Growth and development have spurred the need for a new transportation plan

Kent Countians, especially those living in and near Camden, now have an idea of what transportation may look like by the year 2045.

That effort was showcased Aug. 2 in a public workshop sponsored by DelDOT to find out what people think about planned improvements to U.S. Route 13 and potential work to construct bypass roads in the rapidly growing areas of South Dover, Camden, and Wyoming.

The 120 people who came to Caesar Rodney High School were asked to examine large displays showing DelDOT’s plans so far, review traffic data and talk to state engineers and contractors. Afterward, they were asked to fill out surveys, both in person and online, giving their thoughts on what they’d seen.

DelDOT started a study of the area about a year ago to investigate conditions in the area to figure out how to handle present and projected traffic loads.

The goal is several-fold: to increase safety on all the roads, to augment the capacity of existing roads and increase the potential for economic growth.

Development, expansion, drive DelDOT plans

The recent expansion of Camden’s borders, which now stretch as far south as Tidbury Creek and include the Walmart Super Center and Lowe’s on Route 13, pointed at the need for the study. Between 2000 and 2010, Camden’s population increased by almost 65 percent and Wyoming’s about 15 percent, putting additional stress on the transportation infrastructure.

Development has driven up both commercial and residential traffic volume along the main roads through the towns and Route 13: DelDOT’s analysis of crash rates on the divided four-lane highway showed there were more than 700 crashes between 2014 and 2016.

The intersections of Route 10 and 13, and Route 13 and Voshells Mill Road, each were the site of more than 75 crashes.

In addition, a major crash at the intersection of Route 13 and Thomas Harmon Drive last week only served to underscore those numbers; five people were sent to the hospital, although there were no life-threatening injuries. State police cited the driver of a tractor trailer for inattentive driving when he ran into the back of another truck. The tractor trailer was completely destroyed by fire.

DelDOT intends to widen Route 13 in a two-phase project that would create a divided, three-lane roadway. Phase I would stretch from the Puncheon Run exit to Lochmeath Way; the second would extend south to the intersection of Walnut Shade Road at Woodside.

Visitors at the workshop were asked to look at that plan and ideas, still only in the proposal stage, to construct bypass roads either north or south of Camden. Both involve connections to Route 13 and Route 10.

Still some concerns

Camden’s Robert Kersey said the bypass ideas caused him some disquiet.

“I’m concerned about widening Route 13, how that impacts Route 10, which has just as much traffic,” he said. “They haven’t provided answers to that.”

Kersey, who lives on Route 10, defines the traffic even now as “a nightmare. You’re playing Russian roulette sometimes pulling out onto the highway.”

Kenneth Reuben, who lives in Briar Park, was concerned about one of the proposals for a north Camden roadway, which could skirt his subdivision.

“I wanted to know more about the West Dover Connector, the widening of Route 13 and the Camden bypass,” he said. “I’ve learned the bypass is just a concept right now. But if they widen Route 13, how will DelDOT handle that?”

Traffic volume also was a concern for Caesar Rodney School District Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald. One proposal for a Camden bypass would be to direct traffic onto Old North Road, right in front of the high school and Simpson elementary school.

“This will be of very high interest to us as it develops,” Fitzgerald said. “But it’s good to know that DelDOT is aware of our concerns and that we’re on the same page.”

DelDOT Project Development Program Manager Jim Satterfield said he felt the idea of widening Route 13 has been well received.

A Camden bypass already has been incorporated into the town’s comprehensive plan, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen, he said.

“With the bypass project, we’re looking for [the public’s] feelings, to see if there is a need,” he said. “If we determine there is a need and a desire, we’ll start looking at different alternatives.”

What’s next

This information-gathering session is fourth in a nine-step process that must take place before any dirt is turned. Already DelDOT has gathered the data it needs and has developed an idea of how to resolve the traffic issue; more analyses of traffic information, and the public’s thoughts on the project will take place as the agency works to come up with alternatives and solutions.

Another public workshop will happen before DelDOT publishes the results and starts design.

Since work will include federal funding, the state must satisfy additional requirements, including an environmental study and a review of how work will affect historic resources.

Construction plans should be finalized by spring 2020, with construction beginning about a year later if funding is available.

Satterfield is encouraged by the amount of public participation so far.

“Turnout today was great,” he said. “That’s what we want: a whole bunch of people coming in, filling out our surveys and letting us know what they think.”

Satterfield said DelDOT already has about 110 online survey responses, but still is interested in public input: copies of information presented at the workshop and the online survey are online at deldot.gov/information/projects/SouthDoverCamdenWyoming_Planning_Study/index.shtml.