Sunday, October 5, 2014

Crossing I95 in the Newark area: Welsh Tract Road


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The 2nd of an eight part series, we are examining every I95 overpass/underpass in the greater Newark area from a bicycling safety perspective. Crossing I95 is a major impediment for City and area bicyclists, and a show stopper for many who might otherwise consider commuting or riding for basic transportation. Of the eight, we already know the following:
  • 2 are equipped with a truly safe, segregated pathway intended for non-motorized use - but are not necessarily safe to reach on a bike.
  • 2 contain access ramps to and from I95 in both directions, rendering them totally unsafe.
  • 6, which includes this one, are direct crossings with no I95 access, but contain little or no bikeable shoulder space.
  • By request of Delaware Bikes Advocates, 4 are under consideration for Bicycle Warning Signs.

The Welsh Tract Road I95 overpass
is just west of Route 896. Despite added hills, many bicyclists use this to circumvent the Route 896 (College Avenue) clover leaf. Mountain bicyclists also frequent the area, and use Welsh Tract as a connector between Newark and Iron Hill Park. This is easily the least congested and shortest of the I95 crossings, and features a reasonably clean 3' shoulder. 6-10'' of shoulder opens up in both directions immediately before and after the span. Despite all the advantages above, however, most of Welsh Tract Road itself ranges from non-shouldered to intermittent shoulders at best.

Tips for crossing I95 on Welsh Tract Road:
  • In the interest of safety, and for peace of mind, always use a rear-view mirror to monitor overtaking traffic.
  • Wear a safety vest, and/or mount a reflective triangle to your rear rack bag or back pack, if you have one.
  • This is not an arterial road, and speed limits range from 25 to 35 mph. Generally, you can safely maintain your position within or just outside of the shoulder while crossing this span.
  • If this I95 crossing is too intimidating, slow down and stop before the shoulder narrows. Wait for a comfortable break in traffic before charging across the span. If timed right, it is possible to clear the overpass with few or no cars overtaking.

A view of the span heading east toward Newark.

Welsh Tract is a common detour around the Route 896/College Ave cloverleaf, as illustrated above. It adds a significant climb over Iron Hill via Whittaker Road, tempting cyclists to stay the course and tough it out on 896.

1 comment:

  1. I find it disconcerting that you would recommend this road. I think I can speak about Welsh Tract Church Road from almost 28 years of living on that road. Although I have often seen bicyclists traversing both ways on the road, it is a highly dangerous road to drive on, let alone bicycle. It is narrow, has no shoulders (except for the bridge approaches), twists and turns, poor sight lines, and frequently deep ditches on both sides of the road. During the morning and evening rush hours, there is extremely heavy traffic generated from Maryland drivers using the road to avoid paying I-95 tolls. The speed limit is 35 MPH with a few sections having a 25 MPH limit. There was a period of time when the Police had gotten a grant to fund setting up speed traps and Welsh Tract Road was one of them. The highest recorded speed on the road was 82 MPH! During the non-rush hours speeds are generally much higher than the posted limits. In the time I lived on the road, there were numerous accidents mostly due to speeding. I used to spend my Friday and Saturday nights pulling people out of wrecked cars. I would put out flares and more than once Officers would greet me with " I see you are on duty tonight". There have been numerous fatalities on the road, some on either side of the of the I-95 bridge. During the winter the bridge would freeze up and cars going too fast would crash on the bridge, some even having their front end over the guard rail. As to the bridge itself, because the west bound approache is angled to the bridge, drivers cannot see what is on the bridge until they reach the bridge. The edges of the road on the bridge are littered with stones, glass, and other debris which forces bike riders to ride in the road. Because of the road conditions, the amount of traffic, and the speed at which drivers use this road, I would never recommend this road, even as a last resort, for bicycle use.

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