A two-month construction project aimed at improving and beautifying Townsend's Main Street will finally get off the ground Monday, after seven years in the planning stages.
COMPLETION TARGETED Late May
A two-month construction project aimed at improving and beautifying Townsend’s Main Street will finally get off the ground Monday, after seven years in the planning stages.
The project will add new sidewalks, curbing, street lights, benches, trash receptacles, handicap ramps and sewer grates to either side of the road between Chestnut Street and South Street.
A pair of decorative brick crosswalks also will be installed at the Main Street intersections of Commerce and South streets.
Grassbusters Landscaping of Newark will be conducting the work weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to Townsend Mayor Jermaine Hatton.
“Our hope is that this project will enhance the overall appearance of that area of town and hopefully get residents out using the sidewalk to visit the restaurants and other businesses we have on Main Street,” he said. “In combination with some of the other things we’re doing around town, it also could help bring new visitors into Townsend.”
Townsend has been planning a streetscape project along Main Street ever since the University of Delaware conducted a survey of the town’s walkability in 2007.
In 2008, the town’s contracted engineering firm submitted an application to the Delaware Department of Transportation in the hopes of winning $3 million in funding to complete a three-phase project from Helen Drive to Summit Bridge Road that would have included removing the utility poles that run the length of Main Street and burying those lines underground.
DelDOT, which maintains the roadway, subsequently approved a smaller allocation, requiring the town to seek additional funding from its state legislators.
However, momentum on the project eventually stalled, and remained in limbo as each of the town’s five council members eventually left office.
“There was no one at town hall left who was staying on top of the project and making sure it proceeded,” said Hatton, who was elected to town council in 2012. “Once Councilman [Joel] Esler and I came on the board, we saw that the funds had been allocated and felt it made sense for the town to see this project through.”
With $494,000 in federal pass-through funding already approved for the project, Townsend’s town council was able to secure $95,000 in matching funds through grants from state Rep. Quinn Johnson (D-Middletown) and state Sen. Bruce Ennis (D-Smyrna) in 2013.
“Thanks to their support, we were able to get this project moving without Townsend taxpayers having to pay a dime,” Hatton said. “They really came through for us in a big way.”
While the scope of the project has been reeled in from its original design – and will no longer include the removal of utility poles or bike paths – Hatton said he’s excited to have the project finally ready to begin with an official groundbreaking on Monday.
“This is one of the many things that’s been on the town’s plate for some time that we’ve been able to get moving forward,” he said. “Hopefully, we can keep this progress going and eventually extend this project out to Route 71.”
Hatton said the town is hoping to convince DelDOT to approve additional funding that would allow the streetscape project to continue from South Street to Summit Bridge Road in one final phase, instead of the two that were originally planned.
A DelDOT repaving project along the length of Main Street also is expected to follow completion of the streetscape project.
“That part also has been in the works for a while, but was delayed so we could get the streetscape finished first,” he said.