Commentary: The long and bumpy roads of Delaware

A few weeks ago there was some discussion on a local TV news broadcast concerning Delaware’s consideration of imposing a mileage tax/fee to increase funds for the maintenance/care of our roads and bridges. It seems that DelDOT doesn’t have the funds to maintain those items and needs more and more money they are so good at wasting.

I refer of course to those wonderful overpasses they seem to think must be placed at every intersection along Del.1 between Dover and the beaches with beaches being the real driving factor. They want to make it as stress free as possible for all those folks driving back and forth to the beaches, especially during the summer months.

We don’t want them inconvenienced at all by two or three traffic lights along their way but we all know money is the root of all evil! But what about Delawareans who have to drive on U.S. 13 or 113 or other smaller roads where surfaces are coming up and to drive them is like driving on old fashioned washboards or across railroad tracks?

So let’s look at that wonderful monstrosity DelDOT has been working so hard on for the past several months (years) just south of Magnolia where South State Street intersects with Del. 1.

First, they have laid/poured enough concrete to resurface much of U.S. 13 with a lot not even being used for traffic. But I am sure it will all be wonderful when and if they ever finish the project. Of course, they will, as with most other projects DelDOT does, have to return every so often to replace and repair what they have done rather than doing it right the first time.

Barrett’s Chapel Road connects U.S. 13 to Del. 1 very close to Barrett’s Chapel. Now the old route came straight out to Del. 1 and you could cross over to travel north or turn right to travel south. But now DelDOT engineers decided they knew best so the stopped Barretts Chapel Road from connecting with Del. 1 in a straight line and created a whole new curving traffic pattern which cuts throuth a large field but the best is yet to come. Once you reach Del. 1 you can no longer cross over to go north but must now travel all the way south to the Frederica exit, cross back over Del. 1 via the overpass then rejoin Del. 1 heading north.

Just about a two-mile out-of-the way run when before it was much simpler and made sense but I am sure DelDOT engineers (who know best) will say it was necessary for safety reason.

Then there is the connection from South State onto Del. 1. Coming from Magnolia, there is enough new pavement for at least four lanes along with new curbing, sidewalks and a new drive turning into a housing area but all you get are two lanes with the median as a no-go area surrounded by solid double yellow lines.

Then you come to large and fancy traffic lights (when all that was needed was one) for two lanes which both turn left. Then as soon as you turn left, those two lanes immediately merge into one lane as the road connects with Del. 1. But then perhaps all that new construction is only temporary and they will re-align that whole area with new pavement, entry, exit and turn lanes and traffic patterns.

So now we have completed overpasses south of Frederica for the new sports complex (no traffic light there), a new overpass just north of Milford near the Ford dealership (there was a light nearby, a new overpass near the new hospital south of Milford (never a light there) exiting to Del. 30 but now DelDOT has begun another overpass just about one mile south of where U.S. 13 exits to Milford (for U.S. 113) which is for Del. 14 (no traffic light there either).

So it appears DelDOT is determined to place an overpass at every entry, intersection or where there is a traffic light on Del. 1 from Dover to Lewes.

Using what appears to be their logic, I counted a possible 10 to 13 locations where they could construct overpasses over the next few years. That translates into job security for a lot of people not to mention millions and maybe even billions of dollars spent on just one 40-mile stretch of highway while the road surfaces on other heavily traveled roadways within the state fall into further disrepair and ruin.

With the time it takes for DelDOT to finish any project, I can foresee a young person just coming into the work force for DelDOT, in the construction department, who could begin their career working on these overpasses and complete a 30-year career without doing anything except constructing overpasses from Dover to Lewes. It must be nice to work for DelDOT!

Now let’s talk about U.S. 13, U.S. 113 and even portions of Del. 1 between Smyrna and Odessa. U.S. 13 from Camden to Delmar is like a washboard in both directions. The same goes for U.S. 113 between Milford and Millsboro. I can’t speak to south of Millsboro as I haven’t been on that section of U.S. 113.

However, I drive U.S. 13 at least weekly to Delmar and twice weekly every other week. I used to think Pennsylvania had some terrible road surfaces but with my recent experience on U.S. 13 and other Delaware roads it is clear Delaware has that honor because DelDOT is too busy wasting money on catering to beach traffic rather than concentrating on the roads Delaware citizens have to use every day.

Have you driven through the intersection just outside the north gate at Dover AFB recently? That section has been re-surfaced countless times and more recently just a few months ago and now that surface is as bad, if not worse, that it was before. Great quality DelDOT! As with most DelDOT projectsm their attempts to repair usually end up with the site left in worse condition than when they began. Even if it does seem a little better at first, usually within a few months, if not weeks, it has deteriorated back to the way it was or worse.

As far as SR1 north of Smyrna and south of Odessa is concerned, the right-hand lane (both north and southbound) is like a washboard in many sections. In fact, at one point DelDOT posted a sign on the southbound side of SR1 warning traffic of “uneven pavement” but soon took it down.

Actually, some parts of Del. 1 north of Smyrna are so bad one can actually see the cracks between the sections and how one side is higher than the other. So, what to do about it?

Maybe, just maybe, we could get DelDOT’s attention if every time a Delaware citizen suffers a front-end/suspension issue like alignment, tires out-of-balance, or bad shock absorbers after driving on Del. 1, 13, 113 or any other roads in desperate need of repair they send the bill to DelDOT! I would also suggest we speak to our elected representatives and ask for their help in getting DelDOT to be more concerned with the citizens of Delaware rather than those visitors headed for the beaches.

Joe Schell is a resident of Dover.

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