In counting our blessings, let us demand accountability
When Transportation Secretary Shailen Bhatt was in Rehoboth Beach last week, a nor’easter was heading up the coast, threatening beaches already damaged by superstorm Sandy.
In talking to Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce, Bhatt said two problems have drawn DelDOT’s attention: fatalities on Route 1 and access to the Indian River Inlet bridge. He also promised to move forward with the First State Trails and Pathways initiative to make bicycle and pedestrian travel safer throughout the state, including a bicycle/pedestrian rails-to-trails path linking Georgetown and Lewes.
Those initiatives are all good news the Cape Region can be thankful for, improving critical transportation infrastructure. The problem will be paying for them.
In the same talk, Bhatt discussed the $1.1 billion in debt that consumes more than 20 percent of DelDOT’s annual budget.
Gov. Jack Markell’s budget sets aside money to fund the trails and pathways initiative, so those plans appear to be moving forward.
A recent string of seven accidents including four fatalities on Route 1 has drawn Bhatt’s attention, yet there is no indication DelDOT has come up with any funds to address the problem – if the agency decides to go ahead with planned crosswalk improvements.
As for the bridge, Delaware taxpayers well beyond the Cape Region should be asking how DelDOT could ever have approved a bridge design without ensuring the approaches to the bridge were stable and protected. When the first approaches to the bridge were dismantled and the entire project was redesigned, did it not occur to anyone that a bridge is useful only if traffic can reach it?
Bhatt said DelDOT faces serious legacy issues, meaning he inherited a lot of problems. That’s definitely true, but it doesn’t reduce the urgency or the expense of finding solutions.
Route 1 is the gateway to our regions, not only for Cape Region residents but for millions of tourists. Our Thanksgiving prayers should include thanks our region was spared devastation when superstorm Sandy hit farther north. But in counting our blessings, let’s not forget the vital work required to ensure the safety and reliability of Route 1.