Pedestrian Crashes Bring Scrutiny of Route 1 Safety in Rehoboth
DelDOT plans to include 12 new pedestrian crossings along Coastal Highway/Route 1 near Rehoboth Beach by spring of 2014. (Photo: WBOC)
REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. - Pedestrian safety along the busy Coastal Highway corridor is under scrutiny following a series of crashes.
"There's no signs for pedestrians. There's only one crosswalk through Route 1 and it's just crazy," said Robert Donohue of Rehoboth Beach. "It's unsafe."
Last weekend, a woman was struck and seriously injured attempting to cross Route 1 near the outlets, according to Delaware State Police. In September, two pedestrians were killed while crossing near Route 24. Troopers are awaiting the driver's test results to see if alcohol played a factor in the crash, spokesman Cpl. Gary Fournier said.
The eight-lane highway is among the busiest roads in Delaware and connects scores of popular commercial properties, like outlet shopping centers, through the resort towns.
Pedestrian safety on Route 1 has become a hot topic at the beach, generating numerous editorials in local newspapers and becoming an item of discussion at a recent forum for state Senate candidates.
As part of his failed bid for the Democratic nomination in state Senate district six, former Dewey Beach mayor Bob Frederick made Route 1 safety improvements a top priority of his campaign.
Frederick wants the state to build a pedestrian bridge in the Rehoboth area, a project that could cost millions of dollars.
"If it saves one life, it's worth it," Frederick said. "I think that when you're talking public safety, you can't put a price tag on it."
Chris Kauffman, a manager at a nearby vacuum store, said he frequently sees people jaywalk across the highway.
"I've seen them dodge between the turning lanes, vehicles coming, the buses coming down the street," said Kauffman.
The Delaware Department of Transportation noted traffic crashes can be caused by a variety of factors, especially pedestrians not crossing at signalized intersections; however, spokesman Geoff Sundstrom acknowledged the beach corridor is also in need of crosswalks, pedestrian crossing signals and sidewalks.
The state plans to add 12 crossings between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach by spring of 2014, Sundstrom said. The design of the project is complete and right-of-way is currently being acquired, DelDOT said.
Numbers from DelDOT show a total of four pedestrian related crashes on Route 1 from Five Points in Lewes to Route 1A in Rehoboth Beach over the last three years; one of those included a fatality. The numbers do not include the two recent crashes from September and October, DelDOT said.
Frederick's call for a pedestrian bridge may be a long shot. DelDOT said current plans for Rehoboth do not include such a structure, which is considered the most expensive way to move pedestrians and a rare build in Delaware. Sundstrom said the only pedestrian bridges he knows of are in Wilmington and are quite old. The cost of a pedestrian bridge would depend on size and the amount of property needed for construction, though Frederick said the cost is likely in the millions.