Beachgoers be warned: Route 1 may not be a huge issue, but major projects could delay Route 24

Emily Lytle
Delaware News Journal

You know the feeling. The cars ahead of you slow to a crawl. The road-trip games are starting to get old. And each time your eyes flicker toward the clock, the minutes seem to tick by at an even more sluggish pace. 

It's the ultimate summer challenge: beach traffic. 

As an expected busy summer quickly approaches, the major roadways leading to the beaches are likely to soon fill with cars – if they haven’t already. But there’s some good news for those itching to sink their toes in the sand.  

The Delaware Department of Transportation does not have any construction projects planned for Route 1 this summer, according to C.R. McLeod, director of community relations at DelDOT. 

“We do our best not to have major disruptions on heavily traveled routes to the beaches in the summer,” McLeod said. 

Visitors came to Rehoboth Beach on Labor Day Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, with crowds filling the beach and boardwalk, along with bumper-to-bumper traffic on Coastal Highway, as the summer season comes to a close.

Crossover improvements at Route 1 and Cave Neck Road near Milton were on schedule to finish last week, wrapping up those delays. Other smaller municipal projects seem to be squeezing in before the official start to summer, too. 

But beachgoers aren’t off the hook yet. 

Even though drivers can mostly avoid the dreaded sight of orange construction cones along Coastal Highway, several projects on Route 24 could cause delays for those traveling east from Millsboro or Long Neck areas. 

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These projects aim to “increase safety and traffic flow,” including the widening of Route 24 from Mulberry Knoll Road to Route 1, McLeod said. That project is expected to be completed in 2022. 

The lack of traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic last summer allowed for a lot of construction on Route 1.

Resident Scott McClintock has lived off Mulberry Knoll Road at least part-time for about 30 years, and he said it sometimes takes him 10 minutes to pull onto Route 24 from his neighborhood because of the traffic. 

McClintock agreed that these ongoing construction projects will likely improve safety, but his biggest concern is the number of houses popping up in the area. 

“It’s not what it used to be,” he said. "It’s becoming like Philadelphia with all the traffic.” 

Construction this summer could temporarily complicate this ongoing traffic issue. 

A handful of restaurants, hair salons and chains are scattered across Route 24, a major east-west route to the beach.  

The other Route 24 intersections that will see improvements – and coinciding lane closures or delays – are at Route 5/Route 23, at Mount Joy Road and at Bay Farm Road.

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Construction has already begun and is scheduled to finish by next fall for the Route 5/Route 23 intersection west of Long Neck.

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This project includes extending the left turn lanes and adding more shoulders and curbs, as well as bike lanes, bus stops, sidewalks and crosswalks. 

Both the Mount Joy Road and Bay Farm Road intersections will see construction slated to start this summer and end in 2023. This includes widening the road to add or extend turn lanes. 

Other safety improvements are added bike lanes, bus stops, sidewalks and crosswalks.  

These three intersections were each identified as a “high crash location,” according to DelDOT’s Highway Safety Improvement Program. 

Emily Lytle covers Sussex County from the inland towns to the beaches. Got a story she should tell? Contact her at elytle@doverpost.com or 302-332-0370. Follow her on Twitter at @emily3lytle.