As anyone who has driven or biked past Downes Elementary School this week has probably noticed, Casho Mill Road looks a bit different now.

The Delaware Department of Transportation recently completed the first phase of a project aimed at giving students a safer route to bike or walk to school.

Crews repainted the lines on the road, creating bike lanes and space for traffic-calming islands. The physical islands, crosswalks and other features will be installed in early 2021.

The project has been in the works since 2016.

Workers will install a bike lane – including a striped buffer to give the bikes some separation from vehicular traffic – on both sides of Casho Mill Road between Pickett Lane and Church Road. The project also includes a new crosswalk, a pedestrian refuge island, curb ramps, traffic-calming islands and radar speed signs.

Public Works Director Tim Filasky explained last year that the concrete islands and the buffered bike lanes are intended to reduce the speed of traffic by narrowing the roadway. Casho Mill Road currently has wide travel lanes and shoulders, giving drivers the impression that they can go fast, he said.

“It just feels like a freeway,” Filasky said. “This will tighten it up and slow traffic.”

Eventually, the city would like to lower the speed limit.

“You can’t just lower speed limits arbitrarily because people will still drive the speed that makes sense for the road,” City Manager Tom Coleman said last year. “One of the goals of the project from the beginning has been to add enough features that it drives down the 85th percentile speed to a point where we could reduce the speed limit from 35 to 25.”

A pedestrian hit by a car going 35 miles per hour is three times as likely to die and twice as likely to be seriously injured than a pedestrian hit by a car going 25, Coleman added.

“There are real safety improvements that come as a result of changes like this,” he said. “Doing improvements isn’t going to prevent people from getting hit by a car, realistically, but what it might do is prevent that person from dying or prevent that person from being seriously injured.”

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