The end is near for Route 26 lane closures, but further away than was planned and many had hoped. The Delaware Department of Transportation has now given utilities and road crews permission to continue closing lanes on Atlantic Avenue until June 30. The original end date for the work was May 15.
Community members were informed of the extension at the Route 26 Working Group meeting on May 20.
“There will be no lane closures in the summer,” said chief engineer Jill Frey of Century Engineering. “But if the companies can do work, they will.”
To speed up the Route 26 Detour Routes project, DelDOT switched to a new “full-depth reclamation” process, by which pavement is torn from the road, remixed and then poured back onto that road. Work was scheduled to begin along Windmill Road on May 13, then move to Beaver Dam Road and Central Avenue.
The process at each location takes approximately five days. The road may be closed, except for local traffic, during the working hours from 7 a.m. through 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. During non-construction hours, the roadways will be fully operational.
However, in response to questions, DelDOT officials said road closures are less likely on Fridays and that they would relay the concern over any closures on Fridays. The State does not scheduled construction for federal holidays, including Memorial Day.
Final paving should be done by late June, weather permitting, with just a few touchups afterward, they said.
With about 110 of 250 utility poles replaced on Route 26 (“Kudos to Verizon and Delmarva Power,” said Frey), work will then continue in October.
Clarksville and Millville Town Center will be ready for the contractor to begin actual mainline road construction in those locations on Oct. 1. People will see “a lot of work all at the same time,” said Frey, including more utility relocation, tree clearing, sewers in Ocean View and lane closures.
DelDOT has advertised for an inspection contract, which must include a community liaison team for daily questions and concerns. One contractor will manage the four-mile project, with input on the final schedule of construction. They will hire subcontractors for water, sewer and so on. The project was broken into four phases for ease of management.
Sections of Route 26 will only be completely closed around January of 2015, when bridges near Lord Baltimore Elementary School and Millville Town Hall are replaced. However, pedestrian traffic will continue.
“Businesses open” signs will be placed throughout the project area, and DelDOT will coordinate with schools, emergency vehicles and other organizations.
Residents who have been compensated for property in conjunction with the roadway improvements are being asked to begin moving lawn ornaments and other features out of the affected areas, to save time and hassle later.
DelDOT is also working to incorporate into the project an expanded County sewer project through Millville and Clarksville so that roadwork can be completed all at once.
New businesses, such as the Dollar General in Millville and CVS in Ocean View, are being incorporated into the plans, as well.
State Sen. Gerald Hocker (R-20th) said a Tidewater Utilities Inc., expansion must also be considered, westward from Whites Neck Road. Frey said she had talked with company representatives, but that Tidewater doesn’t seem to have funding in place for such a project.
“We accommodated Tidewater,” said DelDOT project manager Tom Banez, but DelDOT, he said, “can’t tell them” to expand infrastructure. Hocker said he will fight for an expansion during the Route 26 project.
Several people asked about the intersection at White’s Neck Road by Dollar General, concerned with the rising accident rate and diminishing visibility.
DelDOT has no current plans to build a traffic signal in the Route 26 project, despite discussion of the plan and mention of funds contributed by the developer during plan approval by the Town of Millville. Officials said their Traffic Section has monitored the intersection, and representatives promised to discuss it further back at the office, considering traffic volume and accident reports.
When a temporary light was suggested, Banez warned it may not be the most effective solution until a turn lane is installed, just because it could add congestion. He cited the signal at West Avenue in Ocean View, where traffic completely halts during a red light, with no turn lane to continue traffic flow.
Hocker also expressed concern about Lord Baltimore Elementary, where yellow blinking overhead lights warning of a 20 mph speed limit during school hours were replaced with a 20 mph sign adjacent to the roadway. He said the “When children present” is difficult to read, and his constituents falsely believe that it’s an Ocean View police speed trap, even if local police weren’t involved in the decision.
Plus, he said, it’s difficult to tell if children actually are present at any given time and necessitate the 20 mph speed, which was clear with the blinking lights, as they were only on when the 20 mph limit was being enforced. DelDOT representatives said such signs are becoming common in Delaware, but Hocker said they aren’t clear.
For more information on the Route 26 Mainline Project, call DelDOT Public Relations at (302) 760-2080 or visit www.DelDOT.gov, find the Projects page, and click “SR 26 Mainline and Detour Routes Project.”