very happy to announce that this was opened on time and on budget.”

Built at a cost of $67.9 million, with $49.4 million of that coming from federal tax dollars, the road includes traffic lights at both ends. The Route 13 intersection and the North Street-Saulsbury Road intersection at Eden Hill both were altered for the parkway, which stretches over New Burton Road and Puncheon Run.

Named after prisoners of war and those missing in action, the road is more than just another street, speakers said.

“I look at this road and what it’s been called, it should be a constant reminder to all future generations the sacrifice that our military pays to defend the Constitution of our country, the freedoms that we currently have and unfortunately sometimes today some people just don’t it. That was not given to us easily,” said Paul Davis, president of Delaware Vietnam Veterans of America and the one who pitched the name to DelDOT. “You just study the history of people who have sacrificed their life so we can have freedom.”

Sen. Tom Carper gives a Vietnam Veteran a hug during the new POW/MIA Parkway West Dover Corridor Open Reception on Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Among the individuals making remarks at Friday’s event was retired Brig. Gen. Jon Reynolds, who spent more than seven years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. It’s American heroes like Mr. Reynolds the roadway is dedicated to, Rep. William Carson, D-Smyrna, proclaimed.

“We will never forget them,” Rep. Carson said.

DelDOT projects more than 19,000 daily rides along the POW-MIA Parkway in lieu of other roads by 2035. The agency is also hoping it turns into a popular access point for cyclists and runners.

“Eventually … you will be able to walk or ride a bike from downtown Dover all the way to the John Dickinson Plantation,” Levy Court Commissioner Jody Sweeney said.

Cyclists have already started using the parkway: Two rode by during the speeches, taking advantage of the road.

Members of the DAFB Honor Guard during Presentation of Colors at the new POW/MIA Parkway West Dover Corridor Open Reception on Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

After the ribbon was officially cut, Mr. Reynolds and his wife were the first to use the new roadway.

“With the opening of the POW/MIA Parkway today, we honor those who have sacrificed so much for our country,” Gov. John Carney said. “This project also represents a significant investment in transportation infrastructure in Kent County that will alleviate congestion, and improve travel throughout the Dover area. Importantly, these types of investments create jobs and spur economic development in communities up and down our state.”

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.