Seaford man comes up with plan to improve US 13

By Lynn R. Parks

The system of US 13 service roads designed by the state was intended to ensure that US 13 is able to handle its traffic safely and efficiently by limiting the number of direct access roads and driveways to US 13. But Jack Miller cannot see that it would solve anything. “The best I can say is that it is dumb,” said Miller, examining a blown-up map of US 13 and the proposed service roads. “It is just pathetic.” Miller is vice president of engineering for Nouvir Research, located on US 13 just north of the highway’s complex intersection with alternate US 13, Old Furnace Road, Camp Road and Elks Road. As designed, the proposed northbound service road would come within 3 feet of the Nouvir building. “This plan would force us to move,” he said. “There would be no room for trucks or for employee parking.” But his concern about the plan was not based only on what it would mean for his business. “The value of commercial property is directly proportional to the number of cars that drive by it during the day,” he said. “This plan would diminish the value of highway frontage property. It would also diminish the value of residential property because of increased traffic.” The proposed service roads run adjacent to several housing developments, including Clearbrooke and Bryan Park. In addition, he said, the plan would cost millions of dollars to implement and would not contribute to safety on crowded US 13. “Business owners were going berserk,” Miller said. “DelDOT turned a deaf ear. But I have spent my life solving problems that people didn’t think could be solved. I had to go to work on this.” In October, Miller began work on an alternative to the state plan. His design has been adapted by the Greater Seaford Orderly Growth Committee, a group of US 13 property owners and city representatives. A draft of it was presented to the state Secretary of Transportation Nathan Hayward during a meeting held at city hall Jan 28, moderated by Mayor Dan Short. Short presented a final draft of the plan at a DelDOT public meeting Feb. 20 at Delaware Technical and Community College, Georgetown, attended by Hayward. Discarding service roads, Miller’s plan redesigns the current US 13 right-of-way to include eight lanes of traffic instead of four. The two outer lanes, currently shoulders, are acceleration/deceleration lanes for drivers who want to turn off the highway. The two innermost lanes are acceleration/deceleration lanes for drivers wishing to cross the highway. The four center lanes, two headed north and two headed south and each remaining the current 12 feet 6 inches in width, are for through traffic. The plan includes rumble strips on the outer and inner edges of the highway and cement barriers on both outer and inner edges of the highway. All this can be done, Miller said, with the land currently owned by the state, eliminating the need for the state to buy additional property.

Michele Ackles, spokeswoman for DelDOT, said that Miller’s plan presents some safety problems. “Shoulders are there for a purpose,” she said. “If you have a flat tire, you want someplace to get out of traffic. And we have some real safety issues with concrete barriers.” Miller’s plan also suggests ways of redesigning intersections to make them safer. “I have said, and I still stand by the statement, that the state could cut accidents by 20 percent with nothing but a bucket of paint and a paint brush,” he said. To prove his point, Miller points to the intersection of US 13, Tharp Road and Herring Run Road, just north of the Seaford Village shopping center and near Wal-Mart. Lines painted on the road direct cars turning from the side roads onto the highway into the right lane of the highway; there is no merge lane. “It forces people into high-speed lanes and the result is, at the least, stress,” he said. “It is as though the intersections are designed to cause problems.” He suggests that the lines be repainted to allow cars to accelerate, then merge. Miller agrees with the state that the intersection of US 13, alternate US 13 and three other side roads be redesigned. In the last four years, there have been 49 accidents at that intersection, he said, some of them resulting in death. He suggests that access to US 13 north from alternate 13 be by Swain Road only and that alternate US 13 be made one-way, south only, from the highway to Swain Road. He also suggests that Camp Road be redesigned so that it empties onto Old Furnace Road instead of onto the highway. Adoption of both suggestions would mean that cars would be entering the highway from two roads only instead of from four roads. The Miller plan calls for Camp Road to be upgraded and extended north to the new shopping center east of Bridgeville. “That is the only place that I recommend a service road,” he said. He recommends that trucks be banned from Camp Road and that the speed limit be 25. With the completion of his plan, Miller wants to return his attention to his business. He would like to see available state money spent on creating engineering designs of his suggestions. But Ackles said that if the state finds that Miller’s plan deserves valid consideration, its engineers will do required drawings. “That would be automatic,” she said. “If there are parts that can be pursued, we will pursue them. If we know something won’t work, an engineering drawing won’t do it any good.” Ackles said that the state is moving into the design phase on improving several intersections along US 13. She said that engineers will take all suggestions, including Miller’s, into account in the final design. She expects for work to begin on the highway within a year to 18 months.

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