MILFORD — Travelers in Milford will soon have an easier commute along Del. 1 after the state Department of Transporation opens the new interchange Saturday morning.
But the excitement isn’t just for motorists, according to DelDOT and city leaders.
The interchange is designed to take travelers from Route 14 or the NE 10th Street area safely across Del. 1, allowing communities east of Milford safe passage without fear of accidents or incredible long waits just to cross the street.
The opening will be celebrated with an event at 9 a.m. Saturday, as DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan joins Milford leaders in acknowledging the work completed while allowing pedestrians and bicyclists first dibs at travel along the new road.
“It is an event that we envision being very family friendly,” City Manager Eric Norenberg said. “Lifecycle is organizing a bike ride from downtown out to the location. We think that kids will have a great time just being able to walk and bike and say, ‘Wow, we’re on the bridge.’ This is a chance to do that before it’s open to traffic.”
Originally set to open in August, the project came in at around $22 million and was completed ahead of schedule by Diamond Materials, Ms. Cohan said, even with the Milford branding etched into the side of the bridge.
“I wish we could have them on all off our projects. They were really good neighbors,” Ms. Cohan said of Diamond Materials. “This job was done on budget and completed early even with the wet weather we’ve had over the past two years. … This marks another accomplishment for what we’re trying to do for Route 1.”
It is the seventh grade-separated interchange along the highway that spans much of the state, helping the state continue working toward a limited access highway system for travelers.
“Route 1 was always supposed to be a limited access highway,” she added.
“Now, from Christiana Mall to Route 16, there are more than 70 miles without a traffic light.”
Along with DelDOT’s promise to deliver their construction projects while encouraging a healthier state-wide travel system, Ms. Cohan said the pleas of local residents like those in the Woods Haven community in Milford also contributed to the project.
“They said, ‘We just wanted to go to Grottos on the weekend, but we can’t get there from here,’” she explained of the residents that live in the community across the street from Grottos in Milford, separated only by Route 1 and possibly droves of summertime traffic.
The NE Tenth Street intersection was a dangerous one that contributed to multiple fatal accidents over the years. At least 138 collisions had been reported to the Milford Police Department at the intersection between April 1, 2009, and March 2018, Sgt. Robert Masten told The Chronicle when DelDOT broke ground on the project last year.
“No longer will friends and relatives need to unnecessarily risk their lives to visit. No longer will our residents who work in Milford, shop in Milford, worship in Milford and view the town as the center of our life support need to fear the crossing of Rt. 1,” said Woods Haven resident Emmett Venett.
“This bridge signifies the reuniting of our community with the City of Milford, with which we have always been a part. Our residents had no sway in the decision to close the road to Woods Haven over 10 years, because we are not technically a part of the City. Any look at proper regional governmental planning would have had us incorporated when Woods
Haven developers broke ground on the project.
“But we were part of Kent County and could not stop or change the closing of the roads and so we have traveled thousands of extra miles to come home at night. Those of us who owned businesses in town, traveled two miles farther than we did before the closure of east bound 10th Street – crossing Route 1 several times a day.”
Mr. Venett himself championed the construction project from conception to completion after retiring to the area with 30 years of U.S. Army experience and leadership under his belt. It didn’t take long for him to discover the treacherous travel conditions near his own neighborhood.
“We have experienced many crashes injuries and even some deaths awaiting this day. I am grateful to the attention that Senator Gary Simpson paid to our plight. His efforts resulted in Sec. Cohan hearing our voice and she kept her promise that we would get our overpass. I would also like to thank former Mayor, and now Rep. Bryan Shupe, for his understanding of the win-win benefit of supporting the need for this overpass. Also, my fellow residents turned up in great numbers at many crucial meetings and supported me in many ways. This bridge serves Milford and the communities of Woods Haven, Birchwood and Lighthouse and reunites us as a community,” he explained.
Now, not only will the road be safer for residents like Mr. Venett, it will also act as a beacon for travelers searching for something Milford may have to offer.
“It will bring a lot of attention to Milford,” Mayor Archie Campbell said of the Milford logo that rests on the bridge. It will soon be lit up to help travelers find the growing town.
“The bridge is unique. The gateway to downtown is unique. We’re really trying to say this is special, this is not just any road project. We want the community to feel free to celebrate it,” Mr. Norenberg said.
The community is invited to attend the opening of the new roadway Saturday, May 18 at 9 a.m. A bicycle ride will begin at Lifecycle, organizing that morning at 8:30 a.m. They plan on returning to Lifecycle around 9:30 a.m.
After the 9 a.m. event, the community is invited to the Public Works Department located at 95 Ford St. in Milford for a Touch-A-Truck event at 10 a.m. complete with food trucks, family-friendly activities and educational opportunities.
Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at email@example.com