Editor’s Note: The following was written by Centreville business owners Susan Teiser and Ian Bunch.
Memorial Day Weekend is supposed to be a day to remember the fallen and those who served our armed forces. Unfortunately it was also a scare two people will remember as the weekend they narrowly escaped death at the intersection of Route 52 and Owl’s Nest/Twaddell Mill Roads in Centreville. Accidents are an all-too-common occurrence at this intersection.
In response to the numerous accidents, as well as a recent fatality near this intersection, Representative Deborah Hudson (R-Hockessin) in early 2014 proposed conducting a traffic survey to determine what measures, if any, the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) could take to improve the safety of this intersection and the village of Centreville. On April 10, 2014, after months of study with members of the community, DelDOT officials presented their results at the annual meeting of the Centreville Civic Association (CCA).
They reported 105 crashes in Centreville from 2005 to 2013, showing an upward trend of frequency. In 2005 there were 10 crashes, in 2011 there were seven and in 2013 there were 25—roughly two crashes per month. Moreover, when broken down into “crash clusters”—areas where accidents happen the most—the intersection at Twaddell Mill/Owl’s Nest trumped all others with as many as five times the number of crashes over a three year period. Two other intersections in Centreville also warranted traffic signal consideration just based on the volume of traffic entering and turning on and off Route 52.
On slide 24 of the presentation, DelDOT made a clear recommendation: “This intersection meets warrants for the installation of a traffic signal based on current DE-MUTCD (The Delaware Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) criteria.”
So why then, after months of studies, planning, funding approvals and two public hearings for the construction of the light to begin this summer, is DelDOT slamming on the brakes? What happened between April 1 when a DelDOT official assured CCA that the project was moving forward and May 5 when in a letter DelDOT Secretary Jennifer Cohan stated, “At this time the Department will be postponing the signal’s installation.”? How could this be possible when nearly two to one Centreville residents voted yes to the installation of the light and signed petitions by more than 400 people asking for a “smart” signal at this intersection? Why is public majority being discarded? Why are statistical facts being ignored?
We feel the answer may lie in the influence of a loud, minority opposition. This small group has been allowed to incorrectly frame the conversation and the politicians and public appointees have listened to a few voices and not the tax-paying public majority. The subject is not the preservation of historic charm – Route 52 is a national roadway with significant traffic volume! Bucolic country pace doesn’t exist here anymore with our fast cars and commercial trucks. Pedestrian and driver safety is critical, and at risk on Route 52 at the Owl’s Nest/Twaddell Roads intersection. The lack of traffic coordination at this intersection creates dangerous decisions made worse by the significant increase in the number of vehicles and their speed.
Please allow public safety to be paramount. A small group’s aversion to change should not overrule safety and common sense. The thousands of motorists who pass through every day, the families who don’t dare cross the street or allow their teenage drivers to use the intersection, the workers and owners of Centreville businesses who are forced to become first-responders for the crash victims – all will benefit from the safer environment fostered by a traffic signal.
To the elected officials and especially Secretary Cohan, please heed our safety, and reinstate this light project now! Every day without the light is one more day we risk another accident like the one on Memorial Day Weekend…or another fatality.
Susan Teiser is owner and chef of Montrachet Fine Foods and Centreville Café. Ian Bunch is an owner and Realtor with Brandywine Fine Properties Sotheby’s International Realty. Both have witnessed, responded to or been the victim of crashes in Centreville.