WILMINGTON — Weeknight closures on Interstate 95 will begin Monday to start the shift to Phase Two of Delaware Department of Transportation’s Restore the Corridor project. DelDOT representatives detailed Phase Two of the project in a virtual public workshop Thursday night.
Overnight closures will begin Monday through Thursday from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. of I-95 northbound from the I-495 split to the U.S. 202 Interchange (Exit 8) and I-295 southbound to I-95 northbound ramp. Access to I-95 north from Wilmington will be available via the 10th Street/Adams Street I-95 northbound on-ramp. These closures are to input safety signage in the lanes to prepare for a traffic shift.
Next weekend, DelDOT plans to close the area again from 9 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Dec. 12, weather permitting. Inclement conditions could push the closure to 9 p.m. Saturday until 7 a.m. Dec. 13. Access to I-95 northbound from Wilmington will once again be available via the 10th Street/Adams Street I-95 NB on-ramp. On Dec. 12 or 13, once the Delaware Avenue/Adams Street I-95 NB on-ramp is reopened, the 10th Street/Adams Street onramp will briefly close for pavement striping.
They will begin to shift the southbound lanes on a similar schedule the following week, but another virtual public meeting will be held on Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. for more details ahead of the southbound shifts, which DelDOT is aiming to start on Dec. 13.
“Delaware Avenue is our busiest exit into the city of Wilmington and obviously that’s really a key access point for a lot of our larger employers in the city and also it’s a very convenient exit for our residents,” said C.R. McLeod, director of community relations for DelDOT. “We know it’s been a long eight months having that exit closed. It looks beautiful, it is all fresh concrete, so we’re eager to get that open and hopefully that will provide a much, much needed relief as we move into phase two.”
During Phase Two construction, the ramps that will remain open on I-95 northbound exit ramps are Exit 6 to Martin Luther King Boulevard/Maryland Avenue and Exit 7 to North Adams Street/Delaware Avenue Exit 7A and 7B to Delaware Avenue south and north on the southbound side will also remain open, but Exit 6 to 4th Street will be closed. Onramps to I-95 northbound from 10th Street to North Adams Street and Delaware Avenue will be open, but the MLK Boulevard onramp will be closed. Onramps to I-95 southbound will only be open from 2nd Street. The MLK Boulevard and North Jackson Street onramps will be closed.
During the closure of I-95 northbound, motorists may take alternate routes I-495 or U.S. 13 to their destination.
As far as traffic patterns, DelDOT Program Manager Mark Buckalew detailed each segment. The southern section will maintain two lanes northbound and two lanes southbound. The viaduct section and the northern section between the viaduct and Brandywine River Bridge will maintain one throughlane northbound and one throughlane southbound. Lastly, on the Brandywine River Bridge section, two lanes northbound and two lanes southbound will be maintained.
Mr. Buckalew said motorists can expect more of the same conditions as Phase One: noise from trucks and construction equipment like hydrodemolition and jackhammers, dust and debris from demolition and excavation and nighttime work. There will be several additional safety measures installed to minimize risk for accidents.
Neil Leary, senior vice president of design consultants Whitman, Requardt and Associates, said crashes have increased approximately 30% between March and May, compared to pre-pandemic when Phase One began.
“However, the frequency has steadily reduced as motorists have adjusted to the Phase One traffic pattern, even as traffic volumes have continued to increase,” Mr. Leary said. “With the implementation of Phase Two, there is a potential for an increase in crashes as motorists adjust to the new traffic patterns, so we will be continuing to monitor and mitigate as necessary.”
Safety improvements already implemented include truck restrictions on I-95 northbound, which reroutes trucks to I-495. Mr. Leary said the department will be implementing an automated speed enforcement pilot within the work zone to enforce the 45 mph speed limit.
“Speeding has been a primary contributing factor in many of the crashes within the work zone,” Mr. Leary said. “The department implemented changes within the work zone during Phase One at crash hotspots when Phase One was first implemented. These included enhanced signing and striping, which will be carried forward for Phase Two to mitigate that potential increase in crashes due to the new traffic pattern being implemented.”
He said the department is continuing collaboration with first responders on ways to improve their current response times in case there is an accident. Traffic volumes are also continuing to increase, so Mr. Leary emphasized the importance of alternative routes like Del. 141 and I-495.
“Traffic times have increased very minimally since construction started while traffic volumes continue to grow,” Mr. Leary said. “In fact, travel times shown here are actually lower than travel times compared to pre-pandemic conditions along I-95.”
The entire two-phase project is on schedule to end February 2023, but the winter could potentially cause disruptions if there are a significant amount of bad weather days.
Changes to look forward to at the completion of Phase One are repairs on the northbound I-95 bridges, reconstructed offramps at the northbound Exit 6 to Maryland Avenue and MLK Boulevard, Exit 7 to Delaware Avenue, and the onramps to northbound I-95 from Adams Street and Delaware Avenue. Between the Wilmington viaduct and the Brandywine River Bridge is all new pavement, which also includes new drainage pipes, guardrails and barriers.
The Zoom webinar recorded on Thursday along with the Power Point presentation with maps and detour routes are available on restorethecorridor.com. DelDOT encourages travelers to explore public transportation options to help cut down on traffic congestion as well. The DelDOT app is also a resource with real-time traffic updates for motorists.