Streetscape project set to transform Bethany beginning in 2013
Bethany Beach is enjoying the height of its summer season, and it’s doing so with a few new amenities this year, including new streetlights, underground utility wires, a newsstand area and additional parking. But a little more than a year from now, the town will be preparing for the biggest steps in this major makeover, as work gets under way on the most significant elements of the long-planned Streetscape project.
Town officials met with representatives of the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) of June 19 to discuss the project, which has been re-envisioned and delayed for years as the Town worked to obtain needed approvals and funding. Most recently, they finally got the go-ahead to move forward after completion of the utility undergrounding work that was a pre-requisite to obtaining the funding needed.
Now, with a final plan ironed out and funding lined up, a timetable beginning in September of 2013 and ending in May of 2015 with a reconfigured Garfield Parkway has been presented. That’s a year later than the Town had once hoped for, but Streetscape looks to finally become a reality, more than a decade after the idea was first raised.
Starting after the summer of 2013, over the course of nearly two years, the street will see parallel parking in its 100 block moved from the street edges to the north side only of the median and its angled parking moved from both sides of the median to both street edges. The angled parking will remain of the head-in variety, after the town council rejected the notion of back-in parking last year. There will also be sidewalk and curb improvements, improved compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and installation of trees and other landscaping features.
The 200 block of Garfield Parkway, meanwhile, will be largely left alone, except for the utility undergrounding and streetlight improvements already made. The ocean block of the street will be reconstructed but will not be significantly altered in its configuration. It is the 100 block of Garfield Parkway that will be the star of the Streetscape design.
From DelDOT’s perspective, the goal of the project is to provide sidewalk and curb improvements, ADA-standard upgrades to existing curb ramps, traffic calming, lighting and parking reconfigurations along Garfield Parkway from the boardwalk to Pennsylvania Avenue.
From the Town’s perspective, the core idea has been to improve the aesthetics of the prominent downtown area while also improving traffic flow and parking activity, and to do so without losing significant amounts of parking.
Phase 1 to focus on north side of Garfield Parkway
Phase 1 of the project is set to run from September 2013 to May 2014. Included in this first phase of the official project are:
• Construction of the north-side roadway and sidewalk between Pennsylvania Avenue and Atlantic Avenue, including reversal of the placement of parallel and angled parking on that side of the street, moving the parallel parking to the median and the angled parking to the far north side of the street.
• Construction of a drainage system.
• Placement of site furnishing and trees on the north side.
During Phase 1, the project will maintain one travel lane in each direction and parallel parking will remain on the south side of the street along the storefronts there. The center parking area within the ocean block will be closed for construction vehicle storage, while the outside parking in the ocean block will remain available. Pedestrian access to all businesses will be maintained during construction, according to DelDOT.
Then, during the summer of 2014, construction work will cease, with major construction of the north side of Garfield Parkway’s 100 block completed. Two travel lanes will be open in each direction. The new angled parking will be in place along the storefronts on the north side. New parallel parking spaces will be in place along the north side of the median.
On the south side of the street, the existing angled parking will remain in place along the south side of the median, and the existing parallel parking will remain in place along the storefronts on the south side. Pedestrian access to all businesses on both sides will be available, officials said.
Phase 2 to begin in the fall of 2014
Once the summer of 2014 has concluded and the crowds of vacationers reduced, Phase 2 of the Streetscape project will commence, running from September 2014 to May 2015 and focusing on the south side of Garfield Parkway’s 100 block. Phase 2 will include:
• Construction of the south-side roadway and sidewalk between Pennsylvania Avenue and Atlantic Avenue, including elimination of parking along the south side of the median and construction of angled parking along the far south side of the street.
• Reconstruction of the ocean block, during which no vehicular access will be allowed there, while pedestrian access to the boardwalk will be maintained via a southeast corner entrance. The parking configuration there will remain essentially unchanged, with four rows of angled parking in the plan.
• Median noses completed at both intersections.
• Placement of site furnishing and trees on the south side.
• Completion of final surface pavement.
During Phase 2:
• One travel lane will be maintained in each direction.
• Angled parking will be maintained on the north side of the roadway along the storefronts.
• Pedestrian access to will be available to all businesses during construction.
DelDOT officials noted that the construction schedules are subject to change, but they emphasized that there will be no work on weekends, at night or on holidays or special occasions during the length of the project.
Assuming no major delays, reconfiguration of both sides of the 100 block of Garfield Parkway, as well as the ocean-block street, sidewalk and parking, will be completed in time for the summer of 2015.
Transformation of downtown area already begun
The new streets will be accented by the street lights, benches, trash containers and central newsstands that are already in place as part of the Town’s ramp-up to the Streetscape project. The existing parking paystations, change machines, benches and decorative planters will also remain.
New additions will include additional Japanese Zelkova trees, which match existing ones planted in the area, as well as new bicycle racks. The trees will be maintained in new cobbled planting pits. A new decorative thermoplastic pavement system will be used for the crosswalks.
While the overall reconfiguration of the parking in the 100 block of Garfield parkway does result in fewer parking spaces there, the Town has already moved to offset the loss of parking from the Streetscape changes through partnerships with the owner of a vacant lot in the 200 block of Garfield Parkway and the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company, both of which agreed to share parking revenues with the Town in exchange for providing the additional parking areas.
By the time the additional parking the Town has added in the last year is set against the lost parking spaces from the Streetscape reconfiguration, the Town will still have added a net 65 parking spaces more than it had before the Streetscape process began.
The plan also provides room for a 5-foot bicycle lane on both sides of the roadway, which is actually a foot wider than the current bicycle lane.
The roadway will be 101 feet wide, from curb to curb, with an additional 7 feet or more to use to widen the sidewalks — a major selling point for the council when it approved the plan designed as “Concept 2” in April of 2011.
The council had targeted opening up sidewalks for pedestrians as a major focus of the project from Day 1, when it was introduced more than a decade ago. The sidewalks currently run about 6 feet wide, on average, and the undergrounding of utility lines has meant utility poles could be removed, further increasing the elbow room available to pedestrians, as well as improving the aesthetics of the focal point of the resort town.
A full diagram of the Bethany Beach Streetscape plan is available online at DelDOT’s project page, online at http://www.deldot.gov/information/projects/TE/garfieldpkwy/index.shtml. Also available on the page is an overview of the project and its timetable, as well as details of the decorative elements of the Streetscape plan.