The Millsboro Downtown Partnership is trying to reach legislators in hopes of resolving traffic and safety issues within the town.
“We desperately need a truck route to just get the traffic off of route 24,” said Jessica Wiggins, the partnership’s founder and president. “The industrial traffic that goes through our downtown is horrendous and it poses a safety issue, not to mention the stench and the debris that comes off, especially the chicken trucks; it’s terrible.”
Millsboro Downtown Partnership, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that supports creating and promoting revitalization of Millsboro downtown while preserving its historical significance.
“With our efforts for revitalization and historic preservation, we cannot have that type of traffic traveling through our area and through our community. Now there’s a rendering plant that’s in the work and it’s going to aggravate an already bad situation,” she said. “As a revitalization committee, when you’re trying to bring growth to your community, this [traffic] is just the opposite of what we need, which is very frustrating.”
The traffic is so bad, in fact, that the group decided to get together and write a letter to Delaware legislators requesting a new route specifically for trucks going to the Mountaire plant be constructed.
“As of right now we have 250 letters that we are going to copy and present to legislators in Dover, to their office in person,” she said. “I’ve spoken to Dick Clark who works at the senate, and he’s very much involved. This is something that’s been on his radar for quite some time. [The Delaware Department of Transportation] is well aware of it and [the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control] is aware of it but we decided as a revitalization group, that we wanted to at least take the initiative to create a letter and allow the members of the community to have their voice heard.”
A Millsboro bypass has been discussed by Gov. Jack Markell and Sussex County legislators. However, Wiggins said that will take years, and the town needs something sooner.
Wiggins said that she’s hoping to collect at least 500 letters and has received letters from residents, business owners and community members in surrounding areas to present to Delaware legislators.
“Anyone that is affected by the traffic they are more than willing and have been more than willing to sign that and say that, ‘yes, this is needed. Please hear us.’”
DelDOT Community Relations Officer Tina Shockley said that getting such a road built would be a long and tenuous process, which at the onset would require a traffic study and planning study.
“It’s honestly going to be very difficult. When we plan projects, it’s usually at a minimum three to four years and that’s if you have funding in place and all of that stuff,” she said. “To actually design a whole new road and design a project, it takes a lot of time.”
Shockley said that the it would be beneficial to all parties involved if Millsboro Downtown Partnership also gave copies of the letters to DelDOT to allow them to look into the group’s concerns further.
“So we can look at it while the legislators are looking at it while the legislators are looking at it so that we can determine if it’s something that is feasible, given our other projects. So we can start working on it together.”
Wiggins stated that the group is not looking for immediate action, just that the legislators recognize that it is a problem.
“It’s just to make them aware that this is needed and we’re not asking for a bypass, we’re just asking for a very simply truck route just to get that traffic out of our downtown. At this time the letter is requesting that the legislators come up with a plan. We’re aware that a plan has been discussed, but we don’t offer, at this time, a proposal. We’re simply saying, ‘just please hear us.’ We’re asking for change that is necessary,” she said. “That may be the next step. But we just wanted them to know that there was an issue.
“I would hope that it would definitely put pressure on the legislators to come up with a plan and to make a decision. But even if this, right now, means that they are aware that Millsboro Downtown Partnership exists and that we deem this a priority, that would be enough for me right now.”
Wiggins said that the truck traffic through the downtown’s Main Street is so bad that it keeps people from visiting the area.
“The amount of space that the trucks take up causes a terrible traffic jam. The stench, I mean, you have biological things flying off of the truck and it’s on the streets, it’s on your vehicle. People more often than not avoid downtown because of the traffic.”
Wiggins is the owner of Blue Water Grill and said the truck traffic has adversely affected her businesses, as well as the lives and businesses of others.
“When you are from a consumers point of view, when you are trying to enjoy a meal, and let’s say that chicken is your entrée on choice, and you see the chicken trucks drive by, it’s enough to curb your appetite,” she said. “This summer, from a business owner’s standpoint, we had just an outrageous number of flies. They come in from the trucks and when they’re parked waiting for that traffic light, they harbor in front of the restaurant and every time the doors open you have ten fly in at a time. It was just awful. We’ve been there four years and this was definitely the worst we’ve seen them.”
Wiggins said that the group realizes that the problem is not going to be solved overnight, but hopes that action will eventually be taken.
“We are just requesting that they acknowledge the problem, publically would be nice, that they are moving in a direction that would alleviate this problem; That we’re not looking at a bypass fifteen years down the road, that there is something on the table, in the works in the very near future. Ultimately two to three years would be fantastic.”
Shockley said that to construct a road requires a lot of work done by the state and that it would be extremely difficult to have the truck route completed within three years.
“It is going to be an involved process because once they start talking with them, they’re going to find out what requirements are and what the impact is. We have to do a truck impact study; we’ll have to see how it’s going to affect other roadways. There’s right of way issues… there’s utilities nearby; there’s a lot of things to go through.
“It’s definitely a time-consuming process and I’d be surprised if it happened in two to three years,” she said. “I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, but by our planning process that’d be way too tight of a schedule.”
Wiggins noted that the truck route is currently one of the priorities of the organization, and hopes that more people in the community will want to join in and support their efforts.
“It is a community effort,” she said. “Our goal is to partner with every aspect of the community, from residents to business owners, to property owners, to civic organizations—across the spectrum. Our goal is to make Millsboro a thriving, welcoming downtown where people want to be.”
Millsboro Downtown Partnership will meet on Nov. 15 and Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. in the Millsboro Fire Hall. Beginning in January 2012, the group will meet at the Millsboro Fire Hall the second Thursday of each month at 6 p.m.
For more information, or to get involved, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or look them up on Facebook.