DelDOT defends outreach

While some locals are still uncertain regarding potential impact on their properties, Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) spokesman Darrell Cole insisted the department was doing its best to keep everyone informed.

Cole said the Local Roads project (shoulders, turn lanes and stormwater management from Route 17 along Burbage Road, to Windmill and Beaver Dam Roads) continued apace. Those improvements are slated to take place 2006-2007.

The local roads will serve as alternate routes when DelDOT starts work on the Mainline SR 26 project (Route 26, Assawoman Canal to Clarksville).

Rights-of-way acquisitions along Mainline SR 26 are slated to begin in 2008.

However, Millville Town Council Member Cliff Toomey said he was still waiting to hear word on rights-of-way acquisitions in front of his farm on Burbage Road.

Toomey attended a 2003 workshop on Local Roads, and found his property would be impacted.

He requested an onsite meeting, and DelDOT officials came to his property to explain what they had in mind.

Toomey wasn’t necessarily thrilled, and expressed concern regarding his ability to get fair market value for his frontage, but recognized the necessity of the improvements.
“It’s too dangerous to walk on these roads,” he pointed out.

DelDOT contacted him again in late 2003, with a trespass agreement for soil boring (to check for drainage capacity).

However, he said he hadn’t heard anything since.

“We know little or nothing about what’s going down this road,” Toomey stated, and added that some of his neighbors were likewise in the dark.

“I’ve just been waiting on them (DelDOT),” he said. “I assumed they’d get with me, let me know what was going on.”

Cole said the department prided itself on public outreach, but it was difficult to reach everybody. Property owners don’t always live at the local addresses, he pointed out.

However, as Cole asserted, “The people who could be affected know that.”

He said it was impossible to offer exact plans to the public, because the projects were still in development.

“Nothing is set in stone,” he said, noting a desire to avoid a situation where someone expected one impact, and later learned DelDOT would need even more land.

According to Cole, plans presented at public workshops were based on the engineers’ best estimates, but they continued to develop “up to the minute.”

He said they always tried to put forth the most current information.

“We always want to give people as much information as possible,” Cole pointed out. “We feel comfortable with the outreach we do.”

However, for people in Toomey’s position, he encouraged people to write, call or e-mail with their questions.

“If people think they might be affected by this project, and want to know specifics, call our office,” he said.

“If you don’t get a response, call again. Let us know — we’ll fix it,” he said. “We do the best we can, but you can’t expect this information to fall into your lap.

“Everyone has different questions and concerns, and people have to let us know what they are,” Cole stated.

Locals concerned regarding Local Roads impacts can reach DelDOT at (302) 760-2080, or 1-800-652-5600 (instate only).

Meanwhile, DelDOT continues to study the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce request for a modified Mainline SR 26 design.

Chamber President Phil Fleming sent a letter to DelDOT requesting a continuous center lane, at the expense of the 3-foot-wide grassy medians between curb and sidewalk, plus an additional 3 feet along each shoulder.

“I think we’ve gotten some positive reaction to that,” he said. “It’s gotten the ball rolling.”
DelDOT Secretary Nathan Hayward’s response was less than enthusiastic, but Cole said the engineers were looking at additional areas where they could install a center lane with minimal additional impact.

However, for a continuous center lane, Cole anticipated significant impacts at an additional 10 residences, and two businesses.

According to Chamber Executive Director Karen McGrath, “If people are in a situation where a couple of feet are going to make or break them, they’re already severely impacted.”

She said she hoped the discussion regarding a center lane the entire length of the project wasn’t closed.

As with Local Roads, residents concerned they might be impacted by Mainline SR 26 can find out more at (302) 760-2079 or 1-800-652-5600 (instate only).