Monday, November 11, 2013

Why we need DelDOT Funding Pools

Above: Paper Mill Road bike lanes, brought to you by DelDOT funding pools (of the past).
A proposal by the Delaware Bicycle Council and DelDOT Planning to begin funding smaller bicycle and pedestrian projects sits in limbo. Funding Pools, as they are known, are basically a slush fund allocated to each county to pay for smaller projects that can greatly improve on and off-road bicycle networks and connectivity. Not long ago, Funding Pools were a regular part of DelDOT's budget. The Paper Mill Road bike lanes were made possible by funding pools, and are a favorite among area bicyclists connecting between Newark and Pike Creek.

The Route 72 Sidepath in red
My favorite example is the Route 72/S. Chapel Road sidepath. I have been advocating for the repave-rehab of this facility since I first started commuting on it 10 years ago. There has been little to show for it. Before my time, Route 72 (aka S. Chapel Rd between Route 4 and Old Baltimore Pike) was widened to 4 high speed lanes, curb to curb with no shoulders. It was also repaved in recent years, and that project should have included the sidepath. The path was originally 8' wide but is now significantly narrower in many places do to erosion, crumbling and grass encroachment. It is also full of utility cuts, potholes, and follows the contour of driveways and pedestrian curb ramps for a very un-bike friendly experience. All of this, yet it remains very popular with walkers, runners, transit users, and bicyclists alike. It even has painted bike lane symbols. Replacement of this facility with Delaware's first true cycletrack is something that could come under Funding Pools, if users mobilize and solicit legislator support.

We should also have our eye on Route 72 between Route 4 and Library Ave in Newark. Traffic routinely backs up on this stretch, and what's there to stop this from going to 4 lanes in the future? When it was last reconstructed, DelDOT left a narrow pathway on each side behind the guardrails, which is now so overgrown and full of trash, it is hardly usable even by pedestrians. It is also designated as the East Coast Greenway. Should we ever see 4 lanes here, the road itself would have to shift over, and make way for a much wider sidepath on one side (west side) that meets safety specifications. It could also connect to the pathway mentioned above, running south of Route 4. For now though, wide shoulders do exist here but use caution as they are usually covered in debris.

Unfortunately, Funding Pools are still not reality, and we know that Bike Delaware does not endorse them. Support or no support, we will continue advocating for the complete resurfacing of this facility, or in a best case, replacement with a standard cycletrack along Route 72/S. Chapel Road. Watching this one and others like it deteriorate to the point of being hazardous should raise concern when it comes to maintenance of Trails and Pathways. It is for this reason, as well as riding contraflow, that we normally don't advocate for multi-use pathways in alignment with roads unless conditions absolutely call for it (i.e. limited ROW, high speed/no shoulder). IMO, Route 72/S. Chapel calls for it.

Route 72/S. Chapel Road at I95. One of a very few truly safe crossings of I95 anywhere in New Castle County. Below are other conditions typically found along this facility, extending between Route 4 and Old Baltimore Pike.

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