State transportation officials have unveiled the first phase of a decade-long project to build an 18-mile trail along the rail line from Lewes to Georgetown.
The initial section of the Georgetown to Lewes Rail with Trail is a 1.25-mile pathway in Lewes following the Delaware Coast Line Railroad tracks from Gills Neck Road to a trailhead at the new Lewes library site and onto a crossing at Savannah Road. The cost of Phase 1 is $1.5 million, said DelDOT supervisor Marco Boyce during a May 15 workshop in Lewes.
Boyce said if funding is secured, work on the shared-use pathway is expected to begin in the summer of 2015. “We still have some right-of-way issues to work out,” he said.
While the state-owned railway right-of-way averages about 60 feet wide, over the years some residents have encroached into the right-of-way, Boyce said. Those encroachments include landscaping, fencing, a planting bed, a driveway and even two buildings. “Depending on the final drawing, they may or may not have to be removed or moved,” Boyce said. “We are working those issues out with property owners.”
Boyce said DelDOT officials met with City of Lewes officials to work out the trail alignment to minimize the effect on property owners who live along the pathway.
Boyce said the trail is designed for use for a family of four riding their bicycles; motorized vehicles and horses will not be permitted. The pathway will be paved with pervious asphalt, Boyce said.
The trail will eventually cross Freeman Highway at Monroe Avenue to connect with the Junction and Breakwater Trail. Construction of that section of trail – from Gills Neck Road to Freeman Highway along the border of the Breakwater community – is in litigation as DelDOT attorneys file condemnation proceedings.
Not everyone looking over the plans was in support of the new trail. “I don’t want to lose my privacy,” said Donna Beecher, who lives along Gills Neck Road where the trail would start. “This doesn’t connect to anything at Gills Neck and encourages people to ride on this dangerous road. I’m not looking forward to it.”
“Why doesn’t it end at Monroe Avenue?” she asked.
Lewes cyclist Dennis Taylor said he supports the trail but would prefer DelDOT place a high priority on a safe crossing of Route 1 under the Nassau bridge.
“I think this will be a big positive for Sussex County for families to enjoy,” he said.
Boyce said Phase 2 of the project could entail a path under the Nassau bridge, but that decision has not yet been made.
DelDOT officials said the rail line is used about once a week to transport three or four rail cars to SPI Pharma Group near Cape Henlopen State Park. The train is restricted to travel no more than 5 mph.