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October 31, 2016 4:20 PM, EDT

Delaware DOT Looks to Enhance Freight Movement on Route 1, US 301

At just 1,954 square miles, Delaware is the nation’s second-smallest state besides Rhode Island. However, Delaware’s location between three of the eight largest metropolitan areas -- New York-Newark, New Jersey, Washington-Baltimore, and Philadelphia -- makes the state a constant when it comes to freight movement.

So, despite the importance of summer beach tourism to Delaware’s economy, the state’s Department of Transportation is well aware of the role that freight plays in the state.

“We are constantly looking at our freight corridors, trying to make sure that we can move goods and services efficiently and effectively over our network,” said Drew Boyce, DelDOT’s director of planning. “We have a very robust traffic management center. We’re constantly looking at our major arterial corridors [since] the bulk of the freight moves through those.’’

While Boyce said that commercial truck traffic on Interstate 95 has started to rise slightly after two-plus years where it stayed flat, much of DelDOT’s plan to enhance freight movement is coming to the east on US Route 1 and US Route 301.

“We’re slowly converting Route 1 from Dover to Lewes to a limited access highway by eliminating all the traffic signals with a series of grade-separated interchanges,” Boyce said.

“Anything they can do to reduce the congestion on Route 1 is going to be a benefit for freight movement,” said Fred Bowen, transportation manager for Mountaire Farms, a major poultry producer in Delaware. “Traffic backs up for 10 miles, especially on Friday evenings, which slows down freight movement and reduces drivers’ hours of service because they’re sitting in traffic.”

US 301 is an important alternate route to I-95 for truckers looking to avoid the seemingly endless delays in the Washington and Baltimore areas. So, DelDOT plans to turn a 17-mile section of the former road into a limited access highway by December 2018, removing about a dozen traffic lights.