Even though it’s been almost five years since the last public meeting on the project, engineers at the state Department of Transportation have quietly been working on the project, intended to direct traffic around the west side of town.
The sagging economy and budget cutbacks may have had a lot of people thinking the West Dover Connector proposal had long ago been buried and forgotten.
Not so. Even though it’s been almost five years since the last public meeting on the project, engineers at the state Department of Transportation have quietly been working on the project, intended to direct traffic around the west side of town.
DelDOT officials publicly unveiled their preferred route alternative Sept. 28 at a workshop where about 200 area residents had the chance to look at and comment on the plans.
Written remarks taken at the meeting ranged from “There’s nothing in this plan that I like,” to “It’s the only one of the plans that makes sense. Let’s get moving.” A sampling showed most of those at the workshop were split about 50/50 on the proposal.
“Preferred Alternative 5C Modified” starts at the intersection of Saulsbury Road and North Street, runs back behind the General Foods plant and across Puncheon Run, then partially parallels New Burton Road. It takes a large loop across the Kesselring Farm before taking a bridge over New Burton and the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks, skirting the soon-to-be-built Boy Scout campground and hooking into Charles Polk Road at Rodney Village.
There is a short stretch linking Wyoming Mill Road to the connector, which also could be accessed from New Burton Road.
While the idea of building a road permitting drivers to bypass central Dover has been around for decades, hands-on work with between Dover’s citizens and DelDOT didn’t get underway until May 2004. Twenty-five initial proposals were whittled down to Alternative 5C over the course of three public workshops and eight working group meetings.
But there was resistance on some features of the plan, particularly from the owners of the Kesselring Farm.
“Our main concern is that this goes through the farm,” said co-owner Doris Taylor. Earlier versions of the plan also routed the connector through the Kesselring property, but Taylor said she and her family had no prior knowledge about the 5C alternative.
“We were just broadsided,” Taylor said.
The loop through their land would divide it into three parcels, making it logistically difficult to continue operating as a farm, she added.
Some also had questions about the connection at Rodney Village, which would result in the demolition of 13 homes on the south side of Charles Polk Road.
The 41-foot-wide connector would run through what now are the back yards of those homes and not be part of the road itself, as was thought before the plan was announced. A grassed and landscaped berm would separate the connector from Charles Polk Road.
People living on streets now connected to Charles Polk Road, such as David Hall or John Clark roads would travel via an intersection with the connector.
At least one Charles Polk Road resident did not seem to mind that part of the connector plan.
“I like living there, but it’s OK,” said Angelo Giudici. “We just want to know something definite.”
DelDOT South District Acquisition Manager Rosemary Richardson, who would oversee the buyout of the 13 families, said the state has a well established means of establishing a fair value for the houses, helping them find and buy new homes, and providing monetary assistance for moving expenses.
Although it has the authority to do so, the last thing DelDOT wants to do is to force people to move against their will.
“We want to work with people the best we can,” she said.
With their choice now public record, DelDOT officials will start preliminary engineering work, to include environmental impact studies and will seek approval for the plan from the Federal Highway Administration. That work should be done by the end of 2011.
DelDOT then will seek approval the final design and acquire the right of way for the land, to be followed by construction sometime in 2014. If this scenario holds, drivers could start using the connector by the end of 2016.
Email Jeff Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.