State ramping up for Route 26 projects

The Route 26 roadway improvement project planned for the 4 miles between St. George’s Church in Clarksville and the Assawoman Canal is now expected to begin in 2011 and conclude in 2014, according to the Delaware Department of Transportation’s (DelDOT’s) current schedule and funding, with work slated to be completed in one-mile sections.

But in order for the main Route 26 project to be constructed, DelDOT has to first construct the Route 26 Detours Routes project. That project will improve four roads to the south of Route 26 so that they can handle traffic while it is diverted from Route 26 during the main project’s construction. The detours project is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2009.

Millville Mayor Donald Minyon and Karen McGrath, executive director of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce, have both expressed concerns regarding specific project areas in Millville — specifically curbs and sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic signal arms, an island and a realignment of Cedar Drive. Their concerns also include a crosswalk and traffic light cycle at Old Mill Road, as well as the elimination of left-turns onto Route 26 at Cedar Drive and the shared exit of the Food Lion and Creekside Plaza shopping centers.

Tom Banez, project manager for DelDOT’s Route 26 project, acknowledged this week that there is significant pedestrian movement at Old Mill Road, with no pedestrian accommodations. According to Banez, the Traffic Section of DelDOT had already begun a redesign of Old Mill Road and Route 26, and decided to look into issues such as those since they were already in the midst of planning.

DelDOT’s Traffic Section wanted to be sure that the ongoing sewer improvements by Sussex County were complete before any signal work was to begin, he said. The expected timeline for the completion of the new signal design is this month.

“It should be in the ground this fall,” said Banez of two of the main changes at Old Mill Road and Route 26.

“There will be curb ramps, a crosswalk and sidewalk connectivity. The crosswalk will be along the road behind the curb at Wachovia Bank,” said Banez.

Also at that intersection, according to Banez, the existing side-street split phasing of the traffic signals will be altered to concurrent phasing. That means that, instead of the southbound left- and through-lanes going while all north-side traffic is waiting — as it is now — the opposing lefts will be permitted to go at the same time, then the opposing through lanes will go at the same time. Banez said the change to concurrent phasing will “increase the capacity of the intersection and allow it to run more efficiently.”

Banez also acknowledged this week that the engineers in the Traffic Section of DelDOT are looking into eliminating left-turns onto Route 26 from Cedar Drive and the shared exit at Creekside Plaza to see if it is feasible to incorporate those changes into the traffic design. The elimination of left turns in that immediate area has been high on the list of local residents and visitors, since both are viewed as safety hazards and impedances to the movement of traffic.

According to Banez, if the study reveals they are warranted, signs indicating that left turns are prohibited will be installed at the two locations.

In related news, Phase II of the Sussex County sewer project will be starting up this fall, after a planned summer break for the work. According to Banez, that project has already been coordinated with DelDOT, so there are no conflicts with the location of the sewer and any future road improvements. The sewer project is expected to start up again on Sept. 15 and will last until spring, starting at Club House Road and moving west toward the entrance to Denton Mills.