News

March 27, 2001

Eventual widening of Barley Mill Road to the equivalent of seven lanes where it intersects with Montchanin Road was presented as probably the best way to relieve the pinch point on the approach to the Tyler McConnell Bridge.

Consultant William Hellmann listed that among six options for the intersection at a meeting of the Delaware Department of Transportation's project advisory committee on Mar. 26. Although his presentation was designated as the first of three information sessions intended to put all the viable choices for improving travel on the bridge and through its environs on the table for later debate and decision, the idea of  building a large intersection drew immediate fire.

New Castle County Councilman Richard Abbott said "so much pavement violates the boulevard concept." He and others on the committee advocate trying to maintain Delaware Route 141 where it crosses the Brandywine as something between a country road and an arterial highway. They want it to look more like a boulevard or parkway.

Hellmann did not respond directly, but while presenting another option -- a traffic circle or, to use the trendy European term he did, roundabout -- explained that "there is just too much [traffic] volume" for so-called traffic-calming techniques to work. "It's tough to accommodate traffic projections and keep it narrow," he said.

Barley Mill Road carries between 30,000 and 40,000 vehicles a day. That is expected to increase significantly when Astra Zeneca and Du Pont Co. complete their respective expansions. In addition, other traffic through the area is projected to increase between 2% and 4% a year.

Abbott reiterated a previous position that he would like to see Montchanin Road separated from Barley Mill Road by an overpass. That, he said, would enable Barley Mill to be narrowed from its four-lane configuration west of Kennett Pike to two lanes as it approaches the bridge. Abbott and some others also favor not expanding McConnell Bridge to four lanes, as has been proposed.

Hellmann, who also presented options for three versions of a Montchanin overpass, with and without interchange ramps, said that a wide intersection "appears to be the one (option) that works best with either a four-lane or a two-lane [McConnell] bridge."

Through the intersection, Barley Mill would have three westbound lanes, two eastbound through lanes and two lanes to permit left turns from eastbound Barley Mill onto Montchanin. Montchanin would have to be widened to accept the turning traffic, he said.

He added that a single turn lane would be able to handle projected traffic volume for about seven years before a second turn lane would be needed. In any event, he said, Montchanin  -- which is designated as Delaware Route 100 in that area and farther north connects with Delaware Route 92 -- is likely to remain a road of choice for drivers coming from or going to the Concord Pike-Naamans Road area. "No matter what you do, that desire won't go away," he said.

An overpass which did not provide any connection between Barley Mill and Montchanin, Hellmann said, would divert about 2,400 vehicles a day onto Kennett Pike and other roads in the area. Particularly affected would be Buck Road whose present capacity would not be sufficient to handle the additional volume, he said.

Providing some connections by building a partial interchange would reduce the number of diversions, but they would still be significant except with a full cloverleaf-style interchange. That was not one of the options that Hellmann presented. It was noted that nearby Kennett Pike is not served by a full interchange.

In any event, the overpass options would require lowering Barley Mill by about 14 feet and raising Montchanin by about eight feet. That would interfere with the view of St. Joseph-on-the-Brandywine church, which is listed as one of the historical assets in the area.

The other option presented cutting off Montchanin at the intersection, requiring vehicles going in either direction to turn onto Barley Mill.

2001. All rights reserved.

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Read previous story: Civic group advocates four-lane bridge
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