DelDOT postpones sidewalk work in Rehoboth Beach

By Ryan Mavity

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

Delaware Department of Transportation has postponed a proposed sidewalk project in Rehoboth Beach that was to have started May 2.

DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan said, "Instead of interfering with their tourist season, we figured we would revisit in the fall and do it in early spring. Everyone seems to be happy with that."

Cohan said the last thing the department wants to do is interfere with the city's businesses.

Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, said he and other public officials were caught off guard when DelDOT announced the sidewalk project. Signs were posted at the entrance and exit to the Circle that work was to begin May 2.

"Starting a two-month project in May, where you are going to close down one lane coming out of Rehoboth, is not good," he said. "We can't put up with going into Memorial Day, going into June and possibly into July with one lane coming out of Rehoboth. It can't happen."

The proposed Rehoboth project was discussed as early as September 2014 as an add-on to the larger Route 1 sidewalk improvement project that calls for putting in new sidewalks from Five Points to the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal. Rehoboth Mayor Sam Cooper said the goal of the project was to fix sidewalks to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The 2014 project was delayed after the business community protested major construction starting so close to the annual Sea Witch parade, one of the most heavily trafficked days all year in Rehoboth.

DelDOT spokesman Jim Westhoff said the project was put on hold after Cooper wrote a letter to then-Secretary Shailen Bhatt dated Oct. 24, 2014, saying the design was not ADA-friendly, the proposed mix of concrete sidewalks abutting asphalt was not aesthetically pleasing and the proposal to remove the existing curbing put in during the 2005 Rehoboth Avenue Streetscape project was a waste of money. Westhoff said DelDOT worked with the city addressing those concerns before moving forward.

"It eliminated elements of Streetscape the city thought were important," Cooper said. "They made plans and didn't bring in the city."

He said he would hope DelDOT launches the project in early March, as it will be warmer than February.

"Concrete can be dicey in the winter," Cooper said.

Cooper said DelDOT addressed all his concerns.

"They responded very well," he said.

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