Bike paths unlikely on Baltimore, Wilmington to Rehoboth
A Rehoboth Beach consultant hired to help the city improve the streetscape of Baltimore and Wilmington Avenues unveiled a number of possibilities at a meeting on May 26. streets will not be part of the improvements.
The Wilmington / Baltimore Avenue Streetscape Working Group was created by city commissioners to improve commercial viability and pedestrian and bicycle access. The area of interest includes the first two blocks of Baltimore and Wilmington avenues, First Street between Baltimore and Wilmington avenues, and Second Street between Wilmington and Rehoboth avenues.
The group began meeting at the end of March, conducting three meetings before making a list of recommendations to commissioners – continuing to seek the most practical way to bury utilities to the greatest extent possible; carry out the design without a traffic study; not including one-way streets; and do not continue with lowered vehicle access areas, except perhaps at the end of avenues near the promenade. At a meeting on April 16, the Rehoboth Beach commissioners unanimously supported the recommendations.
The city hired the Rossi Group, based in Hunt Valley, Md., To help guide the city through the process to the point of construction. Alexis Morris, a senior planner for the company, made the recent presentation, which included three options, one of which included a five-foot-wide bike path on both sides of both streets.
Frank Cooper, a member of the task force as a citizen, said vehicular traffic on these two streets was already slow and the bicycles were already following the flow of traffic.
Joe Baker, owner of a Wilmington Street restaurant, agreed, suggesting more bike racks are needed instead. Bikers are encouraged to come to Rehoboth, but then people must lock their bikes to signs or poles, he said.
Jenny Burton, owner of a Baltimore Avenue business, also agreed, describing the bike path as trash, she said. Bikes and scooters already pretty much follow the flow of traffic, she said.
Despite future implementation challenges, task force members continue to take more interest in Morris’s concepts for burying utilities. She provided the group with a general plan for achieving this goal, but said it would be difficult because, unlike Rehoboth Avenue, there is no median in the middle of the road to hide the necessary transformers.
Morris said there are a number of things to consider with underground utilities – the state Department of Transportation would not pay for this, but the design can be done at the same time as the landscape design of street, then built before the construction of the streetscape.
Morris said there are 44 utility poles on Baltimore and Wilmington avenues. She said the estimated number of transformers needed would be 19. She also said that underground utilities in First and Second Streets is not likely due to space constraints.
Morris said preference would be given to pedestal transformers on private property, adjacent to the city right-of-way, with necessary protection for transformers within 10 feet of the roadway.
Howard Menaker, another member citizen, said he was encouraged by the few transformers needed to meet electricity needs on both streets.
Alex Moore, owner of a Wilmington Avenue hotel, asked if bumpouts had been considered for transformers on the ground. He said it will be difficult to place them in front of already existing buildings.
“The city would lose parking, but there is an opportunity to improve the aesthetic value as well,” Moore said, adding that bumpouts could also be a place where 5G or 6G poles are installed in the future.
After making his presentation, Morris instructed the group to set a deadline of Friday, June 11 to make a decision on reducing what the group would like to see for the final design. She said the options can be mixed and matched.
The goal is to ensure continuity between the different sections of the area of interest, Morris said. The city doesn’t want to set expectations on one end and then change them, she said. The working group is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, June 2 to discuss in detail the street design proposals. If it was necessary to make recommendations, Mills said he blocked another meeting at the same time on Wednesday, June 9.