RTC recently learned that the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) has just signed and sealed the contract deal for the construction of Phase I of the Georgetown-Lewes rail-with-trail project. When complete, the trail—which will be built alongside an active rail line—will be the longest in the state!
According to Bike Delaware, who has been steadily advocating for the project since 2011, the segment will run from Gills Neck Road to Savannah Road along a little-used rail lane in Lewes.
Here’s more from Bike Delaware's Dec. 3 blog post about Phase 1:
Future phases of the project will extend the 10-foot-wide paved trail for a total of 17 miles (!) all the way to Georgetown, creating the longest trail in Delaware. Crucially, it will connect increasingly populous communities west of Route 1 in Sussex County to Lewes and (via the Junction & Breakwater Trail) to Rehoboth. The trail will also provide a much-needed safe, grade-separated crossing of the extremely busy and dangerous Route 1, going under the Nassau Bridge.
Much of the trail is being funded through the federal CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement) Program, first implemented in the early 1990s to support surface transportation projects and related efforts that contribute air quality improvements and provide congestion relief. A groundbreaking is scheduled for Spring 2016.
The trail project—a joint effort between DelDOT and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control—was first identified back in Fall 2011 as a Sussex County priority (four months after the state passed its Walkable Bikeable Delaware resolution). The project built further momentum when it was included in Gov. Markell’s ambitious, ongoing First State Trails and Pathways Initiative less than a year later, and is expected to result in many positive benefits for the state related to tourism and transportation.
“This trail will link our state’s popular beach resort areas of Lewes and Rehoboth Beach with Georgetown, the seat of Sussex County government,” says Geoff Sundstrom, director of community relations for DelDOT. “In doing so it will create a … pathway that creates economic, health and recreational benefits for our citizens and visitors. Regionally, it will create an important link to the Cape May–Lewes Ferry, which sails daily between Delaware and southern New Jersey.”
Delaware already has a lot to boast about in terms of active transportation—having been ranked the third-most bike-friendly state this year by the League of American Bicyclists.
Sundstrom says that while DelDOT recognizes the bike community is anxious for trail construction to begin, they are being careful to account for the needs and concerns of all stakeholders: prospective users, adjacent property owners, affected utilities and businesses, and taxpayers. He adds that they are pleased with their efforts to date and are working hard to deliver on Gov. Markell’s vision of a connected Delaware via a world-class biking and pedestrian network!