By KEN MAMMARELLA
Special to Delaware Business Times
The Delaware Senate last year formed a committee to study how to reduce truck traffic on state Routes 41, 48 and 7 in northwestern New Castle County and improve the quality of life for nearby residents.
The committee, chaired by the Wilmington Area Planning Council (WILMAPCO), released 24 recommendations back in January. The Delaware Department of Transportation has committed to exploring some of the options, while others will remain on the back burner.
Some of the most popular recommendations include performing a safety audit, creating a committee with Pennsylvania stakeholders, and continuing enhanced truck enforcement on routes 41 and 48 and expanding that enforcement to Route 7.
The committee also recommended the construction of a bypass between Interstate 95 and U.S. 1; a rail spur; new speed limits along all three roads; and improvements to Route 896, including a potential alternate parallel route.
DelDOT said it was premature to begin work on the bypass, the rail spur or improvements to 896 without direction from the General Assembly. The agency will explore adjusting speed limits, however, with results expected by this fall.
Tigist Zegeye, executive director of WILMAPCO, said building a bypass between I-95 and U.S. 1 would present similar difficulties as the Blue Route outside Philadelphia — a famously prolonged construction process due to the built-up townships surrounding the route.
“The department has already invested over $200,000 into the committee’s activities and data gathering as well as over $100,000 in additional law enforcement along the corridors,” DelDOT secretary Jennifer Cohan wrote to Sens. Gregory F. Lavelle and Anthony Delcollo, who sponsored the resolution creating the committee. “We will continue to invest in the studies and solutions to this issue and anticipate a spending level of close to $500,000 in the next fiscal year.”
Traffic studies at six locations along the roads counted about 10,000 to 29,000 vehicles daily, with heavy trucks accounting for one to six percent of the volume. Route 48, just west of Route 141, had the heaviest volume. Route 41, just before the Pennsylvania line, had the heaviest truck volume.