March 4, 2005

Informed that the state budget office has slashed Delaware Department of Transportation's capital spending plan for the coming fiscal year by nearly a third, the Wilmington Area Planning Council decided to take another look before signing off on the revised plan.

"It is so much different from what we gave out to the public that we need added outreach," principal planner Heather Dunigan said.

The planning council's directors were scheduled to give what was expected to be routine approval to the three-year Transportation Improvement Plan at their bimonthly meeting on Mar. 3. They voted voted instead to table it until May after Robert Carver, of DelDOT's finance department, told them the department is now seeking General Assembly approval for $445 million worth of capital spending in fiscal 2006, rather than the $647 million originally proposed.

The cuts are part of an overall reduction in state spending. DelDOT spending still would top what is projected for the current fiscal year.

Principal project apparently cut from the budget was the beginning of construction of a new Concord Pike-Interstate 95 interchange. That would link with the Blue Ball highway project now underway involving Concord Pike north of the interchange.

Other Brandywine Hundred projects that probably will be delayed for at least a year are installation of sidewalks along Marsh and Foulk Roads and improvements at the Marsh Road-Washington Street Extension intersection.

Also shelved are the beginning of planning for extending Churchmans Road through Delaware Park to Kirkwood Highway, improvement of the Kirkwood Highway-Harmony Road and the Newport Pike-Limestone Road intersections. Purchase of 68 buses for Delaware Transit Corp. and relocation of its administrative office also appear to be off the plate.

Carver made his presentation orally and would not provide a list of the projects and their respective costs. Dunigan said she received information about the change on a computer disc just before the meeting, adding that she has to "do an analysis of the changes" before posting them on the council's Web site.

The project listing in this article is based on a combination of notes taken by Delaforum and by Tigist Zegeye, the planning council's executive director.

Planning council directors did not discuss Carver's presentation before voting unanimously to accept Dunigan's staff recommendation to table the plan.

It is likely, Dunigan said, that there will be a workshop-style meting to solicit comments from the public before the directors act.

Zegeye said that it is possible that the directors could vote to reject the plan and that theoretically could result in cutting off federal financial support for any transportation project in Delaware. She agreed that is not likely to happen.

The planning council is the designated agency in New Castle County and Cecil County, Md., for providing the required public approval of transportation plans.

2005. All rights reserved.

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