NEW FOR TUESDAY: Route 54 Project Completion Date Pushed Back To July

FENWICK ISLAND — Frustrated with the prolonged road construction along Route 54 in Fenwick Island, several business owners and residents along the corridor are petitioning the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDot) to finish the project by Memorial Day weekend.

In the fall of 2010, DelDot embarked on an ambitious $8.1 million project to widen Route 54 from its intersection at Route 20 to the Mallard Lakes community. The improvements include adding a 14-foot wide center turn lane as well as adding six-foot-wide bike lanes and five-foot wide sidewalks. While no one would argue with the project’s benefits in the long run, the prolonged construction schedule, which as dragged on for a year-and-a-half now, has many business owners along the corridor pleading for an expedited construction schedule.

For 18 months, including much of last summer, the busy corridor has been plagued by orange barrels, cones, flag men and prolonged delays as the project continues. Last summer, business owners successfully petitioned DelDot to work only at night to avoid the delays and back-ups that ruined much of the season for the tourist-starved businesses along the major access road for the resort areas.

Throughout this winter, the project has continued as the maze of orange barrels and flag men returned. With the summer season rapidly approaching and no end in sight for the project, business owners and residences are again petitioning DelDot to pick up the pace and finish the job in time for Memorial Day weekend.

“We’ve had it,” said Smitty McGee’s owner Dawn McGee, speaking on behalf of her fellow business owners and residents along the unfinished corridor. “It’s gotten out of control.”

McGee said business owners were told the project would be completed in time for the summer season, but are now being told it might be mid-summer before the barrels and the delays go away for good.

“They are now telling us it won’t be finished until July, not Memorial Day as they originally promised,” she said. “We want them to do whatever it is they have to do to get it done, even if it means working around the clock for seven days a week.”

To that end, a petition is circulating in and around the Route 54 corridor urging DelDot to expedite the construction schedule. As of Tuesday, the petition, which began circulating last Friday, already included over 500 signatures with more being added each day.

In addition, a public meeting has been scheduled for next Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Smitty McGee’s during which residents and business owners will hold DelDot officials’ feet to the fire over the proposed delays.

“This is a petition to complete the road construction on Route 54 before Memorial Day 2012 so that on Friday, May 25, the beginning of Memorial Day weekend and the start of the summer season, all road construction on Route 54 is 100 percent complete,” the petition reads. “All work must be 100 percent completed, all machinery, orange cones, debris and any evidence of continued construction must be removed and the construction route must allow traffic to flow freely in both directions without delay.”

The petition urges DelDot to finish the project in advance of the summer season in order to ensure clear passage along the corridor.

“It is imperative that residents and visitors who support our businesses in the resort towns of Ocean City, Maryland, Fenwick Island and Bethany Beach, Delaware do not experience delays or damage to their vehicles as a result of incomplete road construction,” the petition reads.

To sign the petition, go to http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/route-54-construction/

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