With more and more cars in coastal Sussex, it’s no small challenge to keep them moving
From the July 2016 issue
One afternoon last summer, Lewes resident Nadine Wick was driving into town on Savannah Road. She was able to move along at the speed limit, but cars headed out of town were facing a different situation. They were just creeping along, in a stop-and-go line that stretched from Five Points to Shields Elementary School, about 1.7 miles.
“That just blew my mind,” Wick says. “That kind of thing should never happen.”
Wick is a member of the executive board of Lewes Partnership for Managing Growth, which aims to preserve the bayside town’s beauty, prosperity and quality of life, as well as the roads that lead to its historic center. In the group’s recent objection to a proposed shopping center at the intersection of Gills Neck Road and Kings Highway, it asserted that increased traffic would be one of several problems created by the project.
“Traffic on the eastern side of Sussex County is a mess,” Wick says. “We have developed and developed with no thought of infrastructure. And we continue to build! Traffic is going to get so bad that people won’t want to live here or visit here. That’s on its way — no question.”
Greg Ferrese, who lives in Sandy Brae, just west of Route 1 across from the Midway Shopping Center, isn’t ready to go that far. “People will still continue to come here, regardless of the traffic,” he says. “It’s that nice here.”
But he agrees that increasingly heavy traffic is a problem.
“If you want to go anywhere, you’d better get out and be back home by 9 a.m.,” says the retired city manager for Rehoboth Beach, who started work there in 1983. “It used to take me seven minutes to get to work. Now, on a busy traffic day, it can take me 45 minutes to drive to City Hall.”
There’s no question that traffic is heavier than it was even five years ago. Statistics kept by the Delaware Department of Transportation show that in 2015, at Routes 1 and 1A (or Rehoboth Avenue), the daily traffic count averaged 64,372 vehicles. Compare that to the average daily count at the same intersection for 2010: 57,053.
And in 2001, at the same location, the average was 22,813 — less than half the 2010 count and just over a third the 2015 count.
“Traffic has gotten a lot worse in the last few years, particularly in the summer, and will only get worse,” says Scott Edmonston, an architect who lives in, and has his office in, Bethany Beach. “Existing roads will only get more crowded and it seems that improvements by DelDOT are outdated as soon as they are finished.”
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