FENWICK ISLAND – Sidewalks and crosswalks highlighted a discussion on pedestrian safety efforts in Fenwick Island last week.
Last Friday, Councilwoman Vicki Carmean presented the Fenwick Island Town Council with an update on various pedestrian safety efforts in town.
Carmean, chair of the Fenwick Island Pedestrian Safety Committee, announced last week that a long-awaited sidewalk project in Fenwick Island had made it onto the Delaware Department of Transportation’s proposed Capital Transportation Program priority list for fiscal years 2021-2026.
“This means we have been included in DelDOT’s plans to fund our sidewalk project for both sides of Coastal Highway,” she said.
Earlier this year, Fenwick Island received $250,000 in the state bond bill to begin the first phase of a sidewalk construction project.
Instead of pursuing a DelDOT sidewalk project – which had a cost estimate of roughly $10 million – town officials decided to handle the first phase of the project themselves and worked alongside state legislators to secure the bond bill funding.
Though planning for the first phase is now underway, Carmean noted DelDOT has since added a multi- million-dollar sidewalk project to its proposed priority list. The project is No. 13 on the list and includes $10.8 million for a continuous sidewalk system from Lighthouse Road to Lewes Street.
“The good news is we the town are included in these capital projects and our town taxes will not be involved,” she said. “The bad news is this project will not take place probably until 2026.”
Town Manager Terry Tieman, however, said planning could begin as early as 2023.
“While no physical work will be done, planning and engineering work will be done the beginning of July 2023 and then again in July 2024,” she said. “Then there will be some right of way work in 2025.”
Tieman added the town would try to advance the timeline for any proposed sidewalk project.
“We’ll really be pushing hard to get it,” she said.
Carmean told the council that the town had also received a proposal contract from The Kercher Group, an engineering firm, as it launches the first phase of its sidewalk project.
“However, because we have some questions regarding the proposed services, no action is planned until we can schedule a meeting with the company to go over the details,” she said.
Town officials said they were hoping to schedule a meeting with the engineering firm in the coming weeks.
“Once we have worked through this, I will schedule a committee meeting to share that information,” Carmean said.
While most pedestrian safety committee meetings focus on sidewalks, residents earlier this year made it clear to committee members they were also concerned about other pedestrian-related issues in Fenwick, including the lack of crosswalk visibility along Coastal Highway.
“I was so focused on sidewalks,” Carmean said. “But a lot of people – and rightly so – have been focused on the current safety here in our town and what we can do between now and then to improve things.”
To that end, town officials called a meeting with DelDOT Traffic Studies Manager Peter Haag last week to share the residents’ concerns.
“He seemed like a very promising person to work with,” Carmean said. “We discussed a number of concerns and Mr. Haag has promised to study these issues and return with some ideas for remediation. He has also promised to talk with residents at a future pedestrian safety committee meeting. I’m hopeful we will have some results.”
Carmean said DelDOT would also explore a restriping project at crosswalks along Coastal Highway later this year.
“We also talked about restriping the crosswalks in such a way that people can more easily see that it is a crosswalk,” she said.
Town officials said the project could also include additional crosswalk signage. They noted that the council’s decision in August to purchase crosswalk signs would be postponed until further information could be provided.
“I’m very hopeful that changes will be made, and made soon, for our crosswalks,” Mayor Gene Langan said.