Having spent, according to a Delaware Department of Transportation spokesman, "a little bit over $100 million" of public money to construct the Blue Ball road network and expecting to shell out another $3 million or so before the project is finished, it's difficult to understand how so many obvious design flaws have shown up in the nearly finished product.
A couple of years back, many folks wondered what was accomplished to ease travel by the redesign of the Concord Pike-Foulk Road intersection. There was still a traffic signal and it was forcing even longer waits to access the pike. Backups on Foulk Road still occur during rush hours.
We were told, not very convincingly, that the "partial interchange" was the result of a "compromise with the community" during the conceptual process. Several civic activists involved in that process questioned the accuracy of the explanation, but grudging accepted the promise that, if they waited until the rest of the job was finished, they'd like what they got.
Few, if any, frequent travelers through the area are now ecstatic. And they're puzzled over several other things that DelDOT hath wrought.
Topping the list is the restoration of part of the Concord Pike-Augustine Cut Off intersection. Partial seems to be the operative term here. Although we're told that memory is faulty, it seems there was a lot of talk back when about the advantage of closing that intersection except for a right-turn through lane linking Augustine Cut Off with southbound Interstate 95.
Instead we have a traffic signal to permit a left turn from a northbound lane of the pike and another one to allow turners to pass across the new West Park Drive.
The sign said no right turn is allowed from southbound Concord Pike onto Augustine Cut Off, but who reads signs? The shape of the intersection is such that that maneuver takes only a slight jog. It won't be long before more drivers coming from Foulk Road join those who already have found they can save all of a few seconds by using that option.
A similar but even more dangerous situation exists where southbound traffic on the pike is provided with left-turn access to the office complex south of Independence Mall. Using it to make a u-turn to access extended Weldin Road, and from it Foulk Road, has proven inviting to drivers wishing to avoid the slightly longer approved route via West Park Drive.
Coming out of Wilmington and up what used to be known as McKee's Hill, we find the two northbound through lanes merge just before, rather than after, reaching the turn lane onto Augustine Cut Off.
And here's the kicker: Not being able to turn from Augustine Cut Off onto northbound Concord Pike eliminates the weave with traffic exiting I-95 in order to access Foulk Road. In its place, however, is the weave with not one but two lanes of exiting and still speeding freeway traffic in order to access extended Weldin Road. The distance is about the same as what was allowed for the former weave, but it includes the impeding traffic signal at Foulk Road.
There's also a temptation to access Foulk Road from northbound Concord Pike by crossing the not very formidable barrier. Duplicating the curb separating the north- and southbound lanes of the pike would have been logical and far preferable.
Finally in the litany are the confusing right-turn lane to permit continuing along westbound Powder Mill Road rather than melding onto Children's Drive and the ridiculous and obviously unenforceable 35 m.p.h. posted limit on the as yet unnamed Route 141 bypass.
The best that can be said about the nine-figures Blue Ball project is that it does make access to the Astra Zeneca corporate complex easier than it used to be. And, after all, wasn't that the whole idea all along?
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