A project to replace the railroad bridge near “The Point” would help to relieve congestion along the heavily-traveled U.S. 36 and State Route 37, but it may cost $15 million to $18 million to build and take six years to finish.
That estimate was provided by city staff at the Delaware Public Works/Public Utilities Committee meeting on Tuesday. Among topics for discussion was an update on traffic at the intersection of U.S. 36 and State Route 37, as well as a presentation on the feasibility of replacing the nearby Norfolk-Southern railroad bridge.
“The Point,” where William Street (U.S. 36) and Central Avenue (SR 37) meet, averages 31,497 vehicles a day going eastbound and westbound, said city engineer Jessica Ormeroid. From 2 to 6 p.m., more than 2,000 vehicles drive through the area. Both of those numbers are above capacity for the road.
“Thursdays and Fridays are especially bad,” Ormeroid said. “There’s backup to Channing Street, Lake Street and even U.S. Route 23.” That’s heading out of the city. Heading in, traffic can be backed up to the Glenwood Commons shopping center.
The morning rush isn’t quite as bad. Nearly 2,000 vehicles are on 36/37 at 7 a.m. All told, about 1,500 vehicles or more travel the routes hourly between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., and then the numbers drop sharply.
In contrast, an average of 25,333 vehicles traveled daily on 36/37 in 2008, and that fell to 24,979 in 2009, both years at capacity for the roads. With 27,023 vehicles traveling the route daily in 2010, it placed the roads over capacity. Improvements at The Point meant that the routes were under capacity with an average of 26,571 vehicles daily. However, traffic has increased 1 to 2 percent in each of the following years.
There was also heavy use of U.S. 42 South of U.S. 23; the U.S. 23 northbound off-ramp at U.S. 36; and the U.S. 23 southbound off-ramp at 37. This traffic was contributing to the congestion on Routes 36/37.
Among the ways of alleviating congestion would be to replace the Norfolk-Southern railroad bridge near The Point to accommodate an additional lane. Engineer Matt Weber said a feasibility study confirmed there were only a couple of options available, and it depended on whether the added lane would be eastbound or westbound.
In order to replace the bridge, the city said it would seek federal funding to pay for the bulk of the project. The city is going to hire a consultant to ensure getting approval for the grant. Weber estimated that if all went according to plan, the construction would take place in 2021, with a ribbon-cutting in 2022 at the the earliest.
Other improvements would include changes to the city’s traffic signals and a project on William Street slated for 2018-19.