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Lewes byway committee presents plan for Kings Highway

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Traffic calming measures, roundabout and boulevard highlight plan

The look and feel of Kings Highway and Gills Neck Road in Lewes has changed over the years, and it will continue to change as the area evolves. To stay ahead of future development, the Lewes Scenic and Historic Byways Committee is developing a concept master plan for roadway improvements.

The master plan is the next step in a grander effort for the overall Lewes byway, which also includes Savannah Road, New Road, Pilottown Road and Cape Henlopen Drive.

"We're trying to determine what Kings Highway and what Gills Neck Road should look like," said Jeff Greene, director of preservation and infrastructure at Delaware Greenways. "Without a concept of what this should look like, we'll never know."

The plan is in no way set in stone, Greene said, and does not contain many specifics.

"It is not to be designed or constructed exactly as it's shown," he said. "Things change over time, and they will certainly change here."

The group followed four principles when developing its proposed improvements. It wanted to reinforce the vision of the community; extend the fabric of the city; incorporate more landscape, more stormwater infiltration and more shade; and design the Kings Highway/Gills Neck Road corridor for people of all ages.

One of the goals, he said, is to extend the fabric of historic Lewes and limit the chaos of Route 1.

Improvements funded by the state or developers will not be required to follow the master plan; however, the plan should reflect the wants and preferences of all parties involved.

"This is advocacy of our byway committee," Greene said. "We don't have any regulatory authority; we have the power of persuasion."

The deadline for public comment on the master plan is Friday, July 8. Comments may be sent to The master plan presentation can be viewed online by going to the city's website and clicking News & Notices.

The next step is for byway consultant Jim Klein to draft the final master plan for presentation to the byway committee and city and county officials. It will then be released for public review.

The plan itself presents ideas for several sections of Kings Highway and Gills Neck Road, such as traffic calming measures to improve safety, and bike lanes and multi-use paths so bicyclists and pedestrians have safer access.

One concern raised at the byways committee's June 29 meeting was the classification of Kings Highway as a principal arterial road, the same classification as Route 1. Members of the committee were unaware of when the road was reclassified.

"Most of us thought that was a collector road," said Gail van Gilder, chair of the byway committee. "It's an important factor because of what can eventually come there and where DelDOT is heading with this road."

Freeman Highway is also classified as a major arterial roadway, and Cape Henlopen Drive is considered a minor arterial, she said.

The concept of Kings Highway in the plan shows two 11-foot travel lanes in each direction with 16-foot-wide planted median in between and 5-foot bike lanes on each side.

One of the more significant elements of the plan that already has support from DelDOT is a roundabout at the intersection of Kings Highway and Dartmouth Drive. Improvements, including the addition of a new turn lane, recently occurred on Dartmouth; a roundabout would help keep traffic moving as it comes off or heads toward Route 1 from either direction, officials said.

"They're safer. They improve traffic flow because you don't stop," Greene said.

DelDOT will be putting the project into its prioritization process this year, meaning the committee and the public should soon know whether funding will be available for the project to commence in the near future.

The project also aims to improve safety along Gills Neck Road at the base of the Freeman Bridge. As currently designed, the new Junction and Breakwater

Trail extension dead ends at Gills Neck Road at the bottom of a hill, a safety concern for cyclists. The master plan provides Del-DOT with a plan to add a short extension toward downtown Lewes and the soon-to-be added Georgetown-Lewes Trail. It will also add a fence that will serve as a barrier between the trail and the road, preventing cyclists from entering Gills Neck Road.

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Original Publication Date: July 8, 2016

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