The crowd at a DelDOT open house on plans for Foulk Road (Ken Mammarella photo)

Foulk Road reconfiguration draws intense interest

Ken MammarellaGovernment, Headlines

The crowd at a DelDOT open house on plans for Foulk Road (Ken Mammarella photo)

The crowd at a DelDOT open house on plans for Foulk Road (Ken Mammarella photo)

An open house that was billed the “absolute beginning of the process” to reconfigure Foulk Road generated intense interest from neighbors and owners of local businesses.

It did not, however, generate a lot of answers. Nor did it generate a large number of people favoring the project to cut the road from four lanes, improve it for cyclists and pedestrians and make other changes.

“I understand that people are upset about speeding,” said Oak Lane Manor resident Monica Hill. “I understand about giving bicyclists access. But converting Foulk Road from four lanes to two is not the answer.”

A rare voice in favor came from Pembrey resident MaryJo Kealy. “I love it,” she said, adding that “I take my life in my hands” when she tries to bike out of her home.

The Delaware Department of Transportation event was held in the community room of the Brandywine Hundred Library, on Foulk Road, and at times there was a line of people backed up in the hallway – a line that thematically resembled the backups that already occur near Foulk. More than 200 people checked in for Tuesday’s event.

Carolyn Zogby of Birch Knoll said she counted 12 cars backed up on Silverside Road on a recent Saturday.

Jim Lewis of Brandywood said it’s not uncommon for traffic on Grubb Road to wait for three cycles of the light at Foulk.

DelDOT has said the impetus for the project is the deteriorating roadbed, plus intermittent drainage issues.

The basic concept, called a road diet, is to turn two lanes in each direction into one, with a dedicated left-turn lane in the center, and extra space on the edges for bicycle lanes. The road would widen to two through lanes at major signalized intersections.

Foulk Road project

The project covers Weldin Road to the Pennsylvania state line (true, at the northern end, Foulk is already just one lane, but sidewalks and bicycle lanes are nonexistent).

“Foulk is already highly congested, and a plan to reduce the capacity of this major artery doesn’t sound like it would be without consequence,” said RJ Miles, president of the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred, an umbrella group for the region’s subdivisions. “They’re telling us to expect development, so it doesn’t look like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. What’s the alternative?”

Matt Vincent, chief of project development north for DelDOT, promised additional outreach to incorporate public feedback. He also said it would be years before any construction.

“We need to have buy-in,” he said, but making it clear that feedback would not be counted like votes: Lack of public support did not mean the end of the project.

One aspect of the plan is to improve localized drainage problems. But resident Bill Thompson said drainage has been unsuccessfully addressed before. “What will they do this time that’s different?”

Multiple people pointed out that traffic already backs up at Brandywine High School when buses drop off and pick up students. One observer commented that the plan would eliminate barriers that allow traffic going the opposite direction to pass school buses when students are entering or leaving, but a reconfigured road would mean traffic would have to stop both ways when school buses stop.

DelDOT counted 301 crashes on the 4.5 miles of the road under consideration, with 70% of them at signalized intersections (the worst, of course, is the oddly shaped one at Murphy Road). Their plans would reduce some of the accidents at the intersections. Of the other 30%, the work would mitigate half of them, the DelDOT literature explained.

Ruth Linton – owner of Highland Orchards, a Foulk Road landmark for generations – said that she was unable to get an idea of when the work might start and how long it would take. She said she was also unable to find out at the open house the answers to similar questions about the Philadelphia Pike road diet, which DelDOT cited as comparable.

According to material presented at the open house, project recommendations at this point include:

  • Reconstruct roadway pavement.
  • Reduce the posted speed limit from 45 to 40 mph.
  • Remedy drainage issues.
  • Reconfigure the road to reduce the number of travel lanes from four to two between signalized intersections.
  • Provide continuous center turn lanes for left turns.
  • Provide 4-foot-wide bike lanes and shoulders.
  • Add right turn lanes at Murphy/Wilson roads and Silverside Road.
  • Reconfigure the northbound Foulk approach at Naamans Road.
  • Provide continuous sidewalks and shared-used paths for bicycle and pedestrian mobility.
  • Upgrade traffic signals at the Murphy and Silverside intersections.

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