By Ken Mammarella
Special to Delaware Business Times
Delaware Route 1 is down to one traffic light on the 31-mile stretch between Dover Air Force Base and Nassau. The Delaware Department of Transportation is building overpasses at formerly busy intersections, smoothing out the popular beach route.
The improvements are part of the agency’s Corridor Capacity Preservation Program, first piloted in 1991, to boost capacity on key roads throughout the state.
“We’re trying to eliminate the most problematic intersections, not all of them with signals,” said Mike Simmons, assistant director of project development for DelDOT’s southern operations. “We want to reduce accidents and have traffic move more safely.”
DelDOT anticipates a jump in overall traffic. One recent addition, the South Frederica overpass, sees a daily average of 33,000 vehicles and is expected to carry 47,000 by 2035.
The total cost of the seven main overpass projects is $200 million for design, land acquisition and construction. An overpass at Little Heaven is scheduled to open next spring. Another at North East Front Street in Milford will follow in the fall of 2019.
Work on the Broadkill Road overpass — which will remove the last traffic light on the route — starts in fiscal year 2021. In addition, DelDOT plans to improve three problematic but signal-less intersections in Sussex County: Minos Conway, Cave Neck and Slaughter Beach roads.
The improvements are most noticeable in the form of new overpasses, but Simmons said the projects often involve removing nearby crossovers of the highway as well, which creates more turning traffic
Simmons said the improvements will help manage future allowable developments and entrances onto Route 1.
“Every one of these improvements has been a huge success story,” Simmons said. “Traffic at Thompsonville Road used to back up for miles.”