I-95 Restore the Corridor project rolls along
The massive I-95 reconstruction project through Wilmington, known as Restore the Corridor, has rounded one turn.
But, it has a long way to go.
Delaware Public Media contributor Mark Fowser recently visited the work zone to get an update.
Lane restrictions and ramp closures started in February, and a disturbing rate of accidents led to some adjustments. And, coming soon to this six-mile corridor will be a pilot program for Delaware: speed enforcement by camera.
During this first phase of the project, all traffic has been directed into the southbound lanes while work is underway on the northbound side. The project is divided into four sections: a portion north of I-495, the mile-long viaduct, the north section which goes through Wilmington and the Brandywine River Bridge.
Work continues day and night to meet the goal of finishing this portion, then turning around and doing the southbound lanes, in a two-year time frame.
"The ultimate goal is to add 30 years' service life onto the bridges and everything we're doing out here, which pretty much means for the next 30 years we don't plan on having to come out here with major impacts on traffic," DelDOT Engineer and Project Manager Kevin Lindell said. "You'll still have maintenance items that need to be done, but with the work that we're doing here the main goal is the 30 years' service life added on."
The rehabilitation project that's currently playing out is the result of a need that was first identified about ten years ago, according to DelDOT Community Relations Director C.R. McLeod. Recognizing the inconvenience that it would cause in Wilmington, the agency began holding its first public engagement initiatives about two years before construction started.
"We received a lot of valuable feedback from the community and from our community advisory group that we formed with a number of key stakeholders throughout the city to get their input as we were doing the planning," McLeod said. "We talked obviously about the need for the project and what needed to happen, but how could we limit the pain that would be the impact of the project."
Initially, it seemed that motorists had trouble adjusting. According to figures provided by DelDOT, there were 60 crashes in March on I-95 between Route 202 and I-495, compared to 32 in March 2019. 54 crashes occurred in May.
McLeod said more signage and pavement markings were added in the construction zone and electronic message boards were enhanced - all in attempt to reduce the frequency of crashes.
In June, only 20 crashes were reported in the corridor, which was less than in June of 2019 or 2018.
While recent trends have been encouraging, more traffic can be expected as more workplaces bring employees back and school buses start rolling again.
Advice from AAA Mid-Atlantic of Public and Government Affairs: "Always give yourself a little bit of extra time and play it safe. There's nothing worse than being the cause of an accident that at the very least causes a backup for others and at the very worst ends up injuring or possibly even killing people."
Motorists traveling through the work zone will notice signs that indicate the speed they are going. Also, through legislative action the state has been approved to implement a camera-based speed enforcement program only in the corridor.
Initially, drivers who are caught speeding by electronic monitoring will receive warnings.
"This is another mechanism that has been used in other states successfully and one that we think is worth implementing at least for the I-95 project throughout the duration of it, for us to study and see if it is effective and worth consideration in other projects around the state," McLeod said.
Commuters and travelers can get frequent updates on the project by email or text message, or at the projects's website.