We must work together to solve Route 1 problems
A while back, a City of Rehoboth Beach resident wrote a letter suggesting that a tourist who complained about traffic during the family's summer vacation in Rehoboth Beach was mistaken - had she vacationed in the City of Rehoboth, she would not have had the Route One traffic problems she described. Now we see that Delaware Department of Transportation Secretary Shailen Bhatt made a trip to the area to observe Route One problems. He visited on Oct. 2!
Neither a weekday visit during early October nor an "it's not a problem if you live/vacation in the City of Rehoboth Beach" attitude will solve the Route One albatross.
Pedestrian crosswalks to further delay the horrendous Route One summer traffic jams will only exacerbate an already dire situation. Yes, Route One needs wide sidewalks to accommodate both pedestrians and bicyclists. Instead of traffic delaying crosswalks, it also needs a few strategically placed pedestrian overpasses so walkers and bicyclists can cross the highway safely without further burdening motorized traffic. (It wouldn't hurt to have a more open bicycle path with easy access into Lewes, as well as the canal taxi that Mayor Sam Cooper disparaged because it would not be docking in the City of Rehoboth, but neither fix would alleviate the current disasterous, dangerous summer pattern on Route One.)
Who should pay? Who benefits? Certainly the State of Delaware and Sussex County; however, let's not forget the municipalities - Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach at a minimum. Grocery stores are on the highway. Rainy days or just the benefit of tax free shopping while in the area make the outlet stores "must visit" places both for vacationers and locals. Vacationers, wherever they stay, arrived and will leave via Route One. Municipality locals, even with outstanding municipal offerings, venture onto Route One for many reasons. And like it or not, none of us could enjoy the number of fine restaurants and shopping facilities throughout the area if summer and weekends did not bring the volume of visitors that they do. Many of these visitors return year after year, buy homes (making them Sussex County or municipality taxpayers), and ultimately retire here (thus becoming Delaware taxpayers). Multiple jurisdictions benefit from Route One; multiple jurisdictions should fund its improvement.
For those like me, a 37-year Sussex County property owner who can remember how the area turned into a ghost town the day after Labor Day and remained that way until Memorial Day week-end, it is obvious that much would change and not necessarily for the better - fewer grocery stores; fewer places to dine or shop without a lot of travel, loss of high quality medical facilities, and the list could just go on and on.
If the multiple governments are not willing to work together financially, I suspect before long, areas surrounding the beaches in Sussex county may find that many of "their" visitors choose vacation sites outside Sussex County. The ripple will be felt by all. Short of making Route One a toll road, which would disproportionately impact locals, officials in all the involved jurisdictions must acknowledge that they have a responsibility for making Route One accessible to residents and visitors. They must also recognize that the need is urgent. With cooperation and concerted effort, it would seem that an effective sidewalk network and some pedestrian overpasses could be in place beginning as early as next summer.
Ellan R. Hylton