Wilmington's new transit center will open later this year, with a number of amenities for the comfort of the commuting public: waiting areas with seating, Wi-Fi, restrooms, even bike racks and a bike repair station.

It also would be the new stop for 20 DART First State bus routes that currently stop at French Street, just outside the Wilmington Amtrak Station.

A petition drive is now underway that urges Governor John Carney to reverse the proposed changes.

The reason: SEPTA and Amtrak riders would have to negotiate several lanes of traffic on Walnut Street under the tracks of the station to get to the new transit hub.

"With the pedestrian safety record that Delaware has, it makes no sense to put people in harm's way," transit riders coalition member Scott Spencer said.

"It's a very, very dangerous situation to have thousands of people have to cross that street to get to a train station where they have easy access right now," added John Flaherty, a regular DART customer.

The danger, according to Spencer, would be compounded by arriving travelers who might be unfamiliar with the area who may be dragging luggage behind them.

"When people are in a hurry to connect to a train, it's going to prompt them to take chances in an intersection that has very poor sight lines, high traffic, high speeds - and it will be very unforgiving," Spencer said.

The changes were explained at a DART 'community conversation' that was held last month in Wilmington. Advocates for transit riders who are concerned about the changes are also expected to bring up the issue when DART hosts a public hearing workshop on proposed changes to statewide bus routes March 3rd at the Wilmington Public Library.

Flaherty and other commuters and their advocates have expressed their concerns to Governor Carney in writing. Their letter reads in part:

"There is a safer and common sense solution for pedestrians and DART passengers at this dangerous intersection. 
Restore the bus stop at the Amtrak train station that is now slated for removal.
Restoring this bus stop will provide the same equitable access and convenience of curbside access for bus passengers to the train station as is provided for automobiles to pick up and drop off passengers.
Because of the grave risks of injury and death to pedestrians crossing South Walnut Street to the Amtrak station, do not open the new Wilmington Transit Center and Parking Garage until the bus stop is restored."

Reporter - Anchor

Mark Fowser is a veteran journalist in Delaware.