A special project briefing to mark the start of construction of the State Route 26, Atlantic Avenue, Clarksville to Assawoman Canal Improvements Project was held today for Governor Jack Markell, Route 26 Construction Advisory Group members, and the media at the South Coastal Library.
Transportation Secretary Shailen Bhatt, the DelDOT Design Team, and Delaware-based George & Lynch Construction detailed the history, scope and schedule of the project, which is designed to address the high frequency of traffic tie-ups, poorly designed intersections, insufficient pedestrian and bicycling facilities, and drainage problems.
"This project addresses significant needs for everyone who travels State Route 26," said Governor Markell. "It also exemplifies the public safety and economic benefits we can realize by investing to meet Delaware's transportation infrastructure needs. Better transportation means economic expansion and job growth, whether it's near our beaches where visitors and locals expect safe and smooth roadways, or anywhere across our state where businesses and families want to build their futures."
While the State is funding a portion of the project (20%), a significant amount (80%) is provided through federal funding.
"I'm thrilled this project is underway thanks to the federal and state funding that I've been working to secure for years, along with the governor and the rest of the Congressional delegation," said Senator Tom Carper. "Widening State Route 26 will ease congestion for both beachgoers and more importantly for emergency vehicles. As a major road to the hospital and an evacuation route, it's critical that Route 26 be better equipped to get people and vehicles to and from the beach areas and residential communities, especially in the case of an extreme weather event. The bike lanes included in this project will be another shot in the arm to the tourism industry in Sussex County, allowing for visitors and residents alike to bike safely to the beach from in-land communities. It is my hope that more bikes on the bike paths will also mean fewer vehicles on the road."
"Improving driver safety and reducing traffic congestion on Delaware roads is imperative to the quality of life standards for those who live in and visit the First State," said Senator Coons. "The influx of traffic during the summer season on Route 26 has an adverse effect on year-round residents as well as the hundreds of thousands of tourists that drive our state's economy. The federal government's significant investment in this project will play an integral role in the continued economic development of the area and will undoubtedly improve traffic flow and improve safety for all users."
"The state's economy and Delawareans' quality of life depend on a safe, modern infrastructure," said Congressman Carney. "The investment being made in Rt. 26 by the federal and state governments will make it easier to travel in Sussex County throughout the year, and especially during the summer months when traffic is a major concern. I'm looking forward to these improvements that will support commerce, address environmental needs, and make it easier for everyone driving through this part of our state."
Route 26 runs east and west linking Delaware Route 1 -- and the state's famous beach resorts -- with US 113, and points further west. It bisects commercial and residential development, facilitates first-responder traffic and is designated as an emergency evacuation route.
Transportation Secretary Shailen Bhatt explained, "With Spring approaching, the construction phase of the Route 26 project is getting underway. You've probably noticed more workers clearing brush and trees along the roadside, utility crews moving lines and poles and a few more construction vehicles being driven to work sites. So we're here to explain what you can expect to see in the months ahead. And we're here to ensure that we maintain a responsive -- and responsible -- dialogue between residents, business owners, contractors and your state government about the job that lies ahead of us."
Construction of the four-mile long project will widen the existing two-lane roadway to include two eleven-foot travel lanes with five-foot shoulder/bike lanes and a twelve-foot wide continuous shared center left turn lane. The segment of Route 26 from Clarksville to west of Railway Road will be an "open section of roadway," meaning there will be no curbing or gutters. The section from west of Railway Road to the Assawoman Canal will be a "closed section of roadway," having both curbing and gutters with drainage into an underground pipe system. Five-foot wide sidewalks will be provided from Windmill Road to the Assawoman Canal.
Jill Frey, Project Engineer for Century Engineering explained that the project team understands how difficult construction can be for motorists as well as for those who live and work within the project limits. To minimize construction time, DelDOT is allowing work to occur both day and night in multiple areas within the project area at the same time. Traffic delays will be monitored daily.
Chris Baker, Executive Vice President for George & Lynch, outlined the many challenges that will be faced performing this project. He noted that the severe winter weather has posed their first challenge. However, traffic and commuting hours are going to present bigger hurdles for them to complete this project in a timely fashion. Mr. Baker pointed out that George & Lynch have been building roads since 1923, and they feel that there aren't any obstacles that they can't overcome, saying, "We are looking forward to making this section of Route 26 a safer and hopefully less congested road for the residents, tourist and businesses in Sussex County."
In addition to minimizing construction time, work times and lane restrictions were established to reduce disruption. During the peak tourist season (May 16 through September 30) lane closures, shoulder closures and lane shifts will not be permitted from 6 a.m. Friday to 7 p.m. Monday. Lane shifts and shoulder closures will be permitted only between Tuesday, 6 a.m. through Thursday 7 p.m. During this period lane closures will be allowed during the nighttime hours Monday through Thursday.
During the off peak Season (October 1 through May 15) lane closures, shoulder closures and lane shifts will be permitted at all times except between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. to facilitate the morning traffic.