February 1, 2011
By Vance Phillips
Sussex County Council
I was quite surprised by Gov. Jack Markell’s recent decision to halt indefinitely the U.S. 113 North-South Study project, but even more so by his comments that all the recent controversy surrounding the proposal is somehow at the feet of elected leaders, and in a manner of speaking, the people in general.
For the Governor to suggest that Sussex County legislators are somehow to blame for potentially losing $850 million in road improvements and hundreds of jobs, not to mention critical improvements to our network of roads, is irresponsible. And to further frustrate the fragile psyche of Sussex County’s unemployed by taunting them with phantom jobs that simply aren’t there is just plain wrong.
The governor knows the money for such a project doesn’t exist at this point. Only a small portion has been allocated thus far, mostly for planning, and as we all know, land reservation deals that have raised serious questions. But even if the $850 million necessary for the project was in hand today, construction would not likely begin for at least another five to 10 years as detailed engineering and property acquisitions would have to take place first. And even then, the money would be spent and jobs created over the course of many years, not in one fell swoop.
The governor should know the alignments DelDOT has chosen would be impractical, if not impossible, to build given the enormous environmental obstacles that already exist. DelDOT has yet to complete the Indian River Inlet bridge project, rife with its own set of problems. Can you imagine the fiasco that would ensue when building a series of bridges and mitigating hundreds of acres of wetlands involved in this mythical Route 113 project?
I believe the route chosen by DelDOT over the objections of the citizenry was a crafty attempt to avoid responsibility of providing real traffic solutions for Sussex County. This same behavior has killed other major highway projects in Sussex County, where a new road has not been built in more than 50 years. Now, the governor is threatening to divert the $850 million for the project to other construction in the state. That only serves to further punish the people of Sussex County.
Unfortunately the tenor of the governor’s statement indicates to me that he believes he can ‘give and take’ at will, and that shows a fundamental disregard for our founders and the time-honored principle of separation of powers.
If the governor can ‘giveth and taketh’ away, why are the legislators – or the people, for that matter – involved in the first place? How are they to blame?
Sussex County Council