An unconventional traffic pattern that currently exists along the Summit Bridge Road corridor--where it's flanked by Denny Road to the west and Howell School Road to the east--is in line for a configuration correction during an upcoming realignment project.
"Right now, between Denny Road and Howell School Road--on (Route) 896--there's a dog leg," described Rich Palmer with the Delaware Department of Transportation. "It really causes a lot of safety problems. When we're done, Howell School Road will be at the same traffic light as Denny Road."
This change will eliminate the requirement for cross traffic to pass through three separate signals, replaced, instead, with a single light. The new layout--which bends the western stretch of Howell School Road to the north just past the entrance to Lums Pond State Park, in order to line up with Denny Road at Summit Bridge Road--will also adjust access to the Meadow Glen neighborhood.
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"Their entrance will then be off of Howell School Road," Palmer revealed. "That's how long this has been in the works. This project was started, in design, in 2005. And Meadow Glen has been there before that. When they developed that subdivision, the developer had to make sure that all the residents were told that Sweet Hollow Drive (which currently grants access to the neighborhood from Route 896) was temporary."
Though funding issues and environmental permits may have held up the timeline, Palmer offered that the best laid plans couldn't be suspended for long.
"Just as everything was developing in the area, we foresaw that Lexington Parkway--which goes into Denny Road--should line up with Howell School Road. It doesn't make sense (not to line up), from a safety standpoint."
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In addition to the realignment, the project also includes drainage work to pipe water, which currently settles in roadside ditches on the south side of Howell School Road, to a collection area closer to DE-71/Red Lion Road.
As for the realignment itself, traffic will encounter several new features.
"Right before Robert Peoples Boulevard, there will be a widening of the road and the controversial roundabout. The people in Meadow Glen don't like the roundabout. They think that it would be safer to have the traffic signals. A lot of people just think of the (New) Jersey (traffic) circles, but the roundabouts work completely different."
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The widening is to allow for multi-use improvements to Howell School Road, such as two-way bike lanes and a 10-foot wide path on the south side which will extend from Peoples Boulevard right out to Summit Bridge Road.
For users of Lums Pond, Palmer promised that entrance will remain unencumbered.
"We have to keep it open at all times."
And for traffic on Summit Bridge Road, too, the impact of construction will be minimal.
"The traveling public during the day will not see flaggers stopping traffic on (Route) 896. However, one of the first things they'll be doing is placing a concrete barrier on 896 to protect their work area. Once that's in place, they can work during the day (inside of the barrier), but we won't be closing lanes during the day (on northbound Summit Bridge Road)."
Local traffic on Howell School Road can expect some more involved restrictions.
"Of course we have to keep the subdivisions' traffic open and Lums Pond traffic open so, when we're doing Howell School Road directly, there'll be intermittent lane closures and there could be some detours. There's a couple of box culverts that we're taking out and replacing so, when we do that, we have to shut the road down completely. People might have to go all the way out to 71 (Red Lion Road) to get to where they're going."
The entire project is scheduled to take nearly two full calendar years, with an anticipated completion at the end of 2017.