A regional planning agency wants your opinion on the future of Kirkwood Highway in its first comprehensive review of eight miles of the retail and business corridor.
“We have never looked at the full Kirkwood Highway/Capitol Trail Corridor for both transportation and land use, in this way,” said Dave Gula, principal planner for the Wilmington Area Planning Council.
“To our knowledge no agency has taken this full-length view,” he said, acknowledging the agency’s Churchman’s Crossing plan, a recent review of growth in the middle of the area.
“The goal is for an attractive and cohesive plan … that will accommodate future economic growth along the corridor and position existing businesses to be competitive as changes to the retail business models occur,” WILMAPCO writes on the landing page for the project.
The most prominent of those changes, of course, is already underway: online shopping.
The public’s input starts with a visioning workshop on Dec. 11 at the Cranston Heights Fire Company, conveniently located at 3306 Kirkwood Highway.
People can stop by anytime between 4 and 7 p.m. to learn about the project, share their thoughts and participate in visioning exercises. In visioning exercises, participants vote on their favorite looks of photos and renderings of other places.
Four more workshops are planned, and an online survey is available as well. A master plan is expected to be completed in the spring of 2025.
The center of the study is on Kirkwood Highway (also known as Route 2) from Possum Park Road (Route 72) to Elsmere. The study area runs east to the CSX tracks and west up to Paper Mill Road, Fox Den Road, New Linden Hill Road, Limestone Road, McKennans Church Road, Faulkland Road, Lancaster Pike and the municipal limits of Elsmere.
The execution is up to agencies like the New Castle County Department of Land Use, the Delaware Department of Transportation and DART. They are “all focused on the future of the corridor, and how to make it safer in the present,” Gula said.
Traffic along Kirkwood Highway
One early insight “is that transit works very well on this corridor,” he said. “DART Route 6 is one of the top-performing bus routes in Delaware. We need to study what is working and find ways to make it even better, and also see if some of that success can be spread to other, similar corridors in New Castle County.”
Possibilities for improving transit could include express buses and nicer bus shelters.
Another: Only 1 to 2 percent of the traffic involves vehicles going the whole eight miles, WILMAPCO learned from anonymized cellphone data. “People are jumping on and off.”
A third: “We know there is a need for congestion relief at Kirkwood Highway and Limestone Road, but nothing has been funded or designed at this time,” he said. “This study will help to sort that out and hopefully define what that intersection needs.”
A springtime traffic study counted 1,600 to 1,900 vehicles per hour near that intersection on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. – and even more around noon on the weekend.
The road’s heaviest traffic in the study was found heading west near Prices Corner: 2,400 to 2,800 vehicles per hour from 3 to 6 p.m. weekdays.
“The plan will also emphasize “strengthening alternative travel modes and options, travel demand management, integration of coordinated multimodal transportation and land use planning, and promoting more sustainable patterns of development, while maintaining and enhancing existing neighborhood vitality,” the landing page continues.
MORE TRANSPO NEWS: SEPTA service starts DEc. 4 at new Claymont Train Station.
“Alternative travel modes” refers to anything but cars and trucks.
“People may not want to use transit, but they want to be able to walk and bike more, safely and comfortably,” he said, exemplifying with access for people who want to explore Middle Run Valley Natural Area.
“More sustainable sustainable patterns of development” refers to anything but converting land into anything but rows of single-family homes, all on their large lots.
“We’re not planning for big development,” he said, “but when things do happen, we want to agree on what’s allowed to happen.”
One aspect of the plan would be considering the possibility of renovating the area’s strip shopping centers into mulituse buildings, with retail on the first floor and apartments above.
Prominent features of the study area include Carousel Park, part of Middle Run, part of the Delcastle Recreation Area, part of Delaware Park, the Elsmere veterans hospital and dozens of stores.
Delaware’s biggest building – the Amazon warehouse – is just outside the area, but needs for its area were addressed in a recent Newport transportation plan.
WILMAPCO recently completed a similar study of Concord Pike.
“The intent is similar to Concord Pike, but we think the corridors are very different,” Gula said. “There are very few opportunities along Kirkwood Highway for large development projects, and none are in the planning stages which is very different from Concord Pike, which had Avenue North and the Brandywine Country Club underway as we were getting started.”
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