On the agenda of funded projects are intersection and sidewalk improvements, such as realignment of the Plantation-Cedar Grove-Postal Lane intersection, as well as plans to develop the Destination Station Center near Rehoboth Beach. Another highlighted project is the $14 million plan to connect all the sidewalks and provide additional pedestrian crosswalks across Route 1 between Five Points and the entrance to Rehoboth Beach. Work on this project will occur in fiscal years 2012 and 2013.
Included in the unfunded upgrades are a new Route 9-Route 1 interchange, and the relocation of Route 9. Both of these projects are estimated to cost over $50 million each and will receive engineering money, but no construction funding has been budgeted. Other unfunded projects include widening and improvement of Route 24 from the Love Creek Bridge to Route 1, and improvements to Plantation Road between Route 24 and Route 9. Engineering funding has been made available for the improvements to Route 24, but neither project will receive construction funding.
Funding DelDOT Projects
Money for Delaware’s road projects comes from the state’s transportation trust fund, which is funded by vehicle documentation fees, the gas tax and tolls from Route 1 and Interstate 95, all of which have suffered as a result of the poor economy. In addition to reduced capital, DelDOT must also contend with rising land costs. The Route 26 project in eastern Sussex County marks the first time in DelDOT history that the cost of the land is greater than the cost of engineering and construction.
In light of the economic downturn, and increased land costs, the state is seeking alternative sources of funding. According to Sandy Roumillat, DelDOT spokesperson, “[w]e are looking at the trust fund to see what changes we can make.”
There is conflict between the state and its counties when it comes to transportation funding, especially in Sussex County. Sussex County Councilwoman Joan Deaver has stated that the perception of county officials is that roads are DelDOT’s responsibility. According to Sussex County Council President Vance Phillips:
“There is a disconnect between land use and infrastructure funding. We were told the state would build roads where development would occur, and the state dropped the ball.”
However, in Deaver’s opinion, there is a disconnect between the county and DelDOT. Because of the projects and subdivisions the county approves in non-growth areas and other areas with existing traffic and road condition issues, it should share some of the responsibility. “We have to work with the state and we can’t continue to approve developments in Level 4 rural areas where no road work is planned or will ever be done. We can’t even get road work done in Levels 1 and 2.” Levels 1 and 2 are designations given to high growth areas where development is preferred in the state, whereas Level 4 areas are nongrowth farming areas. According to Deaver, “there needs to be intergovernmental cooperation.” Deaver has also said that developers of big projects need to contribute to road upgrades, which is a policy that DelDOT has adopted.