Millsboro bypass design work, survey getting started

Preliminary design and the field survey are now under way for the $85 million bypass that will take traffic from Route 113 north, around Millsboro, to Route 24 east.

Construction is set to begin in the 2023 fiscal year on the new connector road that will give trucks, including tractor-trailers, an alternate route to going through downtown Millsboro, with its quaint shops and restaurants. Some have said it could allow for outdoor dining there, which many now consider unappetizing as loud tractor-trailers roll by.

“That would be part of the long-term vision, to have restaurants downtown put out their sandwich signs and maybe have some café-style seating on the sidewalks. It’s really hard to facilitate that with all of the truck traffic downtown,” Millsboro Town Manager Sheldon Hudson said.

“I think the Town is hopeful that the new bypass will be utilized by the tractor-trailers. My understanding is the terminus of this bypass would be in the vicinity of Mountaire Farms. I think the Town would like to see it farther to the east. The one concern we have is you’ll be putting that traffic back onto Route 24, in an area where it’s kind of a traffic pinch point,” Hudson said.

Mark Whiteside, project engineer for Delaware Department of Transportation Project Development South, said this week that the goal of the bypass is to “alleviate one of the worst bottlenecks in Delaware.”

“The only way to get on Route 24 now is through Millsboro. We want to lighten congestion in Millsboro, especially during peak hours. One thing really causing congestion is trucks. The quality of traffic flow is very poor in that area. We are building this for safety and to alleviate that congestion. We hope the trucks will use it,” Whiteside said.

The two-lane bypass will have one artery for traffic traveling in each direction, will extend for 2.5 miles and will have a 45-mph speed limit. It will feature ramps and five bridges that engineers promise will be aesthetically pleasing, rising over the Norfolk Southern Railroad, Millsboro Pond, Gravel Hill Road and areas of water or vegetation.

Known as a cloverleaf, the overpass will have two loops, one in the northeast quadrant and one in southwest quadrant.

“Construction of this bypass won’t affect existing traffic as much as you think, because of the alignment. We are designing a brand new road with no traffic on that road,” Whiteside said.

Detours for the project haven’t yet been determined, because it’s still early in the design process.

Construction is funded by the federal government and State of Delaware through the 2025 fiscal year, with the majority, 80 percent, being paid by the federal government.

“The environmental document was approved in 2017. Now we can get federal funds to start the design,” Whiteside said, adding there has been much public involvement in the planning, as well as workshops held and written and oral comments accepted. The last public workshop was in February 2017.

Although there has been discussion about upgrades in that area for years, Whiteside said this project is definite and is designed to accommodate traffic anticipated for the next 20 to 30 years.

“That’s what we design models for. We have a level of service to investigate quality of traffic flow that far into the future. This bypass will be helpful. With that amount of congestion, it’s only going to get worse through the years. We want this to not only be functional but also aesthetically pleasing. We are looking at different ways to do that,” Whiteside said.

“There is $544 million worth of projects in the planning stages,” Whiteside said, adding that they include the Millsboro cloverleaf, a future traffic congestion alleviation project from Ellendale to Millsboro and eventual widening of Route 113.

Hudson said Millsboro town officials have also talked to DelDOT about other, short-term improvements that can be made at the Route 113/Route 24 intersection.

“Signal lights and things of that nature at the Rite Aid intersection, to help with traffic flow. With all the growth, we have to stay realistic about how can we manage that traffic and keep it flowing,” Hudson said.

 

By Susan Canfora

Point Reporter