Fenwick gets DelDOT money to start sidewalk process

Date Published: 
Dec. 22, 2017

The Town of Fenwick Island has begun their quest to build sidewalks along Coastal Highway. Currently, pedestrians have an irregular path along the major thoroughfare, with sidewalks just here and there. Having seen too many baby strollers on the highway shoulders, Councilwoman Vicki Carmean helped start the new Fenwick Island Pedestrian Safety Committee.

Committee members were thrilled on Dec. 18 when Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) staff announced that $70,000 was available to begin planning for a new sidewalk project in the town.

At the very least, they hope to construct a 5-foot-wide sidewalk, likely with a 2-foot buffer from the highway, for safety seasons. The project could fill in the gaps in the sidewalk along the 1.3-mile stretch of Route 1.

Now, armed with an old roadway survey that the Town commissioned in 2011, DelDOT is going to see if the data holds up, and if the paper stack can be easily digitized.

With $70,000 in planning money, DelDOT will study the old Landmark Engineering survey and begin design engineering. With a solid concept plan, DelDOT can get cost estimates, host a public hearing and determine how to actually pay for construction. It could be split into phases, with town, state and/or federal funding.

State Rep. Ron Gray (R-38th) was at the meeting, taking notes, and suggested that his legislative Community Transportation Fund (CTF) money may be available for the project, too.

But they’ll worry about construction funding another year, since this may be a three- to five-year process.

There was obvious gratitude from committee members, who are mostly past and present council members.

“A few months ago, we had no plan. We weren’t even on the radar. Now we’ve got $70,000, and we have a plan,” Town Manager Terry Tieman said. “And we’ll keep the pressure on, to keep that plan moving.”

“Most of us ran [for office] on a platform of having sidewalks,” joked Councilman Richard Mais.

Currently, some business parking lots are so close to the road that pedestrians must choose between walking on the highway or through the parking lot. Over the years, some business parking lots have encroached into the state’s right-of-way. They might lose a few parking spots when the State exercises its claim over that land.

DelDOT also has a few retaining walls to work around. But one-way traffic in the parking lots could help accommodate the squeeze while ensuring shoppers still have room.

Carmean said she will continue meeting with the Business Development Committee, so there will be fewer surprises as the sidewalk plan progresses. She said business owners have generally been receptive.

“Stay involved. It does take a little bit of time,” recommended Anthony Aglio, DelDOT planning supervisor. “It increases livability, it increases safety — hopefully, economic development. That’ll … reduce congestion.”

People are interested in the safety issue, as well as the economics of a walkable town, said Tieman. If people can comfortably walk from one shopping center to the next, that could also reduce overall vehicle traffic.

Fenwick also requires businesses to install sidewalks if the building is improved by at least 50 percent of its value.

Public transit adds another side to the story. As DART looks to increase bus service to Ocean City, Md., Fenwick might gain some bus stops or even pull-off areas. If DART hopes to use the median or turn lanes as a bus lane, then sidewalks will be especially critical to keep pedestrians out of traffic. If DART is already considering site work, though plans are still up in the air right now. Fenwick could capitalize by piggybacking on that project.

“We’re moving forward, and we’re excited,” Carmean said.

The next Pedestrian Safety Committee meeting will be scheduled after the new year.