Cleveland Avenue traffic

Traffic backs up on Cleveland Avenue. A new transportation improvement district is intended to make developers pay their share of road improvements.

Developers building projects in Newark will soon have to chip in for the cost of transportation improvements to accommodate the extra traffic their projects generate.

City council on Monday approved an agreement with the Delaware Department of Transportation to create a transportation improvement district (TID), the first step in a lengthy process to study transportation needs and develop a fee structure for new development projects.

“The time has come, and it’s appropriate to enact this,” Mayor Jerry Clifton said.

Under current rules, only projects anticipated to generate 500 trips per day or 50 trips per hour require developers to commission a traffic impact study and pay for any needed road upgrades.

None of the projects Newark has considered in the past few years have met that threshold, not even projects like the Main Street hotel, Dickinson site apartments and Springhill Suites hotel that drew opposition from neighbors concerned about increased traffic. That means that, even as those projects bring more cars into town, the developers do not have to fund any road improvements.

“Some of the frustration from the full-time residents is we have developers improving the city and investing in the city but at the same time not investing in the infrastructure,” Councilman James Horning Jr. said.

However, with a TID, transportation needs are studied holistically, and all developers will be required to pay their share based on the size and type of their project.

“This is the cost of doing business,” Councilman Chris Hamilton said. “If you’re going to add 500 beds to this town, you’re going to have to pay.”

For example, a TID established several years ago for western Middletown identified $44 million in needed road improvements. Developers pay $2,286 per single-family home, $1,142 per apartment unit and $17,136 per acre of commercial development.

The TID approved by council encompasses most of Newark, with the exception of some residential areas at the edges of the city. DelDOT will study 64 intersections along major roads including Main Street, Delaware Avenue, West Main Street, Casho Mill Road, Christina Parkway, Capitol Trail, Elkton Road, South College Avenue, Park Place, New London Road, Paper Mill Road, South Chapel Street, Cleveland Avenue, Library Avenue, Wyoming Road, Barksdale Road, Marrows Road, Valley Road and Old Paper Mill Road.

Over the next few months, DelDOT and the city will host public meetings to discuss goals for improving the roads, then DelDOT will forecast the growth through year 2045 and determine what transportation upgrades are necessary. The final step is to decide the fees developers will be charged.

“It’s a balancing act,” said Sarah Coakley, principal planner for DelDOT. “We don’t want to discourage development. The idea of a TID is actually to help foster market-ready redevelopment and development.”

The money contributed by developers will be collected into a fund and used to help pay for a percentage of the cost of improvement projects. DelDOT will cover the rest of the costs.

A TID will bring Newark more investment by DelDOT, and TID projects are often prioritized over other projects, Coakley said.

“DelDOT is really committed to making TIDs successful. It’s kind of like the new wave of planning for the future in Delaware now,” she said. “Once you’ve committed through an agreement to do a TID within a municipality, we’re on the hook for getting these projects done.”

Coakley said she expects most of the TID projects in Newark to focus on upgrades to trails, sidewalks, bus stops and possibly new transit routes.

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