Friday, March 20, 2015

DelDOT, and the Legend of Purgatory Swamp

From the Pencader Heritage Association -- William Ditto Lewis, who served the University of Delaware as librarian and archivist for 31 years, described one of the main roads leading south from Newark as follows: “From time out of mind the southern continuation of this street [Chapel Street] had led into the Purgatory Swamp and had been known as the Purgatory Road.” [More ...]

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According to Wiki -- The word "Purgatory", derived through Anglo-Norman and Old French from the Latin word purgatorium, has come to refer to a wide range of historical and modern conceptions of postmortem suffering short of everlasting damnation, and is used, in a non-specific sense, to mean any place or condition of suffering or torment, especially one that is temporary.

Users of the Route 72 corridor (aka "Purgatory Swamp Road") are hoping that, indeed, the dangerous conditions are short lived. This legendary road has become the scene of much risk and suffering as folks on bikes try to negotiate numerous potholes, old patches, crumbling rumble strips and debris among the fury of high speed traffic. And appeals to DelDOT's on-line reporting system so far this year have gone unanswered.

Because Route 72 is centrally located in Delaware, and offers one of a very few truly safe crossings of I95 further north on Chapel Street, it is very popular with bicyclists and pedestrians. Some commute to work, others ride for recreational purposes. Usually, they are heading south to Route 40, Delaware City or the C&D Canal. Whatever the reason, pavement conditions along Route 72 are atrocious, and have been for years.

Sandy Schriever manages a smile in the Spring of 2014, just south of Reybold Road. Sandy commutes several times a week on Route 72 between Newark and Glasgow. In the above photo, the shoulders were recently swept by DelDOT, though long rifts of gravel debris remained. The situation today is much, much worse; crews recently applied loose tar and chip patches that only further added to the chaos.

In July of 2014, the author loaded his bike on a fishing boat, and was able to circumvent a portion of Route 72 thanks to "Indian Ed" Yoder, a chief with the Newarquois Indian Tribe. Ed is a real Native American, and spends full time hours overseeing Sunset Lake and the Newark Anglers Association. Read all about it HERE.

We are praying that DelDOT will see us out of Route 72 Purgatory - soon. Conditions like these are evidence that DelDOT is in financial distress. Unless new sources of income are found, they may become insolvent and conditions like these will become the new normal. This clearly doesn't have to happen. It is shameful that, after years of gas prices in the mid to upper $3 range - now in the low-mid $2 range - they refuse to raise the gas tax by even a nickel to cover such desperate repairs. Our legislators should be deeply ashamed of themselves for putting such a small pittance before safety.

A look in January, form just south of DuPont's Glasgow Site.

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