will be asked to choose between 'permanently' keeping Barley
Mill Road as it is now or adding a third westbound lane between
Old Barley Mill Road and Kennett Pike. Another possibility is
replacing the Barley Mill-Montchanin Roads intersection
altogether with a 'tight' interchange.
the most significant of several options related to the project
that Delaware Department of Transportation's bridge
project advisory committee voted at a meeting on May 23 to put
before the general public at the hearing. It will run between 4
and 8 p.m. in Arsht Hall on the University of Delaware's
Pennsylvania Avenue campus just west of Wilmington.
is to collect comments there and then reconvene the advisory
committee in two or three sessions in June to craft
recommendations to present to Secretary of Transportation Nathan
Hayward and Governor Ruth Ann Minner to enable them to make a
final decision about the scope of the project soon after the
turn of the fiscal year.
Apparently eliminated from further consideration are such
proposals as adding a second deck to the existing bridge and
building a new one at the present site or elsewhere along the
Brandywine. Somewhat surprisingly, the committee mustered the
75% majority necessary to drop adding a third lane to the
existing bridge. Several possibilities for eliminating turning
movements through the Montchanin Road intersection also were
shelved as was replacing it with a traffic circle.
advisory committee got started, its trimming seemed to be
gathering so much momentum that it almost deep-sixed the
interchange. DelDOT consultant Robert Kramer pointed out that
dropping it would mean putting forth only a single option at the
public hearing and "people will say, 'You've already made a
decision, so why ask for our opinions?'."
in the session, Kramer told the group that, if they fail to
reach consensus in time to meet that non-binding schedule, they
can elect either to continue to meet during the summer or
adjourn until autumn, with a resultant major delay in moving the
project forward. "I don't know how much of your lives you want
to dedicate to this," he said.
that remark or a report by consultant William Hellmann on what
came out of several meetings held recently with local interest
groups or both were responsible, the committee moved through its
agenda with relatively little of the adversarial bickering which
occurred at its previous session. Groups that have been
consulted, he said, include the management of the Du Pont
Experimental Station, the Alfred I. du Pont Institute, Friends
School, St. Joseph-on-the-Brandywine Church and civic
associations in Alapocas and the Ponds of Greenville.
Officially, a decision to recommend doing nothing about the
bridge or along its approaches remains on the table, but no
direct mention of that possibility occurred as committee members
narrowed down a laundry list of options in preparation for the
hearing. Closest anyone came to raising that issue was New
Castle County Councilman Richard Abbott's objection to widening
Barley Mill Road. He said doing so for a relatively short
stretch along the bridge approach will inevitably lead to
expansion of roads is what people in New Castle County hate.
Concord Pike is a disaster; Kennett Pike is going to go to four
lanes eventually," he said.
said that the committee can embed several 'triggers' into its
recommendation to preclude expansions before they are required,
For instance, he said, an additional westbound lane for Barley
Mill Road probably will not be needed for a few years.
the most significant progress toward resolution of the
long-running central controversy over what to do about the
bridge -- it predates establishment of this advisory committee
by several years -- was the narrowing of previous options to
construction of a parallel span. Hellmann said that
materials now used for bridge building make it possible to erect
such a structure on five piers, compared to the 11 used to hold
up the present one. Two would be located on either side of the
Brandywine, one on the steep slope off its east bank and two
along the longer approach on the west side.
three-lane arrangement would require reversing the center lane
to serve the heavier flow of eastbound traffic during the
morning rush hour and westbound traffic in the afternoon. That,
Hellmann said, can be done by a combination of overhead traffic
signals and a moveable lane barrier. "That's done with two or
three roads that lead into Washington, D.C., and it works pretty
well," he said. There are no such reversible lanes anywhere in
Delaware; the closest is on the Commodore Barry Bridge across
the Delaware River just south of Chester, Pa.
said that present traffic projections indicate a need for a
three-lane bridge in 2006 and four lanes some time around 2012.
He said a parallel span can be designed in a way that will
permit future expansion. That led Norman Johnson, of the
Montchanin Civic Association, to remark, "We don't want to see
something like Greenville spread over 12 years. Let's go to the
final solution and get it over with." Road construction on
Kennett Pike in the Greenville area has been going on for
Matley, executive director of the Wilmington Area Planning
Council, said that adding an additional lane to Barley Mill Road
along a short stretch would "create a perception" that is what
is intended for the entire length of the Delaware Route 141
corridor. Berta Kerr, of the Westover Woods Civic Association,
said that drivers familiar with the road will tend to stay out
of the extra lane and those not familiar with it will create a
safety hazard attempting to merge back where it ends.
committee voted to drop from consideration an option which would
prohibit left turns at the intersection and thereby eliminate
the need for turn lanes, the proposition calls for either four
or five through travel lanes and a turn lane in both directions
approaching the intersection. The committee voted not to keep
open yet another alternative, which would provide for a double
turning lane from eastbound Barley Mill Road onto northbound
previously discussed, an interchange would involve passing
Montchanin Road over Barley Mill Road with close-in ramps
connecting the two. Hellmann said tests now underway will
determine whether presence of rock will require elevating
Montchanin Road about eight feet or whether an interchange can
be build by just lowering Barley Mill Road.
under study is the likely effect on traffic movement of
prohibiting drivers leaving the Du Pont Experimental Station by
its present main gate from proceeding onto the bridge, at least
during the afternoon rush hour. Requiring them to exit by way of
the gate leading to Alapocas Road could significantly increase
the amount of traffic going through Alapocas Woods to Augustine
That and other points raised at the
meeting caused Lori Denno, of Delaware Nature Society, to object
to separate presentation of the various components of the
project. "We cannot possibly decide until we see how they work
together as a package," she said. Kramer said such relationships
will be charted before the committee is asked to vote on its