Forty years ago, a traffic jam in coastal Sussex County was about as common as a blizzard in July. Today, from May through September, the congestion along Delaware Route 1 from Lewes to Rehoboth Beach often is so intense that it may take more than an hour to travel a stretch of highway that used to take 15 minutes.
“Smart Growth” advocates an integrated approach to land-use and transportation planning to avoid traffic congestion problems while protecting community open space. This integrated approach will be the focus of two programs — a daytime technical seminar for professional planners and elected officials, and an evening forum for the public — set for Wednesday, March 13, in Lewes. Both sessions are hosted by the Greater Lewes Foundation and the University of Delaware Sea Grant College Program.
Whit Blanton and Richard Dunphy will be the keynote speakers for the technical session. Blanton is vice- president of the Renaissance Planning Group in Orlando, Florida, and chairman of the American Planning Association’s Transportation Planning Division. He has significant experience in the integration of land-use and transportation planning and specializes in fostering public involvement in the planning process. Currently, he is leading the work of a special citizens advisory committee on transportation in a community near Orlando.
Dunphy is senior resident fellow for transportation at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, DC. He also chairs the Transportation and Land Development Committee of the Transportation Research Board at the National Academy of Sciences. He has written extensively on growth issues in the context of traffic congestion and transportation options. His latest book, Moving Beyond Gridlock: Traffic and Development, profiles major metropolitan communities that have successfully implemented smart growth policies.
“The traffic congestion in coastal Sussex County affects our quality of life in many ways,” says Jim Falk, director of the UD Sea Grant Marine Advisory Service, one of the program hosts. “Not only are there environmental and economic impacts from wasted fuel, but there are also health and safety issues ranging from wasted time and stress to the difficulty of emergency vehicles in reaching accident scenes and hospitals.”
By factoring transportation issues into the land-use planning process early on, coastal communities can minimize or avoid traffic congestion problems. “Such an integrated planning approach also enables communities to consider other means of transportation than simply automobiles,” Falk says. “Walkable, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods that can be served by public transit and bicycles are also important.”
The technical seminar will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Virden Center on the UD Hugh R. Sharp Campus, 700 Pilottown Road, in Lewes. Geared to professional planners and elected officials, the seminar will highlight Delaware transportation policy as a component of Governor Minner’s “Livable Delaware” initiative and present case studies demonstrating the benefits of integrating land-use and transportation planning. A problem-solving session in the afternoon will focus on Delaware’s Route 1 corridor from Lewes to Rehoboth Beach.
The seminar costs $30 per person, with seven continuing education credits available through the American Institute of Architects. For registration information, download the on-line form under “Upcoming Seminars” at www.ocean.udel.edu/seagrant/MAS/sustainablebrochure.pdf or contact Rita Baty at (302) 645-4346. The registration deadline is Friday, March 8.
The free public forum, featuring speaker Whit Blanton, will be held from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Lewes Public Library. Blanton will introduce the audience to integrated land-use and transportation planning and seek public input on local transportation issues and concerns. Reservations are not required for the public forum.