Since 1972, legislators have been discussing an overpass at Northeast Front Street that would cross Del. Route 1 and connect to New Wharf Road, one of two entrances to the Woods Haven neighborhood on the east side of Del. Route 1. But the project continually has been delayed and is now slated for 2018 at the earliest, if funding is available.
Emmett Venett told his real estate agent he was concerned with the safe crossing of Del. Route 1 even before he built a home in Woods Haven in 1971.
More than 40 years later, he says he’s still concerned.
“This place is totally inadequate for what we want to do here and it jeopardizes our lives every day,” the Milford resident said. “We need to have an overpass.”
Since 1972, legislators have been discussing an overpass at Northeast Front Street that would cross Del. Route 1 and connect to New Wharf Road, one of two entrances to the Woods Haven neighborhood on the east side of Del. Route 1.
But the project has been continually pushed aside, according to state Sen. F. Gary Simpson (R-Milford).
“It’s just been shuffled to the back every time,” he said last week, when U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) visited Milford to get a first-hand look at the intersection. “This has to be high on the priority list for safety reasons.”
From July 10, 2011, to July 10, 2014, 38 crashes occurred at the intersections where Northeast Front Street and Northeast 10th Street meet Del. Route 1, roughly half of which included injuries, according to Jim Satterfield, an engineer with the Delaware Department of Transportation.
The last fatal crash occurred in May 2011 when a teenager from Woods Haven was attempting to cross Del. Route 1 near Northeast 10th Street on foot to avoid a long commute by bus, according to Venett and the Delaware Crash Analysis Reporting System.
The volume of accidents at those intersections is not out of the ordinary, but the areas are still a major safety concern, Satterfield said.
“It doesn’t take many cars trying to get across Route 1 for all that volume to have a significant chance of causing an accident,” he said.
However, the Northeast Front Street intersection ranks No. 99 out of more than 125 slated projects on DelDOT’s funding priority list, Satterfield said this week.
DelDOT is proposing a grade-separated intersection at Northeast Front Street, which would create a side road running from Northeast 10th Street, behind Grotto Pizza and Royal Farms, that would connect to an overpass, which would run from Northeast Front Street to New Wharf Road. The project would eliminate the Northeast 10th Street southbound entrance to Del. Route 1, and create a safer crossing for vehicles going east and west across the highway at Northeast Front Street.
The project is estimated to cost $22 million, with $6 million slated for right-of-way acquisition and $16 million for construction, Satterfield said.
But currently no funding for right-of-way acquisitions or construction costs are available.
“We’re funded for preliminary engineering, which is the design work, but we don’t have any funding beyond that,” Satterfield said.
It would take years before construction could begin, even if funding were to become available, he said.
For instance, Satterfield estimates that it would take at least two years to require the right of ways needed for the project. Ideally, the project could start in FY 2018, but with the failure of Gov. Jack Markell’s gas tax proposal, it’s unclear where that funding would come from, outside of borrowing, he said.
While funding remains an issue, Carper said the project is long overdue.
“[People have been talking about this project] since 1972, that’s 42 years. That’s been long enough,” he said. “This is a good vision. This really preserves the capacity … it enhances public safety and if you’re people moving from place to place up this road or you’re poultry, we want to make sure the chickens get where they need to go and that the people get where they need to go.”