the DelDOT team were clueless as to the actual details of our
vision, except for Joe Watson," said New Castle County
Councilman Robert Weiner, who represents the area. Watson has
been attending Renaissance meetings as the Delaware Department
of Transportation representative.
Claymonters did not exactly ride the highway people out of town
on a rail after a controversial organizational meeting on July
26 broke up, but several made their displeasure known the next
day in an exchange of strongly worded e.mail messages.
highway project, according to Gary Laing, municipal liaison in
DelDOT's external affairs department, is to include needed
safety improvements on the pike between Calhoun Road, in the
Bellevue area, and Naamans Road at the northern end of Claymont.
That can be done, he added, in conjunction with the community's
efforts to significantly improve the appearance of the highway
and make it into a 'main street' conducive to pedestrian traffic
with a leisurely visitor ambiance.
leaders suspect that the difference between their concept of the
highway's future and DelDOT's is that the latter envisions allowing
more traffic to flow faster while they want to slow down the
vehicles and, to the extent possible, divert many of those whose
occupants don't have Claymont destinations.
said those are not totally divergent viewpoints but added,
"DelDOT must be willing to offer Claymont the same
context-sensitive design work they produced in Greenville in
response to [that] more economically advantaged community." His
comment referred to the recently completed widening of Kennett
Pike in that suburb.
told Delaforum after the meeting that the DelDOT group "didn't
present any plan for any kind of work to be done." He added that
"no pencil has been put to paper [and] all options are open."
said, the highway is a prime candidate for improvements. There
have been 445 accidents recorded there during the past four
years and four people have been killed, he said. Moreover, he
added, the trend is upward with 155 accidents in 2000, compared
to 101 in 1999, 97 in 1998 and 92 in 1997.
that what the Claymont Renaissance wants to do is wonderful. ...
We want to make what we do eventually fit in with what they want
to do," he said.
sparking point at the by-invitation-only meeting at which DelDOT
sought to form the advisory committee, or 'working group', for
the Philadelphia Pike project, apparently was over whether to
proceed with drafting a 'mission statement'.
described the DelDOT presentation to that point as a
"heavy-handed opening salvo" structured around "a myopic vision
for the reconstruction of Philadelphia Pike." He said it was
offensive to local residents to present the issue as "How do we
design a highway whose sole design criteria is to reduce the
occurrence of severity of vehicular collisions?"
they finished their one-sided presentation about their vision of
the factors to be considered ... and in the next breath said,
'Now let's draft a mission statement', I knew it was time to
counterattack," Weiner said. He insisted that Charles Baker,
general manager of the county's Department of Land Use, and
Thomas Comitta, the consultant whom the Claymont Renaissance
Steering Committee has hired to produce conceptual plans, be
permitted to make presentations.
Comitta finished his presentation, we citizens all were united
in stating to DelDOT that the mission statement must merge the
safety concerns of DelDOT as only one factor in the community's
broader vision," Weiner said.
has had to rely on second-hand accounts about the gathering.
Dealforum did not attend because it was not advised that the
meeting had been scheduled, despite having specifically asked
DelDOT public relations officials to be so notified. Such
meeting are, by state law, open to the public, but DelDOT
spokesperson Michelle Ackles said the practice is to issue
"letter invitations asking community people to [come]" rather
than public notices because "there are literally hundreds of
these per year." The general public, she said, is kept informed
through 'workshops', which apparently have in recent years
replaced formal public hearings on most projects.
said there is no desire to exclude either the media or the
public from advisory committee sessions but the agency has found
"it is more conducive to open discussion" if attendance is
limited "especially in the initial phases of a project."
took exception to a statement by DelDOT safety official Randall
Grunden which said Laing "has been assigned to deal with all
external communications" about the project. "I hope that your
purpose ... was not to suggest that I should refrain from
communications with my constituents," the councilman replied.
also was some question about the accuracy of a statement
reportedly made at the meeting to the effect that DelDOT must
limit improvements along Philadelphia Pike to mitigating unsafe
conditions because federal money will be used to finance the
project. Weiner said that "transportation strategies, including
safety concerns, must by [federal] law be integrated into sound
land use planning concepts."
a multitude of financial resources and welcome DelDOT's safety
improvement dollars to the mix. However, the quarter million
dollars of funds that we have raised or expect to soon receive
to develop both a transportation and marketing plan, require
utilization consistent with the Claymont Renaissance vision," he
that he plans soon to introduce county legislation to change the
name of what has become Philadelphia Pike to its Colonial-era
designation, King's Highway, Weiner called upon DelDOT to change
the name of the advisory committee to something more compatible
with the community improvement project's intent. "It makes no
sense to market our community as a desirable destination to
visit by advertising some place called Philadelphia," he said.
obvious effort at damage containment, Ackles joined the e.mail
exchange to tell Weiner: "This part of Philadelphia Pike is a
part of our Highway Safety Improvement Program and does have
demonstrated accident problems, but that does not mean that
we're married to any particular designs or proposals, and I
regret if [that] was the impression that was conveyed. Our
department has adopted a context-sensitive design policy and we
have every intention of working with the community to address
both community desires and safety for motorists and the
community at large."
DelDOT apparently has agreed to
accept broader community representation on the advisory committe
at a fresh-start meeting to be held in September.