The Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) announced last Friday that it plans to build a U.S. 113 bypass road east of Milford, disregarding an advisory group's vote, the News Journal reported.
The DelDot-created group, mainly consisting of community representatives, had voted 15-11 in favor of a "no build" option.
"What we're seeing is the dictatorship of DelDOT overriding the wishes and votes of the people," said Joseph Warnell, a 78-year-old Lincoln resident who stands to lose his property if DelDOT builds the bypass, the Journal reported.
The agency claims that the vote was overridden because the group did not reach a 75% consensus and because DelDOT needs to prepare for anticipated development in Sussex County, according to the Journal.
"If we do not plan for the transportation needs today, land will not be available in the future due to the growth planned for the area," DelDOT Secretary Carolann Wicks said, according to the paper. DelDOT anticipates population and employment increasing about 60% over the next 30 years on the corridor, the Journal reported.
The news came as DelDOT is concluding a years-long, $10 million study to determine the best way to handle projected traffic along U.S. 113. The project--which could easily top a billion dollars--likely won't start construction for about 10 years, according to the Journal.
On Friday, the agency also announced it is planning to add additional lanes on U.S. 113 in the Georgetown and Ellendale areas, the Journal reported, adding that the project also may include a bypass around the Millsboro area, built with a combination of state and federal funds.
DelDOT likely will acquire more than a hundred residences and many more properties for the project, according to the Journal. Warnell, who owns a development in the Lincoln area, told the Journal he could lose as many as 30 vacant lots.
DelDOT's routes announced Friday are not yet solidified, the paper reported. Before working on specifics of the design and land acquisition, agency officials need to decide between two options, known as the purple and green routes, east of Milford; conduct an environmental review; and hold a final public hearing, which likely will take place in the fall, according to the Journal.
The Journal reports that the project has been riddled with controversy, particularly in the Lincoln area, where Warnell lives. Many residents argue that the option DelDOT chose will divide their town and make them merely an extension of Milford, according to the paper.
"The town of Lincoln now finally will be destroyed by the state of Delaware," Sonny Vuono, 67, told the Journal, saying he worries about how the project will affect the scenery and noise level around his property.
"If I put my house up for sale, who's going to buy it?" he asked. "No one's going to want to be living near a bypass."