NEWARK, Del— The decades-long debate over a proposed Newark Bypass could be heating up again after a committee recommended building a new road connecting Christina Parkway and Barksdale Road.
The recommendation is one of many contained in a report developed by a committee of Newark residents, city planners and Delaware Department of Transportation officials that is looking to improve traffic in Newark. The plans are in the early stages and will require significant public outreach before being approved, but on Monday, city council gave DelDOT the go-ahead to do more detailed analysis and develop cost estimates.
Sarah Coakley, principal planner for DelDOT, said the connector road was a high priority of the committee.
“Everyone on the committee thought this was a key recommendation,” Coakley said.
She added that modeling shows the new road would provide significant improvements to traffic on Elkton Road and Casho Mill Road.
It would also provide an alternative to Casho Mill Road, which has a low-height, one-lane underpass that is often struck by trucks. Two years ago, CSX proposed closing the underpass, but city and state officials were able to convince it to shelve those plans.
DelDOT has not yet determined the exact alignment of the proposed new road, but it would extend Christina Parkway (Del. 4) by utilizing the entrance road into Suburban Plaza and then curving behind the Home Depot before coming out onto Barksdale Road, likely somewhere between Williamsburg Village and Pilgrim Baptist Church. The connection would be less than a half mile from the Cecil County border.
The city owns most of the land that would be needed, but the road would have to cross property owned by FMC and/or Suburban Plaza as well.
The road would have to be elevated to avoid wetlands, a railroad and the Christina River. The proposal also includes a separate bicycle/pedestrian path, which Coakley said would be scenic due to its proximity to the river.
The proposal is the latest iteration of the so-called Newark Bypass, which has been debated in various forms since the 1950s as a way to divert traffic from the heart of the city.
Christina Parkway, between South College Avenue and Elkton Road, was built in 1983 and was intended to be the first phase of the bypass.
In the 1990s, officials proposed extending Christina Parkway through part of Cecil County to Route 273 near Fair Hill. While some civic groups pushed for the road to be built, it faced opposition from Cecil County officials and was never built.
“Maryland was up in arms because they thought we were dumping traffic on them,” Councilman John Suchanec recalled, adding that years ago he was talked out of buying a house in Christine Manor due to speculation about the bypass. “Some of this stuff sounds very attractive, very appealing, but I guess the devil is in the details.”
The current proposal would not extend into Cecil County but could still prompt concerns about increasing traffic on Barksdale Road.
Newark City Manager Tom Coleman emphasized that like all the committee’s recommendations, the Christina Parkway extension has a long way to go before being implemented – if it even gets that far.
“This is one of the steps in the public outreach process. The intent of this tonight was to make sure everybody can see what projects are involved and know that this is one of them,” Coleman said after Monday’s council meeting. “I agree it will likely be the most controversial.”