Delaware’s new U.S. 301 toll road may be in jeopardy.
The project, which is expected to begin in mid-2012 and will cost about $738 million, has come under attack from critics that say the new route between Middletown and State Rte. 1 simply will not generate enough travelers to be profitable. According to a recent Delaware DOT (DelDOT) traffic consultant’s projection of opening-day traffic in mid-2015, the number of motorists appears to be 18% less than estimates provided in June 2010. Toll-revenue estimates also have dropped by 20%, while construction costs have raised 9%.
“When the project was approved back in 2008, they were using traffic-forecast figures that were generated way back in 2002,” Daniel Blevins, a lead planner for the WILMAPCO regional transportation oversight agency, told The News Journal. “There was an awful lot of change between 2002 and 2008.”
DelDOT’s shrinking budget has not calmed anyone’s fears regarding the fate of U.S. 301, but the agency does have a plan. A lien might be taken on the Transportation Trust Fund, which state officials say would help win lower rates for toll-road construction bonds and will lower overall costs. DelDOT officials said a lien has always been a part of the plan for the 301.
“The project is not in jeopardy,” Brett Taylor, DelDOT director of policy and communication, told The News Journal. “We’re nowhere near finalizing anything with regard to the construction and the financing plan for the project.”