The new 14-mile toll road opened Thursday as a bypass of the existing U.S. 301 in the Middletown area. SEE PHOTOS from the opening day preparations and some of the first vehicles to use the road.
State and federal leaders lauded the opening of the new U.S. Route 301 route in the Middletown area Thursday.
The 14-mile toll road will improve safety and reduce congestion with the bypassing of 29 intersections, 18 of which are signalized, and numerous driveways with direct access to the existing U.S. 301, according to a Delaware Department of Transportation press release. The road starts from the existing Route 301 at the Maryland line and runs north and east to Route 1 at the Roth Bridge near St. Georges.
While the main portion of the road is finished, Delaware Secretary of Transportation Jennifer Cohan said work will continue to complete the entire project later this year including the Hyett's Corner Road overpass near St. Georges Tech High School.
"I would like to thank our contractors and subcontractors who worked through one of the wettest construction seasons on record to move this project forward, and it is impressive that less than three years after groundbreaking we are now putting traffic on the new US 301," said Cohan.
The existing U.S. 301 will now have truck restrictions in place except for local deliveries.
Gov. John Carney said the new road is "an important milestone in what has been a decades-long effort to address the safety and congestion issues created by the existing roadway."
"This new road will only enhance our economic development efforts for businesses that are looking to grow and move their goods around Delaware and beyond as efficiently possible," Carney said.
Sen. Tom Carper said when he was governor, his administration identified the Route 301 corridor as an area of future high growth, "and that is certainly what it has become."
"This highway project, funded by a federal government loan that I was proud to support, will improve safety for motorists and residents, reduce traffic and help bolster commerce through this booming area," Carper said.
Sen. Chris Coons said the new road is an example of why our country needs to invest in our infrastructure.
"The construction of the road put hundreds of Delawareans from the building trades to work on a project that will help Delaware's economy, reduce congestion, and improve road safety," said Coons. "I’m grateful to then-Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx for providing a federal loan for this project, and I'm proud to have worked with our delegation to support federal funding for a project that will positively impact the entire First State. I look forward to celebrating its completion."
Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester complimented the planning that went into the new road and the new toll system.
"The U.S. 301 project and its all-electronic tolling system are a testament to smart planning and forward-looking infrastructure projects that ease congestion and boost our economy," Blunt Rochester said. "This state-of-the-art roadway accounts for increases in our population and is an investment in our future that improves safety and mobility throughout the region."
The new road will be the first in Delaware to use all electronic tolling, with users paying by E-ZPass or being billed in the mail. For two axle vehicles using E-ZPass and traveling the entire road, the toll is $4, and $5.60 for those without E-ZPass.
Rep. Quinn Johnson (D-Middletown) said the road should help residents by reducing traffic congestion while enhancing the area's attractiveness to businesses.
"As a more than 20-year resident of Middletown, I've seen firsthand the growth that has and continues to take place in and around Middletown," said Johnson. "The entire community will benefit from the reduction in truck traffic on local roads and the economic opportunities that arise from new companies looking to locate in this area."
Ground was broken for the road on Feb. 5, 2016. The project is partially funded by a $211 million U.S. Department of Transportation loan that will be paid back through toll collections on the highway. The total cost of the project, including land purchases and the maintenance of a reserve fund, is estimated at $636 million.