“The Route 24 Corridor is one of the few major east/west connector roads for local and beach traffic moving across the state,” says Kathryn Beasley, Community Relations Officer for DelDOT. “The massive growth in permanent residents and beach goers alike has degraded the level of service, and the department is committed to improving safety and traffic flow along Route 24.”
About 20 years ago, DelDOT considered widening the entire road from Millsboro to SR 1 to two lanes in each direction, but public opinion eliminated that option, says John Gaines, an engineer with DelDOT.
“The decision was made to select where the safety issues were and improve these locations,” Gaines adds. “And with safety improvements, you also get increased capacity.”
Safety improvements include adding or extending turn lanes and bike lanes and installing traffic islands to stop cars from crossing both lanes of traffic when leaving a business.
“There is a tremendous amount of development going on along the corridor,” says Tom Greve with Century Engineering, which serves as construction manager. Many retirees are moving to the beach resort areas.
For the last several years, DelDOT has been working on the design of two sets of projects related to traffic safety and operations: the widening of SR 24 from one to two through lanes in each direction from 1,500 feet west of Love Creek Elementary School to east of Plantation Road, and a series of intersection safety improvements between the Oak Orchard area and Love Creek. Based on the size and proximity of the projects, it was decided to break the widening effort into two separate projects, and to group the series of intersection projects into three projects.
Originally, the projects were planned to be staggered; however, “as the projects moved closer to entering the construction phase the gap narrowed and several have and will continue to be occurring simultaneously or within close proximity date wise,” Beasley says. “There were discussions about holding some projects to reduce the number of active work zones throughout the corridor, but the decision was made to deliver them all as soon as possible.”
In addition, two other unrelated projects were recommended in the vicinity with similar construction timelines: a repaving project in Millsboro and a dam repair project at Burtons Pond.
Funding primarily has come from the state’s Capital Transportation Program, with some developer contributions. Work began in spring 2020 and completion is expected sometime in 2023.
The projects were designed by DelDOT or consultants AECOM of Dallas or WRA of Wilmington, Delaware.
The first two projects are underway: SR 24, Mulberry Knoll to Route 1 and SR 24 at SR 5/SR 23/Long Neck Road.
DelDOT coordinated with four developers on this project, mostly commercial properties, including a hospital and a hotel.
“Most of the work was able to occur during the day as traffic volumes were reduced due to COVID,” Gaines says. Traffic was shifted to the north, while widening on the south side took place and then shifted to the south, so work could be completed on the north side.
“This first phase has progressed well,” Greve reports. “We’re doing the final asphalt paving. It’s going to be a lot safer at the intersections being upgraded with a more efficient flow of traffic.”
“The intersection was identified in DelDOT’s Hazard Elimination Program as having a high crash rate and recommendations for intersection improvements were made from the 2010 SR 24-SR 30 to Love Creek Bridge Traffic Study,” Beasley says. “The project’s purpose is to improve the safety and operation of the SR 24 at SR 5/SR 23 intersection.”
That work includes putting in a new water line with 10-foot-deep excavations, constructing channelized islands, adding bike lanes and traffic signal upgrades, providing consistent lanes, shoulders and curbs, drainage improvement, extending SR 24 left turn lanes onto SR 5, SR 23, and extending a SR 23 left turn lane onto westbound SR 24.
To help manage traffic, the department is using 16 variable message boards, informing drivers of expected delays and closures. It plans to add sensors to allow real-time delay information.
SR 24 at Mount Joy Road and Bay Farm Road Intersection Improvements were out to bid with selection of a contractor anticipated in December 2021. Work will start in March 2022 and continue through late spring 2023. Bike lanes will be added or expanded, drainage will be improved and the contractor will construct a channelized island.
Advertising for bids for SR 24, Love Creek to Mulberry Knoll will go out soon, with construction to start in spring 2022 and finish in summer 2023. It will widen Route 24 to include two lanes in each direction to connect with ongoing improvements east of Mulberry Knoll. This project also will include bike lanes, a new traffic signal and pedestrian crossings.
SR 24, Camp Arrowhead Road and SR 24, Angola Road also will be going to bid shortly and will start in spring 2022 and finish in fall 2023. Work includes widening Camp Arrowhead, Angola and Robinsonville roads; realigning Robinsonville Road to improve sight distance for drivers turning onto Route 24; adding and extending turn lanes; and creating bike lanes and pedestrian crossings.
Burton Pond Dam Improvements will be advertised early in 2022, with a fall 2022 start and finish in 2023.
“The existing dam spillway capacity is low, and gates are essentially nonfunctional,” Beasley says. “In fact, we had an employee fall in and get sucked through the spillway a few years ago, so there is a personnel safety issue.”
The spillway will be replaced and enlarged, and crews will add a low-level outlet structure. The existing gates will be replaced with a new labyrinth spillway and sluice gates.
“There have been many hurdles over the years between public outreach, funding issues and design, environmental mitigation, utility coordination, construction and traffic control,” Beasley concludes. “To finally have all these projects actively in construction or nearing the bidding and construction stage is very gratifying.”
Photos courtesy of the Delaware Department of Transportation