March 29, 2001

More than 100 residents of Centreville and vicinity gathered for a briefing on the plan being prepared to control what the village will be like years from now, but demonstrated they were far more interested in how to cope with Kennett Pike traffic today and tomorrow.

"Much as I would like to see Centreville remain a picturesque village, we need to be practical," said one attender at the Mar. 28 session. "The problem is we have a huge thoroughfare. It's not going to get better; it's going to get worse," said another.

Those who commented or asked questions did so without identifying themselves.

For most of those who turned out, the presentation was the first knowledge they had of the comprehensive plan being drafted by two consulting firms hired by Wilmington Area Planning Council under a $100,000 federal grant.  The process has been under way since last summer.

Heather Ehrlich, of the council, attempted to bring the group up to date with a Power Point presentation about conclusions drawn at a three-day workshop in January. As reported by Delaforum at the time, the approach was to provide so-called traffic calming measures to Kennett Pike and to devise a land-use scheme whereby Centreville would be developed as a defined but unincorporated village while the surrounding part of Christiana Hundred was mostly preserved as open space. New Castle County officials are drafting a proposed ordinance to provide for what are being called 'home-town overlays' that would help accomplish that.

Charles Baker, director of the county's Department of Land Use, told the Centreville meeting that County Executive Thomas Gordon is supportive of that approach. "No one is interested in having a plan for the sake of having a plan. ... This is not a new concept, but one that is finally getting the initiative to see what can be done," he said.

The consultants' report and recommendations are due to be published in April. Ehrlich's presentation seemed to be a likely preview of what they will contain. The briefing session was called by County Councilman Richard Abbott who complained that there has been minimal community participation and that the approach taken has more visionary than useful. Abbott attended but did not speak at the briefing.

Patt Cannon, president of the Centreville Civic Association, said after the meeting that comments there were not significantly different from what others had said earlier and that the planners no doubt would consider them in preparing the report and recommendations.

Carol Kipp, also of the civic association, which has spearheaded the planning process, told the session that her organization is "trying to future a shape so it will not come in and roll over us."

"If Centreville has to grow, there are some people here who think it should not grow into what Talleyville has grown," she added. 

One of the attenders chose an area closer at hand  than the amorphous Brandywine Hundred community as the butt of comparison. "After what has happened to Greenville, there ought to be some assertive action to prevent that kind of circus," he said.

While there was virtually no response to Ehrlich's remarks about the project's intent to "define Centreville" and to comply with residents' desire "to keep the village's character," there was broad participation in a lively discussion about the area's traffic woes.

After Ehrlich presented the installation of a traffic circle at one or more Centreville intersections as one of the available traffic-slowing options, several attenders challenged the idea on the grounds that such devices have proven ineffective and even dangerous in Europe and elsewhere in the country and are being removed. Consultant Frank Jaskowitz, of Glatting Jackson Associates, disagreed saying that "modern 'roundabouts' are different from traditional traffic circles" and work well. "You just have to wait for a gap in traffic," he added.

That drew a laugh as several in the audience referred to rush-hour traffic on Kennett Pike as proceeding at relatively high speed without gaps. "There are no breaks. Eventually, you get desperate and you go for it," said one attender.

Another suggested that simply installing traffic signals and turn lanes at the intersections would improve the situation. Besides, he said, signals are easily removed if they don't while a circle, once installed, is unlikely to be taken out.

Yet another said that stricter enforcement of the present 35 m.p.h. speed limit would help. Don Weber, of Delaware Department of Transportation, replied that lack of State Police manpower prevents effective enforcement. He said more than 85% of Kennett Pike traffic travels at speeds in excess of 42 m.p.h. and that attempting to combat that "natural inclination" is generally futile. "People stop looking at [speed limit] signs. They go as fast as the motorist in front of them," he said.

So-called rumble strips and speed bumps were proposed as more likely deterrents to high speed than "putting planters in one of the lanes." Someone mentioned that simply activating the signal in front of Centreville School during morning rush hour would slow traffic to the point of allowing Centrevillans access to Kennett Pike.

DelDOT is committed to provide a start on 'traffic calming' with installation beginning next summer of 'gateways' along Kennett Pike at the opposite ends of the village. Those will be islands in the center of the road intended to 'signal' that drivers are entering a different environment. The three critical intersections, it is agreed, are with Center Meeting Road, Owls Nest-Twaddle Mill Roads, and Snuff Mill Road.

An attender suggested that a more viable solution would be to build a by-pass road around Centreville. Another suggested a 'scenic road', after the manner of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, along the course of the Brandywine. Several called for banning through truck traffic on Kennett Pike, noting that DelDOT has such a ban in the Newark area to prevent them from avoiding the toll booths on Delaware Turnpike.

2001. All rights reserved.

Get more information about this topic

Read previous story: Councilman objects to Centreville planners' approach
Read earlier story: Centreville advised to draw the line
Read earlier story: Residents set out to 'save' Centreville
Read the Centreville Village Plan





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