News

September 25, 2002

More than twice as many people as usually turn out for that sort of happening showed up on Sept. 24 for a workshop-style 'hearing' on plans to halve the number of travel lanes on most of Murphy Road. DelDOT's consultant on the project said that sentiment ran heavily against doing that.

Although the format for that kind of session precludes an open airing of opinion in favor of submitting written comments and holding mostly one-on-one conversations with Delaware Department of Transportation representatives, it was evident from a sampling of comments that emotions are running strong on both sides of the issue.

The basic proposal is to cut the number of travel lanes in each direction from two to one and allow parking along the road except where it is necessary to accommodate drivers wanting to turn off the road into Fairfax or Deerhurst.

Some folks who live along Murphy Road initiated the DelDOT project as a way to reduce traffic volume and slow down drivers who almost universally ignore the posted 35 m.p.h. speed limit. Others -- particularly people who commute from the north and east -- want Murphy left as it is to avoid lengthening the queues at traffic signals at both ends.

Michael Fierro, president of Fairfax Civic Association, summed up the situation when the told Delaforum "there are so many different opinions that it's [impossible] to pinpoint any kind of consensus."

At one point during the 'hearing', Mark Luszcz, the consultant, told a group that he estimated 85% of the attenders were opposed to the basic plan. About 20 minutes later he told Delaforum that opposition was running 60% to 70% opposed. Called on the discrepancy, he said it reflected "shifting opinions."

The count of attenders had reached 150 with about an hour left in the four-hour session, at which people come and go. Usual attendance at such a 'hearing' on what is considered a 'local' road issue is between 50 and 75.

Luszcz said the most recent rush-hour traffic counts show that 800 vehicles an hour use the road on workday mornings and 1,200 in the afternoon. Those, he said, are the peaks of volume totaling 13,000 a day. Don Carbaugh, chairman of the Delaware Bicycle Council, said that a 2001 DelDOT report said the daily volume was more like 24,000.

Luszcz said a slimmed-down Murphy Road could handle the present volume, pointing out that there are many other two-lane roads with comparable volumes. "We are not changing how the [major] intersections at both ends work," he said. "Traffic will back up once in a while, but it is not going to be as bad as you think it will be."

He said the proposed design is based on an assumption that Powder Mill through the Astra Zeneca corporate complex will remain open to public use after the planned direct link to a partial interchange at the Concord Pike-Foulk Road intersection is built.

A point of objection to the Murphy Road plan is that its volume will increase with the anticipated significant growth in Astra Zeneca employment.

Eleanor Kraak, the resident who is generally credited with inspiring the plan, suggested, however, that that volume could be better handled by having the standard traffic pattern diverted to the interchange. "They should go to Blue Ball. It might take them a little longer, but that's better than letting them destroy two fine communities," she said. "[Through] traffic should stay on state roads that have numbers."

Murphy Road runs for about three quarters of a mile between Fairfax and Deerhurst, linking Concord Pike and Foulk Road. While it officially has an individual identity, most drivers regard it as a segment of a road between the Brandywine and Ardentown which goes by four names, depending on where you are at any given moment -- Powder Mill, Murphy, Wilson and Veale.

The DelDOT proposal is to use pavement markings to narrow Murphy to two travel lanes for most of its distance. Wilson and Veale are two lanes; Powder Mill is four for most of its length, widening to six at the Concord Pike end.

The design displayed at the 'hearing' shows the eastbound side of Murphy narrowing from two to one lane at a point opposite Inglewood Road and widening again to provide left-turn lanes as it approaches Thomas Road and, farther along,  Bybrook Road and the Foulk Road intersection. Westbound, there would be one lane from Foulk matching the single through lane feeding traffic from Wilson to Inglewood. Luszcz said parking probably would be prohibited to provide room for vehicles to pass on the right any vehicles making left turns from westbound Murphy onto Hurst and Bedford Roads.

An alternative design would make Murphy a three-lane road its entire length with the middle lane supposedly restricted to left-turning vehicles traveling in both directions. It was not clear how that would work with potentially competing vehicles at Thomas and Bedford, which are only a few feet apart.

That is probably an academic point anyway, Luszcz said, because "I don't know a single person in the world who is in favor of that [option]."

He said the process will be for DelDOT officials to "evaluate" the comments received at the 'hearing' and decide on whether to proceed. If that decision is affirmative, a nearly-final plan will be presented, probably some time in November at the next in a series of sessions about the overall Blue Ball Project.

2002. All rights reserved.

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