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You can have a say in the Kent County’s biggest transportation projects. Here’s how

Dover Kent County MPO asks for public comments on long-range plan

Emily Lytle
Dover Post
Helen Wiles, public outreach manager for the Dover Kent County Metropolitan Planning Organization, hosts an online workshop to survey the public for the long-range plan called Innovation 2045. The draft is now available online at innovation2045.com, and the public is invited to submit comments there.

This story has been edited. The correct number of projects included in the plan is 172. The requirement to form an MPO is 50,000 people.

While navigating narrow lanes and fluorescent orange cones during road construction, you may have wondered why a road is being widened or bike paths constructed.

Or, you may not even know why crews are moving dirt at all. 

That’s why everyone should get to know their metropolitan planning organization, said Helen Wiles, public outreach manager for the Dover Kent County Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MPO.

“The MPO is a great resource for people to come in and say, ‘Oh, this is the project. Oh, yeah, look this is when it’s supposed to start, this is when it’s supposed to end and this is how much it’s going to cost,’” Wiles said. 

And once once people know about the MPO, she said, they can voice their opinions about projects that are planned in their community. 

An MPO is a federally mandated nonprofit agency that brings together representatives from the public, state and local governments and private companies to plan all transportation projects. Its purpose is to ensure that each project meets federal and state standards, such as those for air quality or safety. 

When there are 50,000 or more people living in an area, the federal government requires that an MPO be formed. The Dover Kent County MPO was created in 1992, and its boundaries expanded with each census – it now covers all of Kent County.

The Dover Kent County MPO is made up of a council, a technical advisory committee and a public advisory committee. Though Wiles said every voice is equal, the public has an especially vital role.

“To us, the most important seat at the table is the public,” she said. “The public should, and is now federally mandated to, have their voice heard before any transportation projects happen.”

One way people can do that is by reviewing and submitting comments about the Metropolitan Transportation Plan.

Innovation 2045

About every four years, the Dover Kent MPO creates a Metropolitan Transportation Plan, which looks at all the transportation projects expected in the next 25 years. 

The draft of the most recent plan – titled Innovation 2045 – is now available at innovation2045.com. The website allows people to click through six different chapters and watch brief videos to preview each one. 

The plan includes 172 projects that come from a variety of representatives, including the public, private companies, Delaware Department of Transportation and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. People can explore these projects through an interactive map online.

For example, one big project expected to be completed by 2027 is the widening of Route 13 between Lochmeath Way and Puncheon Run and between Walnut Shade Road and Lochmeath Way.

Others include a new bypass in Camden or major improvements to the College Road corridor in Dover, including sidewalks and bicycle paths.

The plan takes about a year to create, and one of the first steps is to survey the public.

Before the pandemic, Wiles organized in-person events like “The Money Game,” where she invited people to take $5 million of fake money and distribute it in different buckets to express which types of projects they were most interested in. After coronavirus restrictions, she switched to virtual workshops. 

Resident Mark Baker plays “The Money Game,” an interactive way to collect survey results before the pandemic. He was given $5 million in “MPO bucks” to distribute in whichever projects interested him most.

Since DelDOT owns most of the roads in Kent County, Wiles said the Dover Kent MPO works closely with that agency. After the MPO council votes to approve Innovation 2045 in January, DelDOT will create their own plan that must match the MPO’s version.

The same thing happens when the MPO releases the Transportation Improvement Plan, which is required every two years and takes a closer look at a few high priority projects.

To stay connected or get more information, follow @DoverKentMPO on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. For more, visit https://doverkentmpo.delaware.gov.