Delaware has received a $57 million federal grant to redesign and rebuild the Interstate 95 and Del. 896 interchange in Newark, the state’s congressional delegation announced last week.
The new interchange is intended to improve safety and reduce congestion by adding two flyovers, realigning existing ramps, and addressing other deficiencies with the current roadway design.
“This major grant of federal funding will go a long way to improve safety and, ultimately, save lives along the I-95 corridor in Delaware,” Sen. Tom Carper said in a prepared statement. “By reducing traffic and easing congestion, this project will greatly reduce fatalities and serious injuries while better facilitating commerce in our state. These safety improvements will spur economic growth and less congestion will enable greater access to the City of Newark, the University of Delaware and its blossoming STAR Campus.”
The interchange has been a priority for the Delaware Department of Transportation for several years.
“We have an immediate safety need, and in the future, volumes are going to increase,” project manager Breanna Kovach said during a 2017 public meeting about the project. “We need to fix it.”
The busy interchange saw 400 crashes over four years, Kovach said.
One of the main issues, she said, is that drivers leaving I-95 merge onto Del. 896 in close proximity to where other drivers are leaving Del. 896 to merge onto the interstate, resulting in a weaving effect that can cause collisions.
On I-95, the merge lanes are too short, and some of the entrance ramps have sharp curves that can lead to crashes. Approximately 60 percent of vehicles on southbound I-95 exit at Del. 896, creating congestion and safety issues in the area.
DelDOT created three possible designs for an improved interchange: a double flyover, a single flyover and a modified version of the diverging diamond interchange, similar to what DelDOT recently installed at Del. 72 and Del 1.
Based on public feedback and the opinion of its engineering team, the agency chose the double flyover, which was the most expensive of the three designs but is also considered to provide the best improvement.
The project includes building new ramps from southbound Del. 896 to northbound I-95 and from southbound I-95 to southbound Del. 896. The flyovers will increase the distance between exit and entrance ramps, reducing the traffic weaving.
The project, which will cost a total of $143 million, is expected to begin in fall 2022 and could take up to three years to complete.
“This funding and this project are really about the safety of Delaware commuters, including students who use this interchange almost every day,” Sen. Chris Coons said in a prepared statement. “Any parent who uses this intersection or has kids who frequently drive to and from Glasgow High School, Newark High School, or other schools farther down 896, knows that improving the safety and capacity of this interchange is long overdue.”