Safety concerns spark study over left hand turns from Loockerman to South Governors.

Dover’s Safety and Transportation Committee held a public hearing Wednesday to discuss easing traffic tie-ups on West Loockerman Street, but ended up asking for more information before making a decision.

The issue was that of eliminating left-hand turns from Loockerman onto South Governors Avenue because of the congestion caused by cars waiting for traffic to pass through the intersection.

Retired Dover City Manager Tony DePrima provided a history of the traffic concerns in the area, revealing that left turns once had been prohibited along all of Loockerman Street. Those restrictions were eased in the 1990s because Dover residents and downtown merchants complained that traffic pattern required drivers to circle around the block just to go shopping.

“The complaint was that we were forcing people down streets they didn’t really want to be on,” DePrima said.

Downtown Dover Partnership Executive Director Lou Colón said downtown merchants seemed evenly divided over the idea of prohibiting left turns at Governors Avenue. He had concerns, however, about delays in emergency situations if someone had to get to Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital, which would require a left turn from Loockerman.

Police Chief James Hosfelt noted officers responding to police calls usually avoid Loockerman because there is no room for patrol cars to get around lines of vehicles waiting at the Governor’s Avenue intersection.

Committee members then discussed several options, to include signage changes, painting new traffic lines or restricting left turns during certain times of the day.

Committee Chairman James L. Hutchison Sr. wrapped up the discussion by suggesting the committee seek more input on the problem.

“We have some issues here,” he said. “If we start piecemealing this, we could have problems.”

In other actions

The subject of limiting access to City Hall and council’s meeting chambers came up in response to an Aug. 6 incident in Ross Township, Pa. In that case, a gunman fired into a town meeting, killing three people and wounding two others.

Like Dover’s City Hall, that building had no security measures that could have stopped the man.

Both Hosfelt and City Manager Scott Koenig said securing the entire City Hall building, which already has limited access after normal business hours, would be difficult. Closing off council chambers also would be problematic, Hosfelt said, because there are four ways of getting into the room.

“If someone came in there with the intent of doing harm, it’s too late,” he said.

Koenig said visitors to the chamber could pass through a metal detector, which the city could obtain for approximately $3,000; Hosfelt noted at least two policemen would be needed to monitor that type of security apparatus.

The committee ended the discussion by referring the matter back to Koenig’s staff for additional information and recommendations.